Monday, January 12, 2009

Why You Should Hire An Attorney Instead of Representing Yourself

Why should you hire an attorney instead of representing yourself? Because it could be one of the smartest decisions you ever make.

More people consider representing themselves in legal cases. These individuals are called "pro per", "pro se" or "in propria persona." People do this with the notion that they will save themselves time and money. In many instances, this could not be further from the truth.

There's an old saying that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. What might save money in the short run could end up costing you tons of money and headaches in the long run.

The law has become more specialized and changes constantly. That self-help web site or generic court form does not cover every fact situation.

Do you really feel comfortable talking to the judge or the attorney representing the other party? Do you know and understand the particular burden of proof required for your case? Do you keep up with new statutes, court rules and case law like attorneys do?

Of course, everyone has the right to self-representation. However, forgetting to add one sentence in your divorce judgment could cost you a bundle down the road. It may cost you more stress and money to try to fix a legal mistake than to do it right in the first place. For example, failure to understand which jury instruction to request could result in a conviction and jail or prison time. Failure to follow the court rules could get your civil lawsuit dismissed forever. Signing an agreement could prevent you forever from being able to filing a lawsuit for additional money or rights.

Often individuals who represent themselves discover their errors and omissions only to find that no attorney will take on the case or it will take twice as long to try to fix the mistakes with no guarantee of success.

Sure, attorneys can be expensive. But, you get what you pay for. Would you perform your own root canal or triple bypass? Of course not. Some attorneys are unethical and just after your money. However, there are many very good attorneys who are ethical and not trying to take you to the cleaners.

Attorneys are trained to conduct legal research, draft legal documents and make arguments in court. It will take a good attorney far less time than it would for a lay person to explain critical facts and law to judges and other attorneys. Attorneys are often very familiar with particular judges, prosecutors or opposing counsel. Attorneys who specialize or focus on particular areas will be aware of finer points of law, procedures and options you may overlook.

At a minimum, you should consider consulting an attorney to determine whether your case really is simple or "open and shut." Some attorneys offer free consultations or pro-rated hourly fees. You may even be able to work out a payment plan.

Attorney fees vary depending upon the attorney's experience level and the type of legal matter. Whatever the attorney fee may be, it is worth the money because it can reduce your stress about how to navigate the legal system, save time and may result in a better settlement than you might negotiate yourself.

Finally, attorneys bring objectivity cases. You may be too close to the situation to make reasonable, decisions. You may overlook your options or fail to fully assess the risks when representing yourself. A good attorney will give you sound, honest advice to help you make a good decision and reach a good, fair resolution to your case. A good attorney will answer your questions or find the answers for you.

Do not feel intimidated. Shop around. Ask your friends and associates for a referral. Read the attorney's biographical summary on his website. Ask why the fee and retainer are so high. The answer could be priceless.

(c) Copyright - Stacey M. Washington. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

About the Author
Stacey M. Washington is an attorney located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has been an attorney since 1987 and focuses on family law and criminal defense in Washtenaw County. For more information, visit