do you need a lawyer’s help?
Sometimes it's a no-brainer, such as when you get
sued or when you’re arrested or charged with
a crime. But keep in mind that people hire lawyers
for advice and expertise all of the time, in all
kinds of situations. While you may be able to get
through a legal problem without hiring a lawyer,
you should always remember that when you represent
yourself, you might have a “fool for a client,”
as the saying goes.
of the first things to ask yourself in deciding
if you should consult an attorney is: "What's
at stake?" When your finances or liberties
are in serious jeopardy, the obvious answer is to
get legal help. But what is serious? An ordinary
parking summons is a brush with the law, but you
need not consult with an attorney to pay the fine
or even to fight it. However, if you've accumulated
a number of unpaid parking tickets and a warrant
has been issued for your arrest, you would probably
want to hire a lawyer to help you best resolve the
situation, and perhaps save you money or even keep
you out of jail.
good times as well as bad, individuals and businesses
rely on their lawyers’ advice to understand
and secure legal rights and financial interests.
Lawyers help clients with estate planning and business
negotiations, strategies and transactions. With
good legal advice, clients are better prepared to
comply with and navigate through the complex mazes
of governmental rules and regulations.
is also a lot easier to rest easily after consulting
with experienced lawyers for important undertakings
such as tax and estate planning, drafting wills
and trusts, negotiating business deals and even
pursuing personal family matters such as adopting
should you consider before you hire a lawyer?
It never hurts to talk to a lawyer, and it may be
the best thing you can do if you think you have
a legal problem that you can’t resolve yourself.
If you’re persistent, you can probably arrange
a free consultation with a lawyer who will talk
to you on the matter.
of hiring a lawyer, though, you may want to look
at alternative sources to resolve your legal issues.
companies and public utilities offer customer service
departments that effectively address consumer problems
Many state attorney general offices and other agencies
provide consumer protection departments. (But it’s
not usually a good idea to try to gain an advantage
in a legal dispute over adversarial parties by threatening
to contact a government agency if they don’t
comply with your demands. It is possible that such
action could be characterized as attempted extortion
on your part.
If you have a problem with a regulated industry
such as banking or insurance, contact the agency
in your state responsible for overseeing that industry
Many community groups such as elder associations,
civil rights groups and other organizations offer
free legal help and information.
Some disputes may be resolved by using increasingly
popular litigation alternatives such as mediation
or arbitration. Businesses and individuals might
agree to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
rather than court action to resolve legal conflicts.
quickly should you consult a lawyer?
In many situations, it is obvious that you need
to act fast. But even if you think you have lots
of time to consider your alternatives, deadlines
sneak up on you and lawyers need time to prepare.
So it’s always better to start looking for
a lawyer sooner than later.
you’ve been injured in an accident, keep in
mind that there are time limits on your right to
file a lawsuit. These "statutes of limitation"
vary greatly from state to state and depend upon
the fact and type of each case. In some instances,
the law requires a claimant to notify potential
defendants about any injury within an extremely
short period of time — as little as a few
weeks or months.
you sit on your rights, you could lose them. You
might have been angry for years over your neighbor's
fence encroaching on part of your property. But
if you wait too long without objecting or taking
some legal action, the law might give your neighbor
the right in the form of a prescriptive easement
to leave the fence there permanently.
are you trying to achieve?
This is an easy question to answer if you find yourself
a defendant in a civil suit or charged with a crime.
In these cases, your goal is to keep your money
out of your adversary's pocket, or avoid criminal
other situations, your objective may be less clear.
If you feel your employer unlawfully fired you,
you might want to get your job back. If you suffered
an injury from a defective product, you might wish
to recover money damages. Or you may be faced with
a situation where you need to seek an injunction
against someone. Think about these things before
you hire a lawyer.
you must be realistic about your chances of winning
and what your case is worth.
you aren't sure what your legal rights are, it might
be worth your time and expense to retain a lawyer
to evaluate your situation and advise you on alternative
courses of action. Even if you end up having to
pay a few hundred dollars for to consult with an
attorney, it could be a very wise investment that
ultimately saves you time and money.
type of lawyer do you need?
Many attorneys specialize in one type of law. Other
lawyers handle a wide range of matters. You want
to hire an attorney who has expertise to represent
you effectively with respect to your legal problem.
a bit about the law will help you become a smarter
legal consumer. From agricultural law to zoning
and land use — from family law to taxation
and more, lawyers.com provides incredibly useful
information that can empower you to make better
decisions with respect to your legal problems.
Affordable Legal Help
Are you looking for affordable legal assistance?
Find out if you are eligible for free or reduced-cost
services. Federally funded legal services programs
exist nationwide. There are also pro bono or reduced-fee
attorney panels and legal hotlines in a number of
organizations listed below may help you get started.
Legal Services Corporation
directory of free legal services providers for low
American Bar Association
consumer guide for finding legal help
ABA Directory of Pro Bono Programs
of providers of free legal services
ABA Directory of Local Bar Associations
Bar associations organized by state
Administration on Aging's list of Legal Hotlines
listing of hotlines that older individuals can contact