Nobody wants to think about it – hiring a lawyer. After all, Will Rogers once said, “The minute you read something you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.” But face it. Lawyers are necessary. The question becomes, when do you need a lawyer?
Each year, cases get filed in state trial courts to the tune of more than 100 million. By the way, states conduct 90 percent of all court cases. Those cases involve divorce lawyers, real estate lawyers, personal injury lawyers, estate lawyers, and a host of other lawyers du jour. Indeed, search for local law offices, and you’ll see no shortage of specialties attached to lawyers.
In cases involving criminal charges, the local public defender’s office appoints a lawyer for you if you cannot afford one (how often have you heard that on television).
At times even those cases may involve self-represented litigants. For example, some folks would instead take the self-serve route to avoid legal expenses. And make no mistake about it. Depending on the complexities of your case, costs could be considerable.
Still, others choose to defend themselves because they feel their case lacks the necessary complexities to justify an experienced lawyer.
So more often than not, it’s in your best interest to work with a lawyer near you. In some circumstances, it’s essential. But when do you need a lawyer?
Understanding the Legal System
Let’s start with an understanding of the legal system. There are two legal categories.
- Civil Law: Civil law covers legal agreements, real estate transactions, divorces, custody, copyright infringements, etc. You file a suit against one party because you feel that party has wronged you. Plus, you’re seeking compensation of some type.
- Criminal Law: Criminal law addresses offenses that break local, state, or federal laws. There are misdemeanor charges and felony charges. The government entity employs prosecutors. The defense includes a publicly appointed lawyer or private defense attorney.
With either category, keep this in mind – the legal system is complicated. Apart from the basics of initiating a lawsuit, a myriad of obstacles and procedures await anyone seeking to file a case or defend against one. Even basic steps, such as figuring out who to contact and deadline requirements, can be difficult for someone ill-versed in court rules and procedures.
Lest you think a quick internet search will uncover the answers, think again. Even lawyers and attorneys become frustrated understanding and applying the appropriate rules. As an average individual, you’ll face a severe disadvantage when against another party who has retained a lawyer.
Lawyers Provide Insights You Might Overlook
Independent of procedural issues, you’ll need appropriate insight to make the correct decisions. For example:
- Where should I file the suit?
- What party should you sue?
- How much should you request?
- What witnesses should I call?
- What arguments should be made?
Even if you think you have the wherewithal to handle your case, a seasoned lawyer can offer advice to guide you to achieve the best outcome with your case.
In personal cases, such as criminal matters or child custody, it can be challenging for someone to make these decisions with a clear head.
For example, the highly emotional nature of these cases makes sensible decision-making difficult, if not impossible. Hiring a lawyer ensures that you won’t make legal decisions that could hurt you in the long run.
When to Hire a Lawyer
As a general rule, it’s best to at least talk to a lawyer about your issue. Then, you can decide whether to hire an attorney or handle the case yourself. That said, some circumstances require a local attorney's services.
- Criminal Charges: If you’re facing jail time, don’t think about it. You need a lawyer. And the sooner, the better. You’ll want your attorney representing you during interrogations and in court.
- Family Law Concerns: There are many issues requiring legal representation from an experienced family lawyer – divorce, custody, alternative dispute resolution, marital agreements, and juvenile delinquency. Divorces, in particular, can get complex with concerns about property, investments, support, debt, domestic violence allegations, and custody arrangements. Moreover, the terms become binding. So, you’ll want to consult with a family law attorney near you.
- Workers Comp Denial: The Bureau of Worker’s Compensation can deny your claim for many reasons. And you’ll be facing both state and federal laws. You’ll need a work injury lawyer specializing in workers’ comp to support your case. They can help reverse the decision or negotiate a settlement. By the same token, if you’re an employer and you feel the claim is fraudulent, you’ll need a workers’ comp defense attorney to support your case. You can learn more about workers' compensation in Pennsylvania here.
- Injuries: Not every injury requires the need for a lawyer. But if you’ve been seriously hurt in a car accident or lost a loved one through a wrongful death or medical malpractice, it’s best to hire a lawyer to represent you. Remember that insurance companies either want to avoid paying for a claim or settle as quickly as possible to reduce the liability. You need to consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options.
- Estate Planning: No doubt you can go online and create a will. You can even create a POA. But if you have a sizeable estate, tax concerns, or a complicated asset distribution plan, you need to talk with an estate attorney. An estate planning lawyer ensures each critical document in your estate plan gets appropriately executed to avoid disputes, legal issues, or probate following your death. They can also counsel you on reducing the tax burden attached to your estate.
- Business Operations: An experienced business lawyer is a must. They’re instrumental in supporting so many areas of your operation – business formation, taxes, contracts, employment law concerns, intellectual property, employment agreements, and much more.
- Law Suits: If you’re being sued and the other side has an attorney, make sure you have one, too. Even if the case never gets to court, you’ll want a lawyer on your side to help negotiate a settlement. For example, with car accidents, the average settlement ranges from $20,000 to $30,000 – assuming the plaintiff’s injuries weren’t serious. If you’re defending yourself with that kind of money on the line, you need to hire a lawyer. Their fees pale in comparison to a high-dollar settlement.
There may be other circumstances that dictate you need a lawyer. Generally, heed this advice. The more serious the legal issue, the more demanding it requires legal representation.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you’re facing any of the circumstances mentioned earlier, get in touch with our law offices in Doylestown and Norristown, PA. Our nearby lawyers can support you with virtually any legal concern, from divorce and litigation to immigration and dog bites.
Plus, you’ll be working with one of the Best Law Firms, as cited by U.S. News. That publication also named 14 High Swartz Attorneys as Best Lawyers in America.