According to the American Bar Association (ABA), there are 1,338,678 licensed, active attorneys, in the United States. And the numbers may not be that high in places like Nigeria, just about 110,000 (as at November 2020) according to the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA). However, the problems with hiring a lawyer are not so much about the availability of lawyers. It's about people's conviction on the need to hire a lawyer. And when caught up in certain situations, the important question you must answer is, do you need a lawyer or not?
One important factor that determines whether a person will hire a lawyer or not is the financial implications of hiring one. And just after that, people begin to consider if it will be to their advantage if they hire a lawyer. But there are some reasons why hiring a lawyer may be your wisest decision.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer
- You should never represent yourself in court
- You may need a lawyer even if you do not end up in front of a judge.
Similarly, even if you are on track to settle without ever stepping foot inside a courtroom, it is still wise to lawyer up. A licensed attorney can ensure that you get all the compensation that is due to you, even if you decide to settle outside the court. Likewise, if you toe the courtroom line, they can mitigate your sentence and legal fines when you are in court for a criminal case.
- Not having a lawyer may cost you more
- You may ruin your case yourself
- It's safer to get a lawyer than to do so later when the case has been messed up by you
- The other party probably has a lawyer
And by this time, maybe you are still asking 'should I get a lawyer' or should I not? If you are still caught in this dilemma and you do not know exactly when to hire a lawyer, the list below may be helpful.
When Do You Need To Hire A Lawyer?
When You're Getting Divorced
Talk to a divorce lawyer: Unless you are confident about the nuances of divorce law, you need to hire a divorce lawyer. It is best you start the consultation process early on. A lawyer can help you review the requirements for filing for divorce in your state or country, and help you tackle the process legally and completely, one step at a time.
A good example of requirements for filing for divorce in the United States is, you must reside in the state where you are petitioning for a divorce for 3 - 12 months, depending on the state. That means it may be required to postpone any plans to relocate until well after the divorce.
- File a petition for divorce or respond to your spouse's: Aside from consulting a divorce lawyer about the requirements and what to do, the very first step in the legal process is filing a petition with the state. Another importance of working with a lawyer is that a lawyer can help you determine your state's specifications; for example, your petition may need to include specific grounds for divorce. If you are simply responding to your spouse's petition, all you have to do is sign the papers. Signing the papers will accelerate the process of divorce.
Pursue temporary measures: The divorce may take a while, anywhere between 6 months to a year. You should talk to your lawyer about a temporary child custody agreement and/or temporary child support to get you through the interim or time lag.
Negotiate, then go to trial if necessary: At every step, having a lawyer is really necessary. Sometimes, you may need to negotiate and if it becomes necessary, you should go ahead to get a trial. Debating about when to hire a lawyer may be risky, full of delays and you may end up regretful? Don't hesitate to hire a lawyer when it comes to the divorce process. In many cases, a lawyer can act as a mediator and may be able to help you avoid court altogether.
When You're Involved in a Custody Dispute
You are still wondering if you should hire a lawyer? For any child custody dispute, it is valuable to have a legal counsel to rely on. Having a lawyer in child custody disputes can be beneficial for the following reasons;
A lawyer can provide some much-needed objectivity: Child custody arrangements evoke a lot of emotions, both from the child(ren) and from the parents. Who will get the kids for the holidays, their birthdays or some other important events? It can be near-impossible to objectively or clear-headedly make these decisions on your own. A child custody lawyer can be of great help in this situation.
A lawyer can help gather and organize paperwork for you: If you are in the throes of an emotional child custody dispute, paperwork may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, however, it is a very necessary part of the process of child custody disputes. A lawyer can also keep tabs on all of the red tape and legalese for you.
A lawyer can help navigate the complexities: If you are trying to reach a child custody arrangement in usual or extenuating circumstances, for instance, your spouse lives out of state, across the country, or even overseas, you may need to work with a lawyer to establish a personalized child custody plan, in which case, the lawyer is able to transmit necessary information to and from the spouses some distance apart.
