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Do You Need a Lawyer?

Although online resources have given people the tools and knowledge they need to solve many of their own legal issues, some legal situations require the experience and education that only a real attorney can bring. Do you need a lawyer when someone dies? To get divorced? To file for bankruptcy? Below, you will find questions to consider when deciding whether you need to hire an attorney for your specific legal issue.

Why Might I Need To Hire a Lawyer?

The legal process is complex, with federal and state laws, administrative rules, and government agency regulations all affecting your legal rights and responsibilities, not to mention court rules and processes you have to follow. Lawyers have years of education and training to deal with these different aspects of the legal system.

Without the proper training, it is easy for the average person to miss an important deadline or file the wrong document in court. A lawyer can help make sure that your legal rights are always protected. In addition, seeking legal advice early in your case can help you save time and costs by obtaining the information you need to know quickly and accurately.

Why Might I Decide Not To Hire a Lawyer?

Despite the experience and knowledge that a lawyer can bring, some people decide not to hire a lawyer. In some areas of law, such as small claims court, parties are required to represent themselves and lawyers are not allowed. Additionally, many legal matters can be handled through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, such as mediation, which allow parties to try and resolve their own legal problems.

In some cases, a government agency, such as your state's Department of Consumer Affairs, may be able to help resolve your legal dispute without taking it to the courtroom. Even if you cannot directly involve a lawyer in the process, it is always good to speak to an attorney for legal assistance ahead of time so that you know your options.

How Do I Find a Lawyer?

The most common way people find a lawyer is by asking trusted friends for recommendations. Even if the lawyer your friend recommends cannot help with your particular legal issue, that lawyer can refer you to another attorney who can.

If recommendations do not lead you to a lawyer who can help you, online directories can help you find lawyers in your area who have experience with your particular legal issue. Many state bar associations and local bar associations also offer lawyer referral services that can connect you to a qualified lawyer. Local nonprofit groups might also be able to provide referrals to low-cost or no-cost, also known as pro bono, legal services such as legal aid.

Some people find lawyers through advertisements or social media, but you should take extra care to review an attorney's experience and education. Having a persuasive advertisement or post does not mean the lawyer is qualified or effective legal counsel for your particular case.

How Do I Choose the Right Lawyer?

Selecting the right lawyer can be difficult. The most important question to ask yourself is: "What am I trying to accomplish by hiring a lawyer?" You need a lawyer who will best help you achieve your goal, whether it's standing up for your rights during a family law case, defending you from a criminal case, or helping you with estate planning. A lawyer who does not have experience in the practice area of your case may not be the best fit for you.

Do not be afraid to shop around and compare many lawyers' skills and fee rates. Every lawyer has a different skill set, and different lawyers may bring different advantages to your side. During your first meeting, you should ask questions about the lawyer's background and their plan for your case.

You should also ask about the way legal fees will be handled. Some cases, such as personal injury, are handled on a contingency fee basis, where the lawyer is paid a certain percentage of the final amount you receive. Other cases, such as traffic tickets or drafting a will, may be a flat fee. Another method is paying a retainer upfront and bills based on the lawyer's hourly rate later.

You should pick a lawyer you can work with. A lawyer may have excellent experience, but if you cannot work with that attorney and have honest conversations, they will not be able to properly handle your case. Use your intuition to determine whether the lawyer you are considering will be a good match for you.

Aren't Lawyers Expensive?

Lawyers, like all professionals, charge for their expertise. Attorney's fees depend on a lot of factors, such as the type of case and the amount of legal help that is needed. When you speak to an attorney for the first time make sure to ask them what type of fee agreement will be needed for your case. The cost may depend on where you live or the type of case.

For more information on how to hire the best lawyer for you, check out these other related FindLaw pages:

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