How to Know When You Need an Attorney
This guide is intended to give some guidance to know when a matter needs the assistance of an attorney and when it may not.
Lawyers are expensive, but what will not having one cost?Fact: Lawyers are expensive. But, not having one can be even more expensive. So how do you know when you need one and when you don't?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. It depends on many factors including the issues involved, the repercussion(s) of not having one, and the benefit(s) that one could bring to the table. While no single article can address every situation, here are a few tips to consider if you think you need help and are considering hiring an attorney.
Tip 1: Consider what is at stake.Is it a criminal matter where you are facing jail time? Can the outcome effect your ability to work or earn a living? If so then then you need a lawyer. The more serious the consequences the more you will benefit from having a lawyer involved.
Tip 2: Consider the cost.Is the dispute over $100, $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000? The higher the amount involved the more likely you need a lawyer and would benefit from hiring one. The smaller the amount in dispute, the less of an economic benefit a lawyer will bring to the table.
Tip 3: Consider the time commitment.Do you have time to go to court or to deal with a dispute? This is a rather simple question, but when it comes to employment most jobs are not as flexible as judges and litigants would like. If you*re going to have trouble making a court date or contacting the other side due to travel or work commitments, you may not logistically be able to adjudicate your dispute without help from an attorney.
Tip 4: Consider if you know the legal issues.There is a common misconception that all lawyers understand all legal issues. In short, they don*t. Most attorneys practice within a defined area of the law. Even *general practice* attorneys rarely work within all areas of the law. There is a reason for this. The law is complicated and ever changing based on case law and statutory amendments. Staying on top of all areas for any one person, attorney or not, is impossible. So, for a person who is not a lawyer the question becomes, do you know everything about the area of law involved? If not, then you need a lawyer because a single mistake can cost you your entire case.
Consider these examples for when an attorney may be needed (or not):Example 1: You were involved in a car accident that was not your fault and you sustained a serious injury that required surgery. The insurance company for the other driver has already told you that they will make you an offer and negotiate a settlement with you directly. They have encouraged you to forgo an attorney to *save you the cost of the attorney.* Should you hire an attorney?
The answer here is likely going to be, yes. You need an attorney. Insurance companies are in the business of selling insurance and paying out as little towards claims as possible; it is how they make money for their stockholders. If an adjuster thinks they can *short change* you, they will. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be able to maximize your recovery through settlement, arbitration or trial. They will know when you should settle and when you should hold out for a better offer. They will be able to advise you as to what your injury is worth, the risks of litigation, the possible rewards of litigation and whether to take a settlement offer. They can also help you build your case, maximize your recovery, and negotiate with unpaid medical providers and lien holders to save you money from any settlement that*s obtained.
Example 2: You were in a minor fender-bender and the only damage you had was $1,000 in property damage to your car. Do you need a lawyer to handle the case for you? Maybe, but probably not.
For minor collisions with limited amounts involved there*s less value that a lawyer will bring to the table. Sure, you may not have to deal with the claim*s adjuster by hiring an attorney and it could be a smoother process; but is it worth the cost to pay the attorney when there is going to be a limited recovery? Most insurance companies are reasonable when it comes to handling property damage claims and will have a set process for you to follow (e.g., have your car inspected, decide if they will be paying to repair it, and if so, how much). If you provide them with what they need to evaluate the claim, most will be fair and reasonable. This is not to say some companies and adjusters won*t try to short you on your claim and get you to take something less, but it may still not be worthwhile to hire an attorney to help.
Example 3: You are facing a divorce. Do you have kids? Have you been married for many years? Are there significant assets in the marriage? If you answered *yes* to any of these then you probably need to hire an attorney.
Approximately 40% to 50% of marriages do not work out and end in divorce. The sad reality is that a large portion of our population at some point will go through a divorce. When you add kids, a lengthy marriage, property or significant assets to the mix you can almost guarantee that it would be wise to hire an attorney. Each of these elements of a family is considered during the divorce process and not knowing your rights and not having someone advocating for you and protecting your rights can be detrimental to the end result.
And these examples of when an attorney may also be needed (or not):Example 4: You have to click on the *terms and conditions* in order to purchase a new cell phone. Should you have an attorney review them first? It*s probably not worth the expense.
We all enter into contracts on a regular basis, many of which we never contemplate hiring an attorney to review. Agreeing to terms and conditions of a particular website to use it, cell phone contracts, cable service and internet providers all have common contracts for which people seldom seek the advice of an attorney, and many times they just don*t need one. It*s just not practical to consult a lawyer for everything you encounter in life and for smaller agreements the risk of agreeing to something and making a mistake has limited repercussions. This is not to suggest you shouldn*t read through them. You should read anything someone asks you to sign, before you sign, and if you don*t then you could suffer the consequences.
Example 5: You were just served with a lawsuit. It is official, you*re being sued. Do you need a lawyer? Probably. If you are a corporation, then definitely.
Whether you caused a car accident, broke a contract, or failed to pay a credit card bill, if you find yourself named as a defendant in a lawsuit, then you probably need to hire an attorney. Court process, evidence rules, and rules of procedure are incredibly complicated and failing to follow them can cost you your case without it ever going to trial.
If the dispute is over a small amount you may be able to forgo hiring an attorney. But, be aware that there are many pitfalls in even the simplest and smallest of cases. If you have a corporation and it gets sued, then you have no choice, you will be required to hire an attorney under Illinois law.
You know you need to talk to a lawyer. How do you find one?It*s not hard to find a lawyer, there are tens of thousands of them registered to practice law in the state of Illinois. Finding the right lawyer who practices in the area you need, is more complicated.
For many, the answer can come down to a personal referral from a friend, family member or an attorney they already know. Prior positive experiences with an attorney someone else knows can gives one comfort in knowing and trusting that referral.
There are also many lawyer finder services and databases consumers can use. You happen to be on one of the best, www.avvo.com. With Avvo you can not only look for a lawyer but find one with a high rating as ranked by Avvo.
This is also something that Giamanco Law Partners, Ltd. can help you with. Between the attorneys we have on staff, and a handful of our trusted local colleagues, the odds are that either we can help you or we can refer you to someone who we trust who can. Initial phone consultations with our office are always free 630-635-5555.