Unfortunately, there are some times in your life when you might ask yourself, “Do I need an attorney?”
If you aren’t sure, here are some things to think about…
Some of the times when you need an attorney include:
Divorce: there are children involved, there is significant property to split, there are pension plans or other investment plans for either party, and/or you are looking at the possibility of wanting or having to pay alimony.
Child support: the other parent isn’t paying, isn’t paying enough, is trying to nickel and dime the children, is making allegations against you, is seeking custody. You are the parent paying support and you are in arrears, you feel you are not getting a fair deal, and/or your circumstances have changed since the original support order.
Domestic Violence: there are children involved, there are cross-allegations, there is property that needs to be divided or you need to make sure you have financial support.
Estate Planning: if you have children, you MUST have a will naming guardianship…who will take care of those children when you are gone, and it is recommended that you get an attorney to help you plan for them. if you have property that you DON’T want going to a spouse or child. if you have significant property, you will need an attorney and possibly a financial advisor to help you manage the tax consequences. if you have a disabled relative that you want to take care of, you need an attorney to help you create a special needs trust.
Estate Administration: If there are legal filings, or a large estate which must be handled properly to avoid a contest. If you dispute how someone is handling an estate you are an heir to. Or if you just are overwhelmed and hiring an attorney will enable you to deal with your grief.
Bankruptcy: If you are considering bankruptcy, you always need to talk to an attorney.
Small business: You are starting up and want to set up properly. You have contracts you want to make sure are legal and proper. You have buy/sell agreements. You have employees and want to make sure you are complying with the law. You haven’t made a succession plan. If you are more than a hobbyist, a check up every year with an attorney who focuses on small business is a wise investment in the success of your company. Don’t wait until you know what all the questions are to get the answers, it might be too late.
Countless other scenarios where you, or your children, or your property are at significant risk.
BAD Reasons NOT to hire an attorney:
“I can’t afford one.” Can you afford not to have one? Can you afford to be litigating this issue for years down the line because you didn’t do it right the first time? Look for attorneys who offer flat fee rates, payment plans, credit card payments, or are willing to work with you on coming to a means of paying that won’t break your bank but will also permit your interests to be properly protected.
“I can do it myself.” You can, and many courts will offer documents and support for pro se clients (clients appearing without an attorney). However, if there is any significant risk of legal or financial harm to you, you should consider hiring an attorney. Think of it like this: you can put a bandaid on a small scratch or treat a cold because you know that those things will pretty much fix themselves and you can’t mess it up easily. But would you perform your own brain surgery? Or set a bone? Of course not! You need a professional to help with the things that, without one, could leave you permanently injured.
“I can’t find an attorney who will fight for me.” Perhaps you have been to an attorney and felt that they weren’t aggressive enough. Sometimes, your emotions can cloud your judgment. A good attorney will think of the long term consequences of your legal decisions now, and advise you based on logic and not emotion. It may not be in your best interest to attack your opponent on the stand, if through cooperation you can come to a better agreement. Talk with your attorney about why they aren’t holding out the position that you want. If their answers don’t satisfy you, find another attorney…but do not put yourself in harm’s way by trying to litigate out of emotion on your own.
Convinced? Okay, How Do You Find a Good Attorney??
The number one way that people find attorneys is through word of mouth. Go to friends or family that you trust and ask them if they know an attorney that you can trust.
If that fails, try Google or the Lawyer’s Referral Service of your local bar association. But see what you can find out about the attorneys you find through these sources. Check their websites. Check their AVVO profile, if they have one. Narrow your search down before calling their offices.
Once you call, there are many questions you can ask to help you determine if this lawyer is for you.
Here are some:
1. Does the attorney offer free consultations, or will you be asked to pay before you even agree to have them represent you? If so, how much, and is that something you are willing to pay?
2. Does the attorney offer flat fees or hourly fees? What is the hourly rate? The attorney may not be willing to tell you over the phone, but they should at least be able to tell you whether they work on flat fees or hourly. Will they offer payment plans?
3. What is the philosophy of the attorney/firm?
4. What type of law do they normally do? Make sure it is what you are looking for them to do for you.
Perhaps most importantly, see if you can get a sense of whether the attorney is a good listener, is willing to hear your story, is willing to take the time with you to advance your interests. You may not get a sense of this until you meet them in person, however.
Plan in advance what you will say both on the phone and at the initial consultation, and what kind of questions you have. Gather all important relevant documents to take with you so that the attorney can really see the progression of your case.
Remember, the attorney works for you and represents your interests, but they also have specialized training…so listen to what they have to say, but also make sure they are listening to you.
For a free consultation about your legal matter, call us at (856) 227-7888, or contact us at [email protected]. We have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your legal options.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.