WHY DO I NEED A LAWYER?
(1) TO TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNEW.
Lawyers can provide a reality check. Often you already really know the answer, even though you wish that you did not. For example, when you ask the question, should I move my boyfriend in with me and the kids, you know that the answer is “no." You have “reasons" why it should be “yes" – “I’ve been separated a long time;" “My husband is living with his girlfriend;" “I can’t afford to live alone;" etc., but the lawyer will give you the answer that you already know. Hopefully, this reality check will assist you in doing what you knew that you should have done the whole time.
(2) TO TELL ME WHAT I DO NOT KNOW.
Neighbors, friends, and the internet are full of information and advice. Unfortunately, much of it is incorrect or does not apply to the particular facts of your case. There is no “one size fits all" in the law. You cannot take what happened to someone else in their case and apply it to your case. You need to have a qualified professional review your specific case, answer your specific questions, and advise you as to the best course of action considering your particular circumstances.
(3) TO TELL ME WHEN TO WORRY AND WHEN NOT TO.
There are times when people are served with very ominous looking documents which contain legal warnings and deadlines which, in fact, are not cause for the great angst that they cause. Other times relatively minor appearing documents can have great legal consequence and must be handled immediately or dire consequences will follow. Lawyers know the difference.
A prime example of misplaced concern or lack thereof is in the area of Separation Agreements. They are routinely signed in haste by people who believe that they can change the terms of them later on. After the fact, they discover that they are legally bound forever to onerous terms that will continue to haunt them.
(4) TO DO THE JOB RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.
There is no requirement that anyone be represented by a lawyer. If you want to represent yourself, you are free to do so. You run the risk, however, that you will not do it right. If you do not do it right, your case could be dismissed. If not dismissed, you could still antagonize the judge or delay the resolution of the case. Judges prefer to have the parties represented because the cases proceed much more smoothly. Also, if you have an experienced attorney who has the respect of the judge, it lends credibility to your case.
Lawyers tell you what to do and what not to do in court. These are equally important. Lawyers have been to court before and know the system and the judges. In most instances, this will be your one shot. You want the job done right.
(5) TO PROVIDE EXPERT ADVICE.
Not only did the lawyer spend three years in law school, pass the Bar Exam, take the required yearly continuing legal education courses, but this is what they do day in and day out; year in and year out. There is no way that an individual, no matter how interested or determined, could match the expertise of a lawyer who emphasizes a certain area of the law. A lawyer is like any specialist that you would go to see when you have a problem that requires expert attention.
(6) TO HELP ME.
Lawyers are helpers. It is a helping profession. You come to a lawyer with a problem, and the lawyer helps create a solution.
Mary G. Commander, Attorney & Mediator
Divorce / Separation Lawyer