As disputes arise and parties are beginning to consider some form of legal action or resolution process, the parties will likely be considering legal representation. There are a variety of factors that will go into a party’s decision on whether or not to hire a lawyer, and there are benefits and drawbacks to hiring a lawyer to help with a case.
Lawyers can add valuable information and practice to a case, but they can also be prohibitively expensive for individual people. Legal representation also includes handing over a portion of the control of a case to the lawyer, which can be both helpful and frustrating at the same time.
Considering the factors that go into the decision will help a party to evaluate whether hiring a lawyer is necessary or whether the case can be resolved without legal representation. This article will explore these questions and help parties make informed decisions about their case.
Legal Representation Explained
Many people will understand that legal representation means that a party hires a lawyer to work on their behalf to present their case. Cases can be either criminal or civil.
- Criminal: Criminal cases will usually be between a prosecutor, who is hired on behalf of the state that is prosecuting the case, and a defense attorney. A defense attorney will either be privately hired by the defendant or will be appointed by the state if the defendant cannot hire an attorney.
- Civil: Civil cases are all other cases that are not criminal. For the most part, the attorneys on both sides will be privately hired attorneys, excluding child protective cases and other niche cases with the state. Because these cases are the ones where parties are deciding whether to have an attorney and weighing the factors in the dispute, this will be the type of case that this article will focus on.
Attorneys can bring a variety of helpful skills to a dispute. This includes knowledge about filing paperwork, analysis of the claim, legal training and evaluation, and greater access to research or other information.
Attorneys can handle more of the preparation and work that goes into resolution services, they have training and experience in dealing with the court, and they can help prepare a client for a case. There are many things that an attorney will do for a represented client that can help move the case along.
Reasons to Hire and Not to Hire an Attorney
Hiring an attorney can be a big commitment for a party, so it is important to consider the factors that can help determine whether there is a need for an attorney on a given case or if a party can represent themselves. By looking at the reasons that a party may decide to hire an attorney, one can develop a list of questions and factors to work through to determine if legal representation is necessary.
Several of the reasons for hiring an attorney include:
- Negotiation: A party will often have a difficult time negotiating on their own if they are not able to evaluate offers effectively. Being a party can cloud their judgment, or they may have a skewed idea of the strength of their case. In the course of their schooling, lawyers are often required to or choose to take negotiation courses. This training helps determine what is a reasonable settlement agreement while still looking out for the needs and desires of the client. This is important because it can help a party save time and money if a reasonable agreement can be reached.
- Procedure: Legal procedures can often be incredibly complicated. There are many rules in litigation that can cause a whole case to fall apart if they are not followed properly. Lawyers are familiar with the process and able to help their clients file documents and follow the rules throughout litigation to keep the case on track. This can be important because it will help a client avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes.
- Persuasion: Attorneys are skilled in presenting a case in a way that persuades the decision-maker to decide the case in their favor, which can be helpful in the presentation of a case. While a party is the best storyteller for themselves, an attorney can help focus on the parts of the story that directly affect the case and knows how to present those facts and aspects to the decision-maker. They are also trained in presenting evidence to the court in the best way. This can help make a case more effective and encourage a better result.
- Unequal Representation: Because many parties will choose to be represented, the opposing party will likely be represented in a dispute. It can be very difficult for a party to skillfully defend themselves against an attorney. The training and the skill of the attorney can set up the represented party at an unfair advantage over a self-represented party. If the other party is represented, it is often a good idea to hire representation.
There are also many reasons that people will choose not to hire an attorney. These include:
- Control: Some people will choose not to hire an attorney because they want to control the case. Hiring an attorney can often mean that the party will lose an element of control over the case because the attorney will be making certain decisions to help present the case. However, most attorneys will work with their clients and should honor the wishes of their clients, even when they do not agree.
- Cost: Cost is often the biggest reason that a party will choose not to hire an attorney. Attorneys’ fees are typically high and can be a gatekeeper for many people when they are trying to find someone to help with their case. Finding a lawyer within a price range may end up costing a party in other ways. However, for those who are unable to afford an attorney, there are low-cost or free attorneys for certain cases.
Low-Cost or Free Services
Because costs of legal representation are often prohibitive for parties’ ability to access the justice system, there are legal service providers in almost every county around the country. These service providers offer legal advice and representation to clients that meet certain requirements, such as age or income level.
These attorneys are available for a variety of cases. Each service provider will have a list of cases that they can provide representation or advice on, but common types of cases that legal services will help with include divorce, child custody, eviction defense, apartment repairs, domestic violence, immigration, wrongful termination, and other types of cases that are common for people with lower income.
Legal services exist to help parties that cannot afford an attorney, so if the cost of hiring a lawyer is prohibitive to a case, it would be wise to contact a local legal aid office. Additionally, some attorney offices will offer sliding scale payments that are dependent on the income of the client or will take a portion of the recovery to help cover their fee, which is known as a contingency fee.
All of these options can help bring necessary legal representation to clients that need it, regardless of their ability to pay.
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