We’ve all seen those movies and television show episodes where someone chooses to represent themselves in some type of legal proceeding, foregoing the advice of their attorney and friends, and miraculously getting the results they want from the proceeding. In many ways, it would be cool if life was like the movies, but in the case of representing yourself instead of hiring an attorney to handle your legal needs, it most definitely is not.
When you find yourself with legal needs or anticipating a legal proceeding of some kind, it is always advisable to seek out an attorney that specializes in the type of law you are dealing with and in the state that you are encountering the law. The following will explain the many ways in which having an attorney can be beneficial and the ways in which not having an attorney can have long-term, negative repercussions. As with any piece of legal advice found online, it is important to note that every situation is different. Because of this, always consult with a professional before making legal decisions.
The Law Wants Legal Needs Handled With Emotional Detachment
It is important to note that even experienced lawyers do not represent themselves in court. This is, in part, because legal proceedings need to be approached with objectivity and emotional detachment. If the outcome of the proceeding drastically impacts you, it is going to be much harder for you to remain calm and dispassionate. If emotions are allowed to run rampant in a legal proceeding, there can be serious and negative repercussions.
It may sound harsh, but when it comes to the law, what you feel is not important. What matters is the word of law and how it applies to your particular legal needs. It is unrealistic and irresponsible to assume that you will be able to remain disinterested in the midst of a legal proceeding. It is important to note that this does not mean attorneys are without emotion. The truth is quite the opposite; emotional intelligence makes for better lawyers. All this means is that attorneys have spent years practicing keeping their feelings from disrupting their work.
The Law Is Extremely Complicated
Whatever the reason you have for interacting with the law, you must know that it is a highly complicated system that has slowly evolved over hundreds of years. Beyond the hyper-specialized nature of each area of law, each state has its own legal rules and regulations. An attorney that handles cases in Utah is often not qualified to handle the Expungement/Sealing of Criminal Records in D.C. and vice versa. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you seek out an attorney that practices in the state you have legal needs.
Because of this, the law has many components written in an antiquated or outdated language. It also has an entire industry-specific vocabulary that might sound like Latinesque gibberish to you. While some academics are pushing the case for plain language in the law, there has not been much headway made. As it stands, it takes years of study and practice to understand the underlying inner workings of the system and how to accomplish goals within it.
Beyond this overarching view of the complications of law, each specific area within the law requires years of specialized focus to comprehend and master. An attorney that handles divorces is often not qualified to handle company mergers and vice versa. This is why it is commonly advised for you to seek an attorney that focuses on the type of legal need that you find yourself with.
Not Hiring An Attorney Can End Up Costing You
When people find themselves with legal needs, one of the significant reservations they have about hiring an attorney is the cost. Lawyers can be expensive. This being said, without an attorney, you not only have a higher risk of not getting the outcome you want, but you have a higher risk of the legal proceeding costing you more.
This is because the outcome of any legal proceedings can cost you money (or time behind bars, depending on what you’re dealing with). In addition to this, you may be able to claim legal fees in certain legal situations, meaning that if your attorney is successful on your behalf, you can actually end up making money.
If the cost is still something that you are really struggling with, widen your attorney search. Paths exist if you are in need of free legal help. There are many civil attorneys who do not charge anything upfront and take payment only if they win your case. In addition to this, there are some charitable attorneys and legal offices that do some work for free each year.
The Law Is Strict And Impatient With Those Who Don’t Know The Rules
If you do not have an attorney, you run the risk of having difficulty with the strict deadlines and protocols regarding legal documentation. Filling out paperwork incorrectly, or filing documents late or in the wrong way, can completely destroy your case. Sometimes it only results in delays; other times, it can result in the entire case being thrown out. Beyond that, there are countless people who also need a judge’s attention; because of this, they tend to get easily frustrated by avoidable hiccups.
Even seemingly straightforward legal proceedings like establishing a legal guardian for a child can take several steps. One study found that there were nearly 200 discrete tasks that those who represented themselves needed to perform within a civil case. Whatever your legal needs, missing one step in the process could result in having to start everything over from the beginning. As well, sometimes, when a case is thrown out, you lose the opportunity to refile.
No matter why you are encountering the law, it is beneficial and wise to consult an attorney during the process. The legal system is a complicated and often nerve-wracking place, full of highly specific vocabulary and intensely detailed requirements for proceedings. Attorneys spend years practicing within one specific legal discipline in one state in order to understand everything that is going on.