Why Do You NEED an Attorney?

Every day we receive telephone calls from people who tell us that they “got a bad deal” in court or that the judge wouldn’t listen to them. They want to know if we can fix it. Unfortunately, this is usually impossible. You have one shot at a trial or hearing. There are no second chances or “do overs”. If you want to try to represent yourself because you’ve watched every episode of “People’s Court” and believe you know the law or because your “friend” told you what to do, you are making a mistake. Legal matters involve the freedom, money, reputation  or even the life of a client. Therefore, it is important for people to use the services of a lawyer. Lawyers receive years of legal training, know the local rules and procedures of the court, and have the experience to know how best to present your case. Lawyers are trained to safeguard the rights of the general public and are bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. They are subject to the rules of the legal profession, the discipline system of the Supreme Court and continuing legal education requirements. While you can get some useful information regarding your legal matter on the internet, the information cannot be substitute for the careful review of an experienced attorney. You cannot just look up a law in a book and know how to handle your case. Law books are not do-it-yourself books. Your case will involve substantive law, procedural rules, case law or precedent, constitutional law, local rules, and rules established by the judge assigned to your case. In addition, these laws, rules and procedures are constantly changing. Many people think that if they represent themselves that the judge or court personelle will help them. This is simply not true and, in fact, court personelle are strictly prohibited from giving legal advice. The only person in the courtroom that you can count on to be on your side is your lawyer. The only person that you can count on to stand up for your rights in a courtroom is your lawyer. What mistakes might you make when representing yourself? The fact is, you may never know.  

How Can You Work Best With Your Lawyer?

All lawyers take an oath upon admission to practice in this state to uphold the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions and the law and to be faithful to their clients. Just as your communications with your clergyman or doctor are confidential, so are your private communications with your lawyer. Ethics rules prohibit your lawyer from disclosing any information about your matter without permission from you. Your lawyer’s principal duty is to see that you receive the benefit of all your legal rights. In working with your lawyer:

  1.  Take all papers relating to the matter to the first meeting with your lawyer.
  2. Be honest and tell your lawyer all of the facts –good and bad. Your lawyer must keep them in the strictest of confidences and must know everything about your matter in order to represent you to the best of his/her ability.
  3. Also, discuss your expectations for the matter with your lawyer.
  4. Have your lawyer analyze your matter and give you the pluses and minuses.
  5. Do not expect simple solutions to complex problems.
  6. Ask your lawyer to explain the various steps involved in handling your matter and ask for an estimate of how long it will take.
  7. Be sure to ask your lawyer to keep you informed about the progress of your matter.
  8. Contact your lawyer when any new developments arise that might affect your matter.
  9. Discuss billing arrangements with your lawyer at the first meeting. The Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to generate a fee arrangement when a client agrees to retain counsel.
  10. See a lawyer before signing documents or taking legal action. Be sure you understand all of the ramifications of what you are signing or doing, and