Do I Need a Lawyer?

For most cases the legal system allows you to represent yourself in court. Obviously this saves you money on attorneys' fees but there should be other considerations when deciding whether to proceed without counsel. Too many times people try to handle their cases on their own and make serious mistakes or otherwise do things that cannot be "undone" or "fixed". Examples include waiving objections to claims, failing to object to jurisdiction and not asserting time-sensitive claims and defenses. Unfortunately, these issues make it more difficult for you to hire an attorney when you decide you need one. Trying to save money in the short term can cost you more money in the long run.

When deciding whether you need a lawyer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have the time to prepare the documents and filings needed to prove and win your case?
  • Do you know how to prepare a motion and have it heard in court? Do you know how to write a legal brief if one is required?
  • Do you understanding the meaning and significance of a motion to dismiss? A motion for summary judgment? Can and should you file one of these motions in your case? Do you know how to respond if one of these motions is filed against you?
  • Do you know how to notice and take a deposition? Do you know the relevant issues and items to cover in the deposition?
  • Are you comfortable handling your case when your opponent is represented by an attorney?
  • Do you know how to use interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions of fact to your advantage? Would you know how to respond to these items if you receive them from your opponent?  Thinking
  • Do you face the possibility of losing a significant amount of money or property if you lose your case? If you win a judgment for money, do you know the legal steps required to collect on the judgment?
  • If you are a business owner or executive, do you have the time to adequately research and prepare your case? NOTE: In North Carolina, only a lawyer----not corporate officers or representatives----can handle litigation on behalf of the corporation.
  • If you have to pursue a case against a business, do you know how to choose the correct defendant(s) to sue and do you know how to serve them with your lawsuit and summons?
  • In the face of unfavorable evidence and facts, can you make an objective, well-reasoned decision as to how to proceed in your case?
  • Do you know when and how to obtain expert witnesses? In North Carolina, the plaintiff is required to obtain expert testimony in medical malpractice cases. Other types of cases may be greatly aided by obtaining expert witnesses who can review and testify about complicated and technical case-related issues.
  • If your case is in federal court, it is strongly advisable you seek an attorney. The rules and procedures in federal court are more stringent than in state court. In fact, many attorneys do not even handle federal court cases because of this increased burden.
  • Do you know what documents and evidence you need to prepare for a trial? Do you know what things constitute hearsay evidence? Can you determine if all of your evidence is admissible in court?
  • If you are being sued, do you know if and when to make a counterclaim? Do you know if and when to file a crossclaim or a third-party complaint?
  • Do you know what an offer of judgment does? Can you and should you make an offer of judgment in your case?
  • Do you know how to handle jury selection at trial?

If you are not sure of the answers to these questions as they relate to your case, you may be best advised to seek legal counsel. Do not wait until a few days before your court date or your relevant deadline is set to expire. Once you have determined that you need professional legal help, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. It is much better to consult with a lawyer about your legal matter and, based on the consultation and information, deciding to pursuing your matter on your own. The more you stand to lose if your case does not succeed, the more likely it is you should retain an attorney.

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