Attorney Tara Knight explains when you should get a lawyer for a court case and how to know that lawyer is right for you.
Read on for Attorney Knight’s advice and watch her appearance on WTNH’s ‘Ask the Lawyer’ segment reviewing this very topic.
I would advise that it is always preferable to have a skilled professional handle your legal issues, but that is practically not always possible. If the issue concerns something with a value of $5,000 or less, you probably would be better served going to small claims court yourself. These courts are very user-friendly and designed to assist people who are representing themselves. Additionally, the courts have simplified the process for simple divorce matters so people don’t get stuck paying for lawyers to basically do simple paperwork. The simplified divorces involve situations where there are no minor children, thus no
Additionally, the courts have simplified the process for simple divorce matters so people don’t get stuck paying for lawyers to basically do simple paperwork. The simplified divorces involve situations where there are no minor children, thus no custody or child support issues and no major asset division. Again, the personnel in the clerks’ offices can help guide people through the process.
A final example might be a minor motor vehicle ticket. People contest these sort of things every day on their own without hiring a lawyer. This usually involves pleading not guilty to the ticket, going to court and speaking to a prosecutor to let her know your side of the story. Many prosecutors are open to reducing the charges or fines if you state a compelling case.
This is a mistake the public often makes—that if you are a lawyer you can handle any legal matter, from automobile accidents to estate planning to medical malpractice. The bottom line is that, although a lawyer is exposed to many areas of law while they are in law school, the vast majority of lawyers usually limit their practice to a few areas. For example, I would not use a lawyer known for divorce cases in a medical malpractice case unless they have established a track record in that area of law. The good news is that even if a lawyer doesn’t practice in a specific area, given their familiarity with the legal community, he or she may be able to refer you to a lawyer who does. Be wary of a lawyer who claims to be a jack of all trades.
There are a number of ways to vet a lawyer in order to determine whether or not they have experience in a certain practice area. The most obvious way is to Google the lawyer and see what comes up. Additionally, there is an organization called the National Board of Trial Advocacy that certifies lawyers in certain specialties such as civil practice, Social Security law, and criminal practice. The standards are fairly rigorous and a lawyer must pass an examination, have a clean ethical record, and present evidence of relevant experience before they are labeled as a specialist.
There are also a number of websites that contain information as to a lawyer’s practice area and that also contain reviews of lawyers, including Avvo.com and Martindale.com. Additionally, you can check a lawyer’s professional standards background to see if any complaints have been filed against them by contacting the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee.
Finally, good old-fashioned word-of-mouth is always helpful. Talk with people who have used a particular lawyer to determine whether or not their experience was positive.
The questions you would ask the lawyer vary depending on your particular issue. If you are unsure as to the lawyer’s background in a given area, it is important to question the lawyer as to the relevant experience they have had with your particular issue. For example, often times individuals may not like a public defender to handle a criminal case, but the fact is that many public defenders are better and have more experience than some private lawyers who practice only occasionally in the criminal courts.
There are certain things to look out for, however, when deciding whether or not to retain a lawyer, including:
With a little research and due diligence, you can be confident in your decision to hire a lawyer for your case.