That is a very good question. There are many reasons you may need to hire a lawyer, here are just a few. You should hire an attorney if:
- The charge against you is a felony
- There is a lot of money involved, either to be won or lost
- You’ve been served papers naming you as a defendant in a lawsuit
- The person suing you has a lawyer
- You want to adopt a child
- You are dealing with someone in a business setting
- You are making a will, setting up a trust, or changing them
- You do not have the expertise to adequately represent yourself
Or, Should I Represent Myself?
If you are considering representing yourself in court, here are a few questions you should consider before you decide to proceed without an attorney.
Do you have the time to devote to your case?
• Depending on the complexity of your case you may need to do quite a bit of research either at the law library or online. It is amazing how much time research takes. You will also need to file papers with the court, attend hearings and other time consuming activities, all of which must be done during regular business hours. Also, the court expects you to be on-time for hearings, excuses don’t really fly with them. If you don’t show up, you may run the risk of a default judgement being entered against you and you don’t want that. Hiring a lawyer would mean you would spend less time at the courthouse, and you would be sure that forms were prepared and filed properly and timely.
Are you comfortable and good at doing research?
• Even if you have the time to do the research, you need to ask yourself if you have the necessary skills to know where to find what you may need. Whether you go to a law library or subscribe to an online service, you need to know how to find the specific statutes and laws that pertain to your case. You also need to know what forms and documents need to be filed with the court. The court staff cannot answer your questions or advise you, you must already know what you need.
• You will have to take the time to learn the law and rules of your case, in order to be be successful. A lawyer who has experience in your type of case will know the law and will save you lots of research time. Without using a lawyer, you may miss some of the arguments you could make.
Would you be able to be calm and clear when you stand up and speak in court?
• You need to be able to speak in front of an audience, speak clearly and in a loud enough voice to be heard by the judge while presenting your case. Also, you will need to be able to stay calm even if and when the other party says something that might upset you. You should not get angry, but remain calm and logical.
• A lawyer may be a good buffer between you and the other party. Using a lawyer may lower the stress and anger you may feel because you will not need to directly address the other party, and hiring an attorney may help you keep a safe and comfortable distance from them.
Are you able to be objective?
• You need to be able to look at your case and decide whether or not you should proceed with it or maybe try to settle the matter without going to court. Just because you “think” you are totally correct, doesn’t mean that you are. Even if you are dead-set on representing yourself, you should still consult with an attorney and get his/her opinion, to find out what someone that is not connected to your issue thinks your chances are of winning. If you don’t have the money for a consultation, check with your local courthouse for possible legal aid sessions. Some attorneys donate an hour or two of their time pro bono, “for free,” and you can at least hear their recommendations.
What is at stake in your case?
• Every case is important, but if your case involves a large amount of money (or property), or there are other people involved (like children) you may want to consider hiring an attorney. Using a lawyer may prevent mistakes that could be difficult or impossible to correct after the case is over.
• Also, hiring a lawyer may be helpful in collecting on a judgment or settlement.
Can you live with some mistakes?
• If you represent yourself, you are likely to make some mistakes. If you have a lot at stake, and you lose, you may regret your decisions and cause yourself stress and anxiety.
You really need to objectively think about whether or not you are capable of adequately representing yourself. What you don’t know CAN hurt you. I can tell you that the justice system is not fair. You may think you have an open and shut case. You know you are right, you have the evidence to prove it, but guess what, you may still lose!
Hiring an attorney means you will have an advocate on your side, which can be a very good thing. And, hiring a good lawyer verses representing yourself, could be the difference between winning or losing!
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