When do you need a lawyer?
If you need legal advice, you need a
lawyer. People use lawyers for many reasons – business and personal. Lawyers
deal with a wide range of cases including wills, leases, contracts, separation
agreements, divorces. Lawyers also work on criminal cases like impaired driving
and assault. Lawyers are trained to understand and interpret the law. They
defend your rights and tell you how the law applies to your business or
Why use a lawyer instead of a notary
A lawyer has much more training in the
law and can give you service that is more complete in a wider range of areas.
For example, if a will or real estate transaction turns out to be complicated,
a notary may need to send you to a lawyer for legal advice.
Most lawyers get a university degree before
they go to law school. At law
school, they study law full-time for three years. Then they take 10 weeks of
intensive training and must pass a series of bar admission exams.
Why use a lawyer for simple legal
Things that look simple may actually be
complex. People sometimes think that because procedures and forms look simple,
the legal service is also simple. But legal transactions are often complex.
Lawyers analyze how the law applies to your case. They do this groundwork
before advising you how the law applies to you and which procedures or forms
Laws change daily, so do their effects. Lawyers
understand, apply, and explain those laws to you. Why not be prepared for all
situations by using a lawyer from the start?
Are lawyers' fees competitive?
How should you choose a lawyer?
Most of us use a lawyer only rarely, if
ever. So if we need a lawyer, we often don't know how to find one.
with a lawyer you've used before
If you have used a lawyer before, start
with that lawyer. For example, if you are getting divorced and the only lawyer
you have ever used is the one who did your will, that lawyer may not be the
best one to handle your divorce. Instead, you probably want a lawyer with
experience in divorces. Lawyers, especially those in large cities, tend to work
in certain areas of law. But they don't specialize like doctors do – there are
no exams a lawyer can write to become a specialist in divorce or any other area.
friends for recommendations
If you’ve never used a lawyer, ask
friends and acquaintances to recommend a lawyer they used for similar problems.
A personal recommendation is usually a good way to choose any professional. You
could also ask your doctor, accountant, or financial advisor. Often, they know
lawyers who do divorce and other cases. Your employer may have a lawyer on
staff, or you can ask your union lawyer for a recommendation. Always describe
your problem in detail.
the lawyer and make an appointment. Tell the lawyer that Lawyer Referral
Service sent you. The lawyer will give you up to a 30-minute appointment for
$25. At the appointment, the lawyer will tell you if you have a legal problem.
Then, if you and the lawyer agree, you can hire that lawyer at their normal
rate. But you don't have to use that lawyer. You may decide you don't have a
legal problem and don't need a lawyer. Or you may decide to shop around and
find another lawyer.
Once you choose a lawyer – one you are
comfortable with and whose advice you value – carefully prepare for your first
interview with the lawyer. You can still change lawyers after the first
interview – or at any time – if you’re
not happy with the lawyer.
Collect and organize your information.
You have to give the lawyer a clear
picture of your problem and goal. Make notes of all the facts of your case, in
an organized way – usually chronologically (by time). Gather and organize all
the documents on your case. Bring the notes and documents to the interview. For
example, if you had a car accident, write everything you remember about how the
accident happened and your injuries. Draw a diagram of the accident scene. List
all your expenses. Bring all your receipts and paperwork, like accident and
insurance reports. This lets the lawyer advise you properly and quickly.
Ask lots of questions.
Use the first interview to get as much
information as you can. Even if you got the lawyer's name through Lawyer Referral
Service, there is no guarantee that this lawyer is right for you. Ask
questions, such as:
Does the lawyer have experience in your
type of problem?
Does the case interest the lawyer?
How long will your case probably take?
Can the lawyer work on your case right
away, or will you have to wait until other cases end? Will that make a
difference to your case?
What steps will solve your problem and
how much time will each step likely take?
How much will your case cost? See the
next section for more on costs.
Ask about fees and disbursements
Always ask about fees and expenses in
the first interview. Ask the lawyer to estimate about how much it will cost to
solve your problem – including fees and expenses (called disbursements). How
will the lawyer bill you: monthly or at the end of the case? How does the
lawyer charge – a flat rate, by the hour, or a percentage of what you win?
Ask if you have a strong case.
Ask the lawyer for a realistic opinion
of your case and your chance of winning. Should you settle the case, instead of
suing? Can you do anything to reduce the lawyer’s time on your case, and to
reduce your costs?
Problems between lawyers and clients
often result from a lack of communication.
So if problems come up, talk or write to your lawyer.