Updated: May 20
One of the most common questions I hear is “Do I need an attorney to do this?” Whether it is a divorce, a landlord issue, Social Security, or putting together a contract or Will, this question comes up over and over. The answer… maybe. Sounds like a lawyer, I know.
Not every case needs a lawyer. You can do a Will online, or get the documents to file for divorce from a clerk’s office. Plenty of people file for Social Security on their own, and some get approved without an attorney. There are many great resources available online for most issues, and general legal information has never been more readily available to the public.
HOWEVER, doing it yourself, no matter how much time you put into it, and no matter how much research you do, there are details that can completely change the outcome if not handled properly. Google Search cannot replace a legal degree and a license to practice law. Failing to fully satisfy the execution requirements of a Will can make it void. Filling out the Social Security function assessments will impact your entire case and often is used to deny your claim. Failing to comply with the legal requirements of the Landlord Tenant Act may invalidate any claim you have for damages. Not understanding what is and is not marital property can cost you in a divorce.
Thankfully, nearly all attorneys offer some type of free consultation. The attorneys will be able to point you in the right direction if they cannot handle your case. There are free legal clinics such as Greenhouse Ministries and of course the Legal Aid Society as well. Many cases are taken on a contingency fee (we don’t get paid unless we win something) rather than an hourly rate, so you don’t have to pay up front. There is no reason to let a lack of money keep you from at least attempting to obtain legal representation. And if you don’t really need an attorney to do what you are attempting to do, a good attorney will tell you so.