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Why You Should NOT Try to Handle Your Own Legal Affairs?
We receive telephone calls every day from people telling us that they “got a bad deal in court today” or that “the judge wouldn’t listen to them”. They want to know if we can fix it. Unfortunately, this is usually imposible. You have one shot at a trial or hearing. There are no second chances or “do overs”. If you want to try to represent yourself to save money or because you tried to learn how to be a lawyer on the internet you are making a mistake. Lawyers are hired to help you because of their expertise. You can’t learn how to be a lawyer by reading an few websites. It takes years of study and practice to know how to present your case in court. Even if you think that the decision by the court is obvious, you may not understand what factors or laws the court must consider or how a particular judge views your situation. Consider speaking with an attorney before it is too late.
Legal cases involve matters that are very important, therefore, people need to use the services of an experienced lawyer. Lawyers receive years of legal training, know the local rules and procedures of the court, and have the experience to know how best to present your case. Lawyers are trained to safeguard the rights of people and are bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
While you can get some useful information regarding your legal matter on the internet, the information cannot be substitute for the careful review of an experienced attorney. Law books are not do-it-yourself books – You cannot just look up a law in a book and know how to handle your case. Your case will involve substantive law, procedural rules, case law or precedent, constitutional law, local rules, and rules established by the judge assigned to your case. In addition, these laws, rules and procedures are constantly changing.
Many people think that if they represent themselves that the judge or court personelle will help them. This is simply not true. Court personelle are strictly prohibited from giving legal advice. The only person in the courtroom that you can count on to be on your side is your lawyer.
Is your case really so simple that you are willing to risk making a mistake or losing in court?
What Lawyer Should I Hire?
When you select a family law attorney, you want one with the legal skills and knowledge needed to get the job done for you, as well as a personal style that you are comfortable with.
- If you need help negotiating your divorce agreement, the ideal attorney is a problem solver, works well with people, is adept at compromise,and is comfortable in court. Although you and your spouse may have no intention of going to court, an attorney’s trial record and history of success in court can have bearing on his or her ability to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney.
- If you know from the start that you’re headed for a divorce trial, you want an attorney who has considerable courtroom experience – Not all lawyers do.
- It can be very helpful if the attorney you choose is familiar with the family law judges. Knowing the courtroom style of the judge who’s likely to hear your case and how the judge has ruled on previous cases similar to yours helps your attorney adapt his or her legal strategy and style to that particular judge.
How To Work Best With Your Attorney?
All lawyers take an oath to be faithful to their clients. Just as your communications with your clergyman or doctor are confidential, so are your private communications with your lawyer. Ethics rules prohibit your lawyer from disclosing any information about your matter without permission from you. Your lawyer’s job is to see that your legal rights are upheld.
In working with your lawyer:
- Write down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all persons involved in your case and all important facts. By doing this in advance, you will reduce the time your lawyer will need to spend gathering the information.
- Take all papers relating to the matter to the first meeting with your lawyer.
- Be honest and tell your lawyer all of the facts — good and bad. Your lawyer must keep them in the strictest of confidences and must know everything about your matter in order to represent you to the best of his/her ability.
- Discuss your expectations for the matter with your law.
- Ask your lawyer to discuss the “good” and “bad” aspects of your case, not just tell you what you want to hear.
- Do not expect simple solutions to complex problems.
- The attorney you hire should talk to you in plain English, not legalese.
- The attorney should be someone you trust and feel comfortable with
- Ask your lawyer to explain the various steps involved in handling your matter and ask for an estimate of how long it will take.
- Ask your lawyer to keep you informed about the progress of your matter.
- Immediately contact your lawyer when any new developments arise that might affect your matter.
- Discuss billing arrangements with your lawyer at the first meeting. The Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to generate a fee arrangement when hired by a client.
- See a lawyer before signing any documents or taking legal action.
- Be sure you understand all of the ramifications of what you are signing or doing, and then follow the advice of your lawyer.
Remember the outcome of your case can effect you forever. You may lose money, property, custody or other legal rights and not even be aware of it. Don’t rely on friends, family or the internet to give you legal advice. Only a lawyer can advise you on legal matters.