Going Pro-Se? Why Hiring a Lawyer is Crucial to Your Case

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An unfortunate fact of life is that at some point, almost everyone will become involved with the court system. Here are some reasons why hiring a lawyer will benefit you in the end.

In 2016, approximately 84 million cases filed in state trial courts, according to the Court Statistics Project. Even if you are not involved in a ‘traditional’ lawsuit, wills, business arraignments, separations, and more often involve attorneys and carry heavy consequences for all involved. In these situations, many choose to hire a lawyer before moving forward.

It can be tempting, from a financial standpoint, to forego a lawyer and represent yourself (appearing “pro se”). The costs of representation by an attorney, even one without decades of experience, can range from costly, yet feasible, to prohibitively expensive in some cases – particularly when the length of representation is difficult to determine from the start.

So why should you hire an attorney?

When facing criminal charges, the local public defender’s office will appoint a lawyer for you, if you cannot afford one, in keeping with your constitutional right to an attorney. But in most cases, hiring a lawyer is the single best thing that you can do to ensure that your legal rights are protected, and that you receive the most favorable outcome in your case. Here’s why.

  1. The Legal System is Complicated.
    First and Foremost, the legal system is complicated. Besides the basics of initiating a lawsuit, a myriad of obstacles and procedures await anyone seeking to bring a case or defend against one. Even basic steps, such as figuring out who to contact and what the deadlines are, can be difficult to locate for someone not well-versed in the court rules and procedures.

    Further, these are often answers that can’t be found with a quick internet search; understanding and applying the rules can be a frustrating task even for individuals with prior exposure to the legal system. The average individual faces a severe disadvantage when going against another party who has hired a lawyer; the way to avoid becoming entangled in a web of complicated rules and procedural requirements is to hire an attorney who has experience with them.

  2. Legal Advice and Guidance is Valuable.
    When faced with the pressures of a lawsuit, an individual must make choices involving not only who to sue, but often how much to sue for – or in the case of a defendant, how much to potentially settle for. These questions can be hugely influential on the outcome of a case, and are difficult at best – not to mention the smaller decisions that must be made such as which witnesses to call, and which arguments to make. A seasoned lawyer is able to guide you with advice designed to achieve the best outcome in your case or issue – even if you have experience in a particular area, having someone there to provide guidance can be crucial. In particularly personal cases, such as criminal matters or child custody, it can be especially difficult for someone to make these decisions with a clear head; the highly emotional nature of these cases can make sensible decision-making difficult, if not impossible. Hiring a lawyer will ensure that you won’t make legal decisions that could hurt you in the long run.
  3. The Stakes are (Usually) High.
    The threat of spending time in jail, and having a criminal record, is a serious risk that most would not want to take on alone. As mentioned above, a lawyer is guaranteed through the public defender’s office; but a civil case has no such guarantee of representation, and often carries with it massive financial risks as well.

    In lawsuits arising out of car accidents, for example, the average settlement ranges from $20,000 to $30,000 – and that’s assuming the injuries sustained by the plaintiff weren’t serious. If you find yourself defending against a case such as this, the risk of owing this amount (or more) outweighs any short-term savings from not hiring a lawyer.

While the legal system is complicated and carries great risks, these problems can be minimized by retaining a lawyer. Besides their practical knowledge in the field, their guidance, advice, and reassurances can greatly reduce the stress that accompanies the legal system and will almost always result in a more positive outcome for you.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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