In deciding ‘Do I need a Lawyer?', think about the old saying: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” – Abraham Lincoln. If you have a legal issue, an attorney is of the utmost importance. Attorneys go to law school, have to take a comprehensive and difficult bar exam to practice law, study legal doctrines, rules, and procedures. They regularly appear in Court, regularly draft pleadings, regularly conduct legal research, and are regularly required in Virginia to attend continuing legal education courses. They build a rapport with the Judges, Prosecutors, Court Clerks, and other Attorneys. They know the local Court Rules, the Supreme Court Rules, and deadlines. They also regularly represent clients. While attorneys are expensive, a good attorney is well worth the money. We have seen people represent themselves (pro se) and they miss deadlines, get convicted of charges they should not have and, ultimately, get into arguments with the Judges and Clerks of the Court out of sheer frustration. Unfortunately, the Court will not relax the rules because an individual is not a lawyer and doesn't understand the law. Everyone who appears in Court is held to the same standard.
How to Choose a Lawyer:
Once you've decided you need a lawyer or, at the least, wish to have representation, it's time to shop around. You will want to ask friends and family if they know a lawyer they were pleased with that handles the issues you need addressed (e.g. don't use their divorce lawyer for your criminal case, with a few exceptions). In the event your contacts do not know any lawyers that addresses your issues, see if the lawyers they do know can refer anyone they know. While the legal community is large, lawyers come into contact with each other quite regularly and are happy to refer to their colleagues.
Additionally, you can look up lawyers on the internet, such as Google, and on Social Media, like Facebook. Take a look at their profiles and their experience. Don't necessarily go with the lawyer with the most expensive looking website. Many great lawyers have basic websites and spend their time working on their client's cases, not their websites.
Talk to a Few Different Lawyers:
There are thousands of lawyers out there to choose from so be sure to pick out more than one to talk to. Unless you're extremely comfortable with the first lawyer you speak with, plan on seeing different lawyers. Every lawyer's experience, professionalism, and price for retainer is different. Depending on your needs, you may want the more experienced expensive lawyer for your case. In the event price is an issue, you can get a lawyer with lesser experience for a reduced rate. Just because the lawyer has lesser experience does NOT mean they are incapable of handling your case. Indeed, while many older lawyers have more experience, many younger ones appear in court more routinely because they charge less and, as a result, have better relationships with the judges, clerks, cops, and prosecutors they continuously appear around.
Finally, be comfortable with the lawyer you pick. If it's a divorce case, you may want an aggressive lawyer that's not afraid to tell the opposing party to ‘take a hike.' If, for example, it's a reckless driving case where you're seen on radar traveling over 100 mph, you may want a laid back, friendly lawyer who gets along with everyone and can make the cops and prosecutor feel comfortable with the favorable plea agreement you are trying arrange. And once it's all said and done, and you've taken the advice listed above, and you've now narrowed it down to two lawyers to choose from, go with your gut.
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