Why should I hire an attorney?
This is a very common question. We believe every prospective client should ask this question of each attorney they are considering and every good attorney should be able to provide a meaningful response.
The bottom line like anything else: you get what you pay for. Many times consumers spend very little time making large purchases regardless of the financial cost. But when it comes to protecting their personal or company’s legal interests they sometimes question whether an attorney is really necessary. The primary reason for this is that clients sometimes ignore, or simply do not see, the immediate benefit of hiring an attorney until it is too late.
The benefits to hiring a qualified attorney are innumerable. An attorney is an advocate who gives a voice to those who may not otherwise be heard. An attorney is skilled at marshaling the relevant facts for a persuasive presentation. An attorney can serve as a skilled advocate by committing words to paper to persuade a particular reader or reflect the parties’ intent should their intent become an issue in the future. An attorney can serve as an oral advocate and compose words to instill emotion in a jury, persuade a trier of fact, or communicate a particular tone. An attorney can ensure each individual has equal access to the court system. An attorney can look forward and then take action based on what his or her experience tells them in order to try and avoid problems in the future. An attorney speaks for society’s downtrodden. An attorney can expose a weakness in the law and effect legislative change.
Perhaps most importantly, the right attorney has a significant amount of experience dealing with the particular issues in question, and knows not only what can be learned in the law books, but also the unwritten expectations, the “tricks of the trade,” so to speak. An experienced attorney can often divine other’s motivations, or predict other’s next moves, based on having dealt with similar issues before. In much the same way you would not try to treat a medical condition without the guidance of a doctor, using a lawyer will give you a resource that often leads to far better results.
There are additional specific benefits for our contingency clients. The client can engage our firm to step in and immediately begin zealously advocating the client’s position without the client having to pay attorneys fees out of their own pocket. For our clients in the insurance or employment context this means the client has attorneys who are comfortable with the David vs. Goliath dynamic of litigation and will stand up against large corporations so the consumer does not have to go at it alone.
Under a contingency fee arrangement the attorney is invested in the client’s case based on the amount of hours it will take to prosecute a case and the expenses the attorney will be advancing out of his or her own pocket. Thus, the attorney is just as motivated as the client to maximize the client’s recovery, but in any event should at all times do what is in the best interests of the client.
For our hourly clients, the benefits are innumerable. The client gets an experienced attorney whose experience and knowledge of the law can assist the client in making important personal and/or business decisions, and provide the client with options he or she may not otherwise have without legal assistance.
In the civil context, the bottom line for a plaintiff is to recover money and the bottom line for a defendant is to avoid paying any money, or as little as possible. Thus, when someone is sued, that person’s or company’s assets are on the line until the lawsuit is resolved. That is why it is very important to have an attorney who can navigate the client through the court system and apply his or her experience to the situation at hand.
To further answer this question, we will use three common scenarios.
A common scenario is a client who wants to perform what they consider a simple task, e.g., filing an insurance claim, communicating with an insurance company after a claim is denied, filing an employment claim with a state agency, forming a company, drafting a contract, negotiating a purchase or sale, or even defending a small lawsuit.
In the words of William Shakespeare, “and yet, methinks, I could be well content to be mine own attorney in this case.” (1 Henry VI (V, iii, 165).) There are many people who think they can adequately represent their own interests when it comes to legal work.
There is no question a prospective client can search the internet or purchase a book at the bookstore that purports to provide basic legal information or advice. Of course, any prospective client can engage in self-help such as drafting their own contracts or prosecuting or defending their own lawsuit. Those kinds of persons normally find themselves seeking out legal help when it is too late, which more often than not could have been avoided had they sought an attorney’s advice in advance.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the practice law. Therefore, it is not wise for consumers to copy contracts, or even wills or trusts, from the internet or a book thinking it will protect their interests. Many times, a consumer can commit a major blunder if they do not realize the legal significance of a particular document, act, or omissions. It is therefore wise to seek out legal help from a qualified professional attorney.
Good attorneys earn their fees by zealously protecting a client’s interests and serving as an aggressive advocate for a client’s particular position. This could mean avoiding a lawsuit before one is filed, aggressively prosecuting or defending a lawsuit when filed, drafting documents today to protect against what may occur in the future, or effectively negotiating a certain point.