Let’s be honest here – for some types of matters, you just don’t need a lawyer.
• Simple divorces. If you are a heterosexual married couple and don’t have kids or property, then you can file and finalize your own divorce. The Texas Supreme Court just approved fill-in-the-blank forms.
• Small claims cases involving less than $10,000. You can fill in the blanks on a form available at the Justice of the Peace office, arrange to have it served on the other side, set it for hearing, and present your evidence and argument in court.
• Review of contracts for relatively small amounts of money. You can read the contract and if you understand all of the terms, and are willing to live with the consequences if it goes south, then sign it.
So when should you hire a lawyer? There are a few hard and fast rules.
• The other side has hired a lawyer. If you don’t have your own lawyer, you will lose.
• Divorces and family law matters involving property and children. You will live with the outcome for the rest of your life. A bad agreement, or a poorly drafted decree, will haunt you.
• A contract or writing that actually matters. Agreeing to the terms of a negotiable contract, without negotiating, is a lost opportunity. Using an on-line or pre-packaged generic form for entities, purchases or sales, and wills and trusts, will get you, at best, a generic outcome. At worst it will get you a disaster. Unless you understand the terminology and how a court would likely construe it, how do you know that the writing will accomplish your goals or offer you any protection?
• Criminal cases. Unless, of course, you intend to plead guilty and want to receive the maximum sentence.
Then there are the optional times, when you may need to consult with an attorney to make sure you aren’t cheating yourself or to help you out of a mess.
• Personal injury matters/car wrecks/insurance company dealings. There are many categories of damages. Don’t short-change yourself.
• Wrongs or harassment that you can’t categorize. That’s because you may not know there is a statute or a type of tort, with an associated remedy, that exists.
• Inter-family issues. Especially in Elder Law, where some legal help and mediation may resolve a situation.
Sometimes you can do it yourself and that’s fine. Sometimes you can do it yourself and that’s stupid. And sometimes you can’t do it yourself. Knowing the difference is critical. Call us and we can help you decide.
Virginia Hammerle is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and an Accredited Estate Planner by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. She can be contacted at email@example.com. The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice. ©2013 Virginia Hammerle