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Hiring a Lawyer v. Pro Se Representation

Pro se legal representation comes from the Latin phrase, “for oneself,” or “on behalf of themselves.” It’s legal speak for when someone represents themselves in court without the assistance of a lawyer. There are plenty of legal matters that you can pursue on your own, without having to hire an attorney. And many states, like Virginia and Maryland, offer resources to pro se litigants to assist them. However, depending on the type of case and how complex it is, hiring a lawyer might be a better decision. Here are a few things to think about when considering whether you should hire an attorney or go solo.

Criminal Cases

If you are charged with a crime, you have a constitutional right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford an attorney, then the government must provide you with one, depending on the severity of the crime. While a lawyer provided with no cost to you might sound like a good option you should consider the attorney’s experience, their workload, and their record winning cases or pleading out cases. Of course, there are plenty of dedicated and hard-working public defenders out there, you just won’t be able to hand pick which one is assigned to your case, if you even qualify. As for representing yourself in a criminal case, there is no easy answer, but statistics show that defendants with legal representation typically fair better for reasons we will discuss below.   Also, in some jurisdictions, prosecutors have policies to not negotiate with pro se litigants in advance of trial, which can seriously constrain your options of receiving a reasonable settlement offer.

Contract Cases

We enter into contracts almost daily, most of the time these “contracts” or “agreements” do not require us to sign any formal document, and likewise the consequences of breaching those contracts can be insignificant. When you do have to formally sign a contract, they can be complicated, or it can be pretty straight-forward and any layman can read and understand what the terms are.  But some contracts you sign can affect your finances, which can lead to much larger consequences that impact the rest of your life. A lawyer can make sure the contract reflects what you intend, ensure the contract protects your rights and helps protect against unforeseen events.

Real Estate

For many of us, the largest single event is when you are purchasing or buying real estate. Whether it is a home or a business space. Real estate transactions have a lot of separate parts, and for someone with little to no experience with these, it can be a daunting task.  A lawyer can help in many ways, including conducting a title search, assisting during closing, arranging financing, handling a divorce involving real estate, and dealing with bank-owned properties to name a few.

Business Purposes

Starting a business is an exciting time in your life. It can also be stressful! Forming a business or a partnership with a family or friend can have a lot of repercussions. Businesses can take various legal forms, like forming a corporation, or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). An experienced business lawyer can help organize your business, and can explain the pros and cons of each type of business so that you use the form that is most profitable for your venture.

Family Law

Family law includes child custody, child support, divorce, or any action when the government may remove your children from your home. These cases are emotionally difficult and the decisions made in court will decide the fate of your family. A family law attorney is worth hiring in these situations, especially because they offer unbiased guidance and serve as a buffer between parties in a tumultuous time.

So what should you think about when deciding whether to hire a lawyer or an attorney? Consider seeking legal help in any complicated case. Judges and juries decide your case based on the weight of the evidence. A lawyer finds and represents that evidence effectively according to the court rules. A lawyer will take the time to learn the facts of your case inside and out, and knows the procedural requirements for the jurisdiction involved A lawyer will know what type of evidence the court will accept, will understand the court deadlines, and will meet those deadlines. Missed court deadlines could cause you to lose your case. An experienced attorney can react to situations as they happen. While a Judge must remain neutral and cannot assist you during the trial, your lawyer will vigorously represent your interests. Your life doesn’t stop when you are dealing with a legal issue, you still must go to work and take care of your family. While you are doing those things, your lawyer will take the time to handle your lawsuit, doing the necessary legal research, investigating the facts, all of which can be time consuming. Weigh the pros and cons, consider the cost of a lawyer versus whether you can afford to lose your case. Is this your only chance to be heard? Do you understand the legal paperwork? What if you need to appeal the court’s decision? Does the other side have an attorney?

If you decide you need an attorney, research their reputation, their experience and ask them tough questions, after all, you want the best representation whether you are dealing with a divorce, a criminal charge, a contract dispute, or even a landlord-tenant issue. Whatever your situation, the attorneys at Patriots Law Group are ready for you.

DISCLAIMER:  The information above is for general informational purposes only.  No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information.  Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.