Most people do not need an attorney's help all that often. You may also worry about the cost of legal representation. That can make it hard to decide if you actually need an attorney's help for your situation.
If you've never worked with a lawyer before, there are many types of legal issues that might require legal representation. You may consider hiring a lawyer if you have suffered an injury, been wrongfully terminated at work, are thinking about starting a business, or have been accused of committing a crime.
Lawyers can help with legal problems after they come up – after a car accident, for example – but in other instances, consulting a lawyer before a legal issue arises can help you anticipate and prevent serious legal problems.
What Situations Do You Need a Lawyer For?
A general rule of thumb is that if you have a legal problem, it is at least worth researching legal information online and then talking to an attorney about your issue.
Some common situations where getting legal advice from a lawyer may be necessary include:
- An accident involving personal injury or property damage
- A family problem such as divorce or a child custody dispute
- The sale or purchase of a home, real estate, or a business
- Discrimination or harassment on the job
- The formation or incorporation of a business
- The drafting of a will, trust, or estate plan
- A tax problem
- An arrest or questioning by law enforcement officials
There are so many different areas of the law that can require a lawyer's help. You can start your research about your case by reading FindLaw's Learn About the Law section.
What Happens After You Decide That You Need a Lawyer?
A lawyer will assess your legal issue and tell you at the outset whether it is worth obtaining legal assistance and/or pursuing legal action. If you are unlikely to prevail, or if the benefits of obtaining legal assistance do not clearly outweigh the costs, you will not need to incur unnecessary time and expense.
If legal action or assistance is necessary, your lawyer will evaluate all aspects of your situation with you, explain your options and what to expect at every step, and take any action needed to protect your legal rights. This includes researching the law, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, conferring with expert consultants, planning legal strategy, preparing and filing the necessary paperwork, and negotiating with insurers and opposing counsel – all with an eye toward ensuring the best possible resolution for your legal issue.
When Is Self-Representation Appropriate?
Most legal situations (such as those identified above) require an experienced lawyer's assistance. But in other less serious matters, self-representation may also be an option. You may be able to resolve a minor legal dispute by writing letters or negotiating informally, or you can appear before a judge in a "small claims" court if the dispute has a value less than or equal to a certain amount. Be sure to check with your local court for applicable "small claims" limits.
If you do require an attorney’s help, you can always start your search on FindLaw’s lawyer directory to find an experienced attorney near you.