Do I Need a Lawyer or Can I Represent Myself?

Not every legal situation requires a lawyer.  While criminal proceedings or legal issues involving large sums of money nearly always require an attorney, some smaller issues can be handled without the help of a lawyer.  There are two basic questions to ask yourself if you are considering representing yourself.

What is at Stake?

The first question has to do with the nature of the issue: how serious is your situation?  If your financial situation, your employment or your personal liberty are in serious jeopardy you should definitely consult an attorney.  A lawyer gives you the best possible outcome in these situations by protecting your rights and advocating on your behalf.

Minor disputes and other civil matters can often be handled on your own.  Small claims court is designed to allow individuals to bring issues before a judge for resolution.  You must be able to clearly communicate your position in court and prepare simple court documents and other paperwork.  Minor legal issues such as traffic court do not require legal representation either.

If you receive legal documents you don’t understand or if you wish to appeal even a minor legal decision, however, you should seek legal advice. However, there are many situations where it would be in your best interest to introduce a lawyer. Nearly every criminal situation is better handled by an attorney because the stakes are oriented differently. In criminal cases, there are charges brought which are the focal point ofthe case. However, lawyers know best how to reduce charges or navigate the complicated process of presenting evidence. Without legal experience, it is very easy to trip over your own defense and unintentionally help the case against you. We highly recommend obtaining legal counsel in any situation where you are not sure how the case is setup.

What is Your Objective?

Perhaps you have a clear and attainable objective in mind.  Your property is damaged and you want financial compensation.  You were involved in an accident and you want your medical expenses covered.  If the stakes are low and the objective is clear you may be able to represent yourself.  Sometimes, however, the objective is not as clear.

If your case is complex and the objective is unclear, you should definitely consult with an attorney.  Our firm will provide you with an objective assessment of your case and advise you on your best possible outcome. Contact us with questions or concerns. We’re here to help.