By: Matthew H. Fry, Esquire
Previously I wrote about the top ten reasons to hire a lawyer before you had a problem. But more often people seek legal representation after a problem arises. While sometimes it can be due to bad planning, more often unexpected events require immediate legal help. Unfortunately, too often people wait to talk to a lawyer, and in the process may have given up certain rights or that action which makes the situation worse. Below are just some examples why retaining counsel when you have a problem can really save you time, effort, money, and even your freedom.
- Don’t take the risk of representing yourself. It has been said that “Persons who represents themselves have a fool for a client.” The law can be complicated, and a knowledgeable attorney who is emotionally detached from the issues can be exactly what you need to present a winnable argument. Even experienced attorneys don’t represent themselves in complicated matters, so why should you?
- Not having a lawyer may actually cost you more. What is at stake? A criminal case may determine whether or not you spend time behind bars, while a civil case could affect you financially. Besides, many civil attorneys don’t collect a fee from you unless they win your case. Also, you may be able to claim legal fees as a plaintiff in a civil case, so hiring a lawyer can actually save or make you money.
- The other party has legal representation. Non-attorneys are generally at a disadvantage when squaring off against opposing counsel or doing business with another party that has legal counsel. As explained above, the law is complicated, and an attorney representing your adversary (or even a non-adversarial party entering into a legal agreement with you) will be able to take advantage of you if you don’t have legal representation.
- Lawyers know how to challenge (and sometimes suppress) evidence. You may not even know that a key piece of evidence against you was improperly obtained or that the testimony of a witness contradicts an earlier statement. And did the crime lab properly handle the evidence every step of the way? Your attorney will find out.
- Attorneys understand how to properly file court documents and handle other legal procedures. If you’re not an attorney, you may not know or understand the deadlines and protocol for properly completing and filing certain legal documents. One late or incorrect filing can derail your case, delay a given legal procedure or worse – the case could be thrown out altogether, not in your favor!
- You don’t have a network of expert witnesses or private detectives. Lawyers depend upon an extended network of professionals to help their clients’ cases. Most non-attorneys do not personally have access to the types of professionals who can assist with evidence discovery or challenge evidence or testimony by the opposing party.
- You’re not sure how to respond or plead – or don’t know what a ‘pleading’ is? In a criminal case, pleading guilty is not the only choice, even if there is evidence pointing directly at you. An attorney who understands the law will be best situated to explain your options and can help you avoid potentially severe penalties even before a criminal trial begins. Similarly in civil cases, admitting liability by making assumptions or conclusions or presenting a case without supporting evidence could derail your case or defense right from the start.
- A lawyer knows what facts or documents will be the key to winning your case. Did you hire a lawyer in advance to review that contract or to prepare your business policies? If so, a lawyer can use those documents to get the case more quickly resolved in your favor. Even if you did not have the benefit of a lawyer before the problem arose, a lawyer knows what the best evidence is that will be needed to win your case, can assess the chances of winning, and try to minimize the impact if the case appears to be bad for you.
- A good lawyer can strike up a beneficial settlement offer if appropriate. An experienced lawyer probably has seen cases similar to yours or at least knows enough to make a calculated guess about how it might resolve at trial. Sometimes a settlement is the best choice, while other times it makes more sense to see your case through to trial. An attorney also can help negotiate a fair settlement with the opposing party.
- Lawyers can provide a free initial consultation. Depending on the type of case, some attorneys will meet with you, or speak with you on the phone for a free initial consultation. If an attorney provides you with that opportunity, there is really no harm in taking advantage and speaking with a lawyer. Not only will a consultation give you an idea of the type of case you have, it will help you decide whether you actually need to hire a lawyer.
Have a question or potential legal problem and want to learn about more ways to protect yourself and your family? The attorneys at The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP have extensive experience in representing clients to resolve legal problems. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to see an attorney, please contact Matthew Fry at 610-565-5700 or email him at [email protected].
The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP is a full-service law firm in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We strive to help people, businesses and institutions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania solve legal problems – and even prevent legal problems before they occur. To learn more about the full range of our specific practice areas, please visit www.dioriosereni.com