Although online resources have given people the tools and knowledge they need to solve many of their own legal issues, some legal situations require the experience and education that only a real attorney can bring. Below, you will find questions to consider when deciding whether you need to hire an attorney for your specific legal issue.
Why Might I Need to Hire a Lawyer?
The legal process is extraordinarily complex, with federal and state laws, administrative rules, and government agency regulations all affecting your legal rights and responsibilities. Lawyers have years of education and training to deal with these different aspects of the legal system. Without the proper training, it is easy for the average person to miss an important deadline or file the wrong document in court, which can significantly impair one's legal rights. A lawyer can help ensure that your legal rights are always protected. Additionally, seeking legal advice early in any law-related process can help you save time and reduce costs by obtaining the information you need to know quickly and accurately.
Why Might I Decide Not to Hire a Lawyer?
Despite the experience and knowledge that a lawyer can bring, some people decide not to hire a lawyer for some situations. In some legal proceedings, such as small claims court, require parties to represent themselves, so lawyers are not allowed. Additionally, many small disputes can be handled through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, such as mediation, in order to avoid the expense and stress of hiring an attorney and going to court. Finally, a government agency, such as your state's department of consumer affairs, may be able to help resolve your legal dispute without taking it to the courtroom.
How Do I Find a Lawyer?
The most common way people find a lawyer is by asking trusted friends for recommendations. Even if the lawyer your friend recommends cannot help with your particular legal issue, that lawyer likely can refer you to another attorney who can.
If recommendations do not lead you to a lawyer who can help with your issue, online directories can help you find numerous lawyers in your area who have experience in your particular legal issue. Many state bar associations also offer lawyer referral services that can connect you to a qualified lawyer. Local nonprofit groups might also be able to provide referrals.
Finally, some people find lawyers through the phonebook or from advertisements. However, you should take extra care to review an attorney's experience and education when selecting one this way, because simply having a persuasive advertisement or a flashy yellow page listing does not necessarily mean the lawyer is qualified or effective.
How Do I Choose the Right Lawyer?
Selecting the right lawyer from the many out there can be difficult. The most important question to ask yourself is: "What am I trying to accomplish by hiring a lawyer?" You need a lawyer who will best help you achieve your goal, whether it's standing up for your rights during a divorce proceeding, defending you against criminal allegations, or helping you draft a will. A lawyer who does not have experience working toward your goal probably is not the best fit for you.
Do not be afraid to "shop around" and compare many lawyers' skills and fee rates. Every lawyer has a different skill set, and different lawyers may bring different advantages to your side. You should determine which skills and what experience are most important to achieving your goal and balance those with the cost you can afford.
Finally, you should pick a lawyer you can work with. A lawyer may have excellent experience, but if you cannot work with that attorney's personality, the possibility of achieving your goal will suffer. Use your own intuition to determine whether the lawyer you are considering will be a good match for you.
Aren't Lawyers Expensive?
Lawyers, like all professionals, charge for their expertise. A lawyer's
fees depend on a lot of factors, and most lawyers offer a range of payment
plans to help you find a plan that will fit your budget.