Working with a lawyer

Working with a lawyer

This LawGives Guide provides tips and tricks for working effectively with your lawyer.

An introduction

LawGives understands that navigating your way through the legal system can often seem like a daunting challenge. That is why we’re committed to building a platform that ensures you are matched up with an lawyer who is dedicated to guiding you through this process with transparency and quality. The purpose of this guide is to give you some tips on how to best work with your lawyer. Following these guidelines will go a long way towards a successful relationship with your lawyer.

Why hire a lawyer?

Working with a lawyer is the best way to ensure that your problem is sufficiently resolved. Representing yourself is almost never advisable, unless you’re fighting relatively minor infractions such as a traffic ticket or you are participating in small claims court.

Here are some reasons why you should hire a lawyer:

  • The legal system is complicated. If representing yourself was a simple matter of telling the judge why you did not violate the law, lawyers would be out of the job. However, the law is riddled with with ambiguity and grey areas. A lawyer’s job is to use their legal education and professional experience to build a case that navigates around this legal ambiguity and directs you to the desired outcome of your case.
  • Lawyers are trained to challenge and/or suppress evidence. The rules of evidence are long. Really long. There’s an entire class devoted to the subject in law school. If you’re representing yourself, you might not realize that a key piece of evidence was obtained illegally or that the crime lab didn’t properly handle the evidence during every step of their analysis.
  • Your lawyer is emotionally neutral. Legal disputes can be scary and stressful. One benefit of hiring a lawyer is that they can maintain a clear head throughout the entire process. During divorce proceedings, or other delicate matters, this your lawyer can act as an unbiased guide.
  • Lawyers know how to properly file court documents and handle other legal procedures. The court system had deadlines and protocols for filing documents pertaining to your case. Unfortunately, most courts do not have a user friendly guidebook to ensure that you follow all of these deadlines and protocols. Making one procedural error could mean that your case is significantly derailed or worse, thrown out of court entirely.
  • A lawyer can craft a good settlement bargain or plea bargain. The value of a lawyer is that they bring years of professional experience to the table. Chances are, they’ve seen a case similar to yours in the past. This gives them a solid idea of how your case will likely be resolved, which allows them to consult with the opposing lawyer and come to a mutual settlement bargain. Settling before trial is preferable because it saves you time and money.
  • The opposing party probably has a lawyer. Non-lawyers are at a disadvantage when facing lawyers. As explained above, the law is complicated.

Finding a Lawyer

There are thousands of lawyers out there. California reports having more than 160,000 practicing lawyers! There are a few different ways that you can find the right one for you.

How to choose a lawyer

There are numerous considerations when hiring a lawyer. This section will address two of the most practical concerns- the lawyer’s fee structure and whether you should choose a big law firm, a small law firm, or a solo practitioner.

  • Fixed Fees v. Hourly Fees. The vast majority of lawyers operate on an hourly fee structure, meaning that they bill by the hour. Rates vary significantly, depending on factors such as the firm size, the lawyer’s experience level, and the complexity of the transaction. Rates can range from $75 an hour to over $1,000 an hour. The key criticisms of the hourly fee structure is that it does not give the client enough predictability for the cost of legal services. Even a minor hiccup in the case can lead to a significant increase in the amount of hours worked, and thus, a significant increase in the cost of the legal services. Conversely, some lawyers, such as the ones on the LawGives platform, charge a fixed fee for all of the legal services performed during the resolution of your problem. This structure simplifies the legal process in two key ways. First, it gives you cost predictability. You don’t have to live in fear that a minor derailment in your case will lead to an unaffordable cost increase. Second, it promotes efficiency in the resolution of your problem. Lawyer’s are no longer incentivized to drag out legal disputes for the sake of billing more hours. This means that your problem will be resolved in the most time efficient, cost efficient manner. Fixed fees are not possible for every type of case, but make sure to ask your lawyer whether it is an option for yours.
  • Big Law Firm v. Small Law Firm v. Solo Practitioner. The key advantage of a large law firm is that no matter what your issue is, there is a team of lawyers with diverse practice areas that can help resolve your problem. The downside of a large firm is that often times the lawyer you initially speak with is not who will be handling your problem. The details of your case will most likely be handled by a junior associate. A small firm or solo practitioner has the opposite characteristics. Most small firms and solo practitioners specialize in a single area, and will have to refer you to another lawyer group if your need falls outside of their practice area. The key advantage of a small firm or solo practitioner is the personalized legal service that they provide. The lawyer that you meet with is likely the person that will be doing most of the work on your case.

What to talk about with your lawyer

  • Be honest. Anything you tell your lawyer is completely confidential. In fact, lawyers in California are required to take an oath to protect “at every peril to self, the secrets of [their] client.” Your lawyer needs the all details of your problem, even the ones you’re reluctant to share, in order to build the most effective case possible.
  • Be specific. The details of your problem are often what will make or break the case. So if your lawyer asks you questions, it’s helpful to respond with a detailed answer that includes names, dates, and event specific details.
  • Important dates and deadlines. Throughout this entire process, your lawyer will need various documents and information from you in order to file the appropriate documents with the court or opposing counsel. Make sure that you and your lawyer communicate effectively about the information you need to provide, and be sure that you submit that information to your lawyer on time.
  • Set reasonable expectations. An important part of the legal process is working with your lawyer to determine what can and cannot be accomplished on your behalf. Your lawyer should be able to give you a range of possible outcomes for your problem, and then describe the factors that can influence each out the possible outcomes.

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