When Do You Need to Call a Lawyer?
Everyone has heard it: life happens. Still, when life happens to you, it can leave you feeling shocked and distracted, and, at times, facing legal challenges. If you find yourself facing a looming deadline to appear in court, make a filing, execute a loved one’s estate, or pay a fine, you may find yourself with little time or information, and that can be unnerving. The good news is that you are not alone. Everyone has heard life happens because life happens to everyone.
There are some obvious examples of “life happening” when you likely may need an attorney: if you are charged with a crime, getting divorced, or being sued. However, there are many times the question of hiring an attorney may not be so cut and dry. Should you call an attorney if you are in a fender bender, having trouble with a contractor working on your home, asked to sign new paperwork at your place of employment, or have been appointed as an executor?
Generally, if you face any situation in which you feel your interests – whether personal, professional, financial, or otherwise – are at risk or must be protected, you should contact an attorney. If you are unsure whether you face such a situation, you should err on the side of caution and contact an attorney.
Be Proactive in Protecting Yourself and Your Interests
If the issue you face calls for legal action, any attorney you hire can file pleadings to stop certain unwanted actions or bring your issue before a court. Unfortunately, if you put off calling an attorney, then enough time may pass that deadlines for certain actions lapse before you make that call. If you are facing legal actions in your path and are unsure whether you need an attorney to help navigate it, your best bet is to contact an attorney promptly.
Do Your Research When Looking for an Attorney
Attorneys make their livings by forming relationships with and addressing the needs of their clients, and most attorneys will conduct an initial consult at no charge. When looking for an attorney, you will want to consider these things:
- The Law covers an enormous range of things! Seek out an attorney with explicit experience in the practice area you need. Do you need a Family Law attorney or Bankruptcy specialist? Are you needing help forming a business, settling an estate, or defending against criminal charges? Doing some research ahead of time can keep you from spinning your wheels and save you time and money once you decide.
- Referrals and reviews are your best source of information. Finding an attorney who has a proven track record of practicing in your area of need is key to your success.
- Understand that you will not likely be able to talk to an attorney on your first call. Firms conduct intakes collecting cursory information to see if they can help you and to check for conflicts of interest (which happen more often than you may think). A quality, mindful firm will return your call within 1-2 business days. If you aren’t contacted timely, move on and look for another lawyer.
- Attorneys know attorneys. If the lawyer you contact can’t help you, ASK FOR A REFERRAL.
Ask Questions—A Lot of Questions
When you talk to an attorney to circumvent an issue affecting your interests, use that conversation to your advantage:
- Don’t expect to receive something for nothing. Ask for rates up front, and realize that attorney’s generally do pro-bono work only for select people and organizations to which they are tied. If you cannot afford an attorney, in some cases you may be appointed one by the courts; otherwise, know what you’re facing financially by asking during the initial consultation.
- Give the attorney all of the relevant information. While you don’t have to immediately offer up all personal information to the attorney, they will need a clear picture of your dilemma to help you cut to the quick of the best solution. If the attorney inquires about information you are hesitant to provide, ask them why they need that information, and remember that attorneys cannot disclose or use any information you provide them, whether you hire them or not.
- Use your intuition. Is the attorney listening to your story and readily looking for potential solutions? Do you feel they are tending to a beneficial relationship between you as the client and them as your potential counsel?
- Ask yourself if the attorney is a good fit. Both attorneys and firms are limited in the scope of their legal expertise. A considerate attorney will carefully assess whether they are a good fit for your needs, and you should consider the same when researching different firms and speaking with different attorneys.
Law is a vast field, and the business of law is grounded on building a relationship with your attorney, their experience with the laws that directly relates to your issues, and a deep understanding of and for each individual situation.
Ultimately, if life happens and you are faced with a situation in which hiring an attorney is advisable, remember that you do have a choice. In making that decision, remember that protecting your interests is not only your business- it is ours as well.