Deciding to start a lawsuit, or deciding when to get a lawyer of your own, can be a crucial and confusing choice. Everyone knows lawyers are expensive, and many people think they can handle simple matters on their own. In fairness, sometimes they're right, but sometimes they end up brining in an attorney later, and in effect paying that attorney to do a bunch of work over. It's not always obvious which cases are complicated, and not everyone is clear on the benefit of having a lawyer for their particular case. This post will explain some rules of thumb that'll help you decide when to think about getting professional help.
These are easy: If you're suddenly in jail, now would be a good time to hire a lawyer. If you got served with divorce papers and are distraught, confused, and afraid, call a lawyer and get a responsible orientation at the very least. If you just sunk $20k of your money into the start-up you and your buddy are working on, well, you should have called us last week, but late's better than never.
Similarly, if there's a court date coming up soon and you don't know what you'll have to do, consult with a lawyer. If you have something like a divorce which involves a lot of money or real property, like a house, it'll be cheaper to get a lawyer's help than to get a bad settlement, and if you want to do something like file for emergency custody, you'll need an attorney's help right away.
Cases that Probably Warrant Legal Help
There are cases that don't obviously need an attorney, but for which we think an attorney is more than worth the price. These include cases like nearly every divorce, and every custody filing. We offer extremely affordable types of help here, and even a little bit of help is much, much better than none. It's easy to mess up a case like divorce or custody, and the consequences can be very serious.
A criminal case also calls for an attorney, even if you've been convicted before. Attorneys are much better prepared to negotiate with the state, and in the current economy it's incredibly important to keep your record as clean as possible.
If you're going into business, whether as a start-up or under some other model, we think a brief consult with an attorney is a really good idea. Sometimes a few hundred bucks' worth of consultation can save you literal millions down the road, and certainly if you're thinking about making a partnership or an LLC, you should hire us to look over it and make sure you're not creating future problems for yourself.
Last but not least, there are a lot of simple civil cases that get a lot easier with an attorney's help. Evictions are a good example, as are expungements. With proper forms and with letterhead the court recognizes, your case stands a much better chance of going through quickly and successfully.
We call these Not-Yet cases, and they include cases in which there's not yet really much for an attorney to do. For example, suppose you want to go into business but you haven't figured out which business participants will do what yet. We can offer some guidance from our experience and tell you about the legal consequences of various avenues, but we can't do much more than that until you decide on what your business will look like.
Similarly, if you're a landlord and you've handled evictions a hundred times before, you probably don't need or want an attorney to do it for you. Hiring us on for a few hours to look at your forms and make sure your process is still legal is a great idea, and of course if we know more about your business we can come in and help more easily if a case goes sideways. But if you've repped yourself successfully before, we don't insist on replacing you. We'll just teach you how to do it better.