Why Are Attorneys so Expensive and Do I Need One?
Why Are Attorneys so Expensive and Do I Need One?
Let me start this article by stating I am all in favor of someone representing themselves in court if they have the intelligence, the time to devote to their case, and it is the right kind of case. We obviously feel this way, which is why this entire website, our videos, our podcasts, and the webinars concentrate on teaching people about the law, lawsuits, and the concepts behind trials.
Representing Yourself in a Lawsuit
There is a movement of a sort, for people to try and use attorneys as little as possible. If you are involved in nearly anything which involves legal issue it’s likely someone you know will have a story about how they or someone they know had a situation exactly like yours and didn’t hire an attorney and won everything they wanted by representing themselves.
There are a number of things wrong with the last statement, chief among the errors is that it is extremely rare for two cases to have the exact same facts. I spent about 20 years as a trial lawyer and worked on my cases as well as assisted other attorneys on their cases. I also had office visits with people nearly every day to decide whether I would agree to represent them or reject their case for one reason or another. I never saw two cases that were exactly the same.
I can certainly understand how laymen would think the cases were the same since the basic facts in all divorces are the same. Two people got married and now don’t want to be married anymore. However, the differences come about when you start analyzing property issues, retirement account issues, bills, children, child support, etc.
The ability to recognize the differences between similar cases and know how to handle these differences is a result of four years of college followed by a grueling three years of law school and, with most people, $250,000 in student loan debt.
There is a story, which probably isn’t true, about George Washington being challenged because he had charged $5.00 for a surveying job. The client was unhappy about the bill since the wooden stake used to mark the boundary line of the surveyed property only cost a few cents, yet George Washington had billed him $5.00 for it. Washington reached over, took the invoice from the man and made some marks on it and then handed it back. The invoice now read “Surveying stake .05 cents, Use of surveying knowledge to know where the stake should be placed, $4.95. Total owed $5.00”.
It is much the same with attorney’s fees. A great deal of time, money (along with blood, sweat and tears) went into them learning how to spot issues in a case and handle them before they bec0me problems.
However, the reality is that attorneys fees are expensive and many people simply can’t afford them. If you are in situation like that, there are occasionally free legal services available through Legal Aid, for civil cases, or through court appointments, for criminal cases.
Small Claims Court
Most people should be able to handle their own small claim courts cases if they will spend time and effort reviewing the rules and procedures, and spend less than $100 to buy some books which teach you about specific aspects of the case. We would, of course, suggest our line of e-books called The Guerrilla Guides to the Law. These are published as ebooks so as to keep the costs down as well as to redo or update the book when the law changes. You can see these books at this section of the website. New books are being worked on as we speak and will be listed when they are completed. If you would like to be notified as the new books are released please drop us an email or subscribe to our Twitter feed, join our Facebook page, or sign up for the RSS feed.
A few final thoughts. If you decide you want to hire an attorney then shop around and get prices plus ask people who they’ve used as attorneys. Some attorneys go to court unprepared, others “work a file” just to generate extra funds, then the third batch of lawyers know what a case takes, does that work, and gives you good representation. Their reputation in the community will tell you what they are like and allow you to make a decision as to whether you’re going to take a chance and represent yourself or you are going to spend the money and hire a lawyer.
When To Hire A Lawyer
There are certain types of cases that I believe no one should ever represent themselves in. The first would be any type of criminal case. The potential repercussions are just too burdensome for anyone to represent themselves. To give you an example of how serious attorneys take this, all attorney I know will hire a lawyer for themselves if they get charged with some kind of criminal case. That alone should demonstrate a non-lawyer should never try and handle a criminal case themselves.
I also think it is an extremely bad idea for anyone to try and draft their own paperwork regarding the sale or purchase of land. While there are forms available everywhere, you really need someone local to review all of the papers and make sure there are no big issues. I once saw a woman who had spent over $30,ooo trying to clear up title to a piece of land because she thought paying an attorney $50 to do a deed (back when it was done) was too much. If you don’t do a lot of deeds, then you shouldn’t do any.
In a divorce, a person shouldn’t represent themselves if the case involves children, real property (land or a house), or a retirement account. All three of these factors require extra knowledge and paperwork and a failure to do it correctly has serious repercussions.
Also, be careful of what you read on the internet. Many things you see are wrong, particularly if they’re not written by someone who has been to law school and also has experience in a private practice. I have seen some people lose their case purely because they relied on internet research written by someone with no real experience other than representing themselves once. Even if they won the case it may not be for the reasons they think or they tell you.
By evaluating your facts, your available time, and by interviewing a few attorneys you should be well on your way to knowing whether you can represent yourself or not. Feel free to read the articles and watch the videos here on our website as well,