When You Want to Separate From Your Partner
As opposed to collaborative divorce, traditional divorce may especially be legally stressful, because the bane of the case is the extreme disagreement and annoyance of the partners about the case.
"Laws governing married couples who divorce (generally labelled marital or family law) do not usually apply to unmarried couples who separate", Nolo reveals. This may lead you to assume that you have no legal options to pursue, but that is not necessarily true.
You should talk to a separation attorney, and if you signed any legal written statements prior to breaking up with your partner, those documents will likely hold up in court. In some states, jurisdictions will recognize common law marriages after several years of living together and would treat unmarried but cohabiting partners as though they were married.
If you have children together, that's different. In the majority of cases, states will proceed as if you are married when determining child custody arrangements.
When You Need to Establish Paternity
Even in very common situations, we consider too trivial to hire a lawyer, you will be surprised to know how necessary it is to do so. One of these seemingly-trivial situations is when you need to establish paternity. Just like things get trickier legally when you are unmarried or just living together, and then break up, things also get tricky when you have a child with someone you are not legally married to.
In the event that you are unmarried at the time of your child's birth or otherwise need to establish paternity, there are several options available to you. You can take a DNA test or blood test, sign a state-approved document, like a "recognition of parentage" or "declaration of parentage" with your partner, or provide financial and emotional support for the child long enough that the state legally recognizes you as the father.
You need to talk to a paternity lawyer about your options, and why establishing paternity is important for your future.
You Want to Divvy Up Your Estate
Estate planning law is even less straightforward than you might think. The process involves much more than simply hiring a lawyer to divvy up your financial assets and property when you pass away. Estate planning may entail the following:
Avoiding probate: Investopedia puts it that "Probate is the analysis and transfer administration of estate assets previously owned by a deceased person. The probate court provides the final ruling on division and distribution of assets to beneficiaries". If you have a will stipulating what will happen to your property and assign an executor of that will, you can avoid the probate process.
Determining what happens to your estate in the meantime: If the owner of an estate passes away, the estate is still subject to tax. In many cases, the descendants will take up the tax to pay them. Similarly, even after the demise of the owner, the estate(s) will still need to be maintained. Usually, there will be a transitory period during which the executor of the will Will go through the red tape or paperwork to process the transfer to the new owner(s)/descendants. You must talk to your estate planning lawyer about making these arrangements for the transitory period.
Assigning a power of attorney (POA): A healthcare power of attorney makes medical decisions for you if you are not capable of doing so yourself. This includes a period when one is suffering from a terminal illness, a degenerative disease process or simply growing old. In such situations, it is important that you choose someone you can trust to take charge of your medical decisions while you relate to a lawyer everything this relationship entails.
Tying up any final arrangements: Use estate planning as an opportunity to make any final arrangements. That may include anything from funeral or burial plans to designating guardianship for young children.
When You Need to Manage a Trust Fund
If you are working on acquiring a trust fund and to manage that trust fund, it is wise to work closely with a trust administration lawyer.
Trusts are typically established to pass on assets or wealth while avoiding probate or to set aside funds for a particular purpose well into the future, like setting aside funds for a child's or grandchild's college education.
You've Been Charged With a Criminal Offense
What does a criminal lawyer do? A criminal lawyer will help you gather evidence, he may conduct an independent investigation, and help you avoid the criminal charges, if possible. In some cases when sentencing may be inevitable, your lawyer will negotiate a lower sentence for you. Your lawyer can help you pay lower fines, serve less jail time, and suffer fewer legal consequences. This they may be able to do based on your past track record of good character, and/or willingness to attend an alcohol or drug rehab program.
When You Need to Negotiate Bail
Bail bonds and bail bond agents are one great way to work around this. A bail bonds agent will negotiate your release on your behalf, in exchange for a fee and some collateral. However, as long as you attend your court hearing as legally required, they will return the collateral, but they would keep a 7-10% of the fee as their profit.
I know you have your reservations as far as hiring a lawyer for some of these cases is concerned. However, this quick overview should show you one thing, at least; that a lawyer can help you through some of life's most difficult moments like the ones talked about above, and even more.