You just can’t plan for everything there is in life. No matter how hard we try, a surprise will pop up that we were not otherwise prepared for that places us at the mercy of our country’s vast legal system. When this happens, whether it be a fender-bender with an irate motorist during a road trip or a situation involving jail time for you -whatever the reason, sometimes you have no choice but to lawyer up.
Gaining access to an attorney- is quite simple, but the cost to keep them around is a completely different matter. With costs of lawyer retainers being astronomically high, how are we supposed to be able to protect ourselves in matters of the law when we cannot afford official representation?
Well fear not my friends, for here are some alternatives to hiring a lawyer, or if your case can’t be solved on your own, what to expect when contracting a lawyer to your case.
Hiring a lawyer
Affixing a lawyer to your case is not going to be cheap, but sometimes you find yourself in a situation where there is no way around it. Some of us can fend for ourselves in front of a judge, but more often than not, having that extra insurance in the form of an experienced attorney is needed. Here is what to expect when hiring a lawyer:
How much are they?
Commonly, attorneys charge per hour when it comes to consultations and council, with prices ranging anywhere in the low triple digits per hour, and higher. The fee is costly, but typically the more you are being charged per hour is representative of how much experience you are paying for.
There are exceptions to the pay-per-hour rate. Depending on the need for legal services, you may be charged a flat rate, or depending on certain circumstances, you may pay them a percentage of court winnings in an event like a lawsuit. Flat rate fees can be expected but not guaranteed in matters pertaining to wills, signing of leases, and even possibly divorce signings (for those who have clean breaks and civil handlings between both parties).
Who are you hiring?
When pricing for lawyers, you typically get what you pay for. If you want your case handled with extreme care and a very high percentage of likelihood to win, then you could go to the more polished and renowned firms that specialize in your type of case. These well-known and famous firms will usually be the most expensive, but the experience you can expect to see in these lawyers is most times incomparable.
If you cannot afford a top-tier lawyer who has a long list of big case winnings under their belt, that does not by any means translate that you are in hot water with your case and have no hope of coming out on top. Lawyers who practice law through solo practice, smaller firms, or just a friend of yours who has extensive legal knowledge (and we really mean extensive legal knowledge, not just having read a law textbook once in college), you can equally place your faith in them as well, all the while saving a fortune on legal fees.
What kind of case do you have?
The reason for contracting a lawyer matters. If you have a car accident that was bad enough to involve representation but nobody was really hurt is one thing, but if you were placed in a situation where you were in the wrong place at the wrong time during a murder is another. The more extreme the outcome of a legal case, the higher the cost of representation can be expected to be, for good reason: a lawyer is insurance.
If you are a suspect in a murder trial, you will more than likely be better off procuring experienced representation. The stakes are much higher than they would be if you were just being sued to pay for the damages on another motorist’s car. The higher the stakes in a case (such as possible jail time), the higher you can expect to pay for a lawyer who specializes in your specific kind of case. It will be worth the money if it means you get to stay out of jail.
Legal Aid and what it can do for you.
As we mentioned, lawyers can be expensive and not everyone can afford one, even when they are in need of one to get them out of possible jail time. For those who qualify, legal aid is available for just such occasions.
You can qualify for legal aid depending on several factors such as what your income is, where your residence is located, and what your specific need for legal representation is. However, legal aid is limited as there are only so many individuals available to handle such cases versus the stack of individuals needing such services. Each state, county, court system, and case has their own way of handling proceedings, so check in with your local court office to see if you and your case qualify for legal aid.
Alternatives to hiring a layer
Instead of going the direct route and hiring a lawyer, there are alternate routes that can be taken to achieve the same affect. Although it is always a safer bet to have a lawyer guide you through court proceedings, not all cases require official legal representation in court. In such matters, you can possibly try the following:
Fill out the Legal Papers yourself
There is nothing wrong with rolling up your sleeves and diving into a little DIY work. For smaller situations that you could hire, but not have to hire a lawyer, you can fill out the official documents yourself. For a small fee, you can procure such papers for your own handling here, with available documents pertaining to handlings between landlords and tenants, debts and finances, will and estate planning, and small claims court proceedings.
For times that the forms have some difficult to understand terminology or are just confusing, you can always turn to the internet and its many legal dictionaries and explanations, or you could take advantage of —
Free or discounted lawyer consultations
Many legal firms offer consultations that are free for a first visit, or at least offered at a lower rate. You can take advantage of such offers by using the time to have them double check if your forms are correct, or even to run your case by them to see if it is even worth pursuing in court. The advice of a lawyer is invaluable, so don’t skip on the opportunity to hear what their thoughts are on the case, even if you have not officially hired them.
Legal matters are no joke, as many of us know from firsthand experience. Having a DUI on your record can ruin your life if you work as a healthcare provider, and being in the middle of a rough divorce can possibly ruin your entire life savings and take away everything you have ever earned if you are not fighting back in the correct and proper manner. Sometimes you just need legal help from the experts, but sometimes you can hold your own by doing your homework and filing the proper documents yourself.
So next time you find yourself in a bind that requires the law to get involved, you now have a better idea of your options. Good luck out there!