There are many situations where hiring an attorney is in your best interests. And chances are if you think you might need an attorney, it's a good idea to at least contact one to see if he or she can help. If you feel that you can't afford an attorney, you can look into legal aid resources that might be able to help you with your particular situation. FindLaw's Do You Need a Lawyer section provides information about what lawyers do and legal aid resources available to you if you can't afford a private attorney. You can also find a state-specific directory of free and low-cost legal aid resources and a directory to the various legal practice areas that attorneys can choose to focus on.
Good Reasons to Hire a Lawyer
While you don't necessarily need an attorney in every legal matter (i.e. a minor traffic ticket), there a few situations when it's in your best interest to hire a lawyer. Probably the best reason to hire an attorney is if you've been charged with a crime. Crimes can carry penalties of fines and/or incarceration and become a part of your record, which can affect many aspects of your life. Given the consequences, it's pretty much always a good idea to hire an attorney - or request a public defender if you can't afford a private criminal defense attorney - when you've been charged with a crime.
It's also a good idea to hire a lawyer to help with matters that have possible legal ramifications. For example, hiring a lawyer to help you start a business will ensure that you choose the best business structure for your type of business and that you comply with will the requirements for forming such a business structure. Not complying with the requirements of a particular business structure can leave you open to liability that you thought you were protected from.
Free Legal Services
You might feel like you need a lawyer, but also feel like you can't afford one. This is understandable because generally lawyers can be fairly expensive. The good news is that there are some low-cost or free options for people who can't afford high-priced lawyers. The government, law schools, and law firms are all places where you can find free or low-cost legal services.
Although each free legal service provider will have its own criteria for eligibility, the common requirement is that the person seeking the legal services has a low income. It's important to realize that these providers don't offer free legal services for every practice area. Usually, the practice areas that are offered by free legal service providers are landlord-tenant law, elder law, family law, immigration law, and criminal law. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, and each community has its own legal aid resources. For this reason, it's important that you check the legal aid resources in your particular state to find out the free legal services that are available to you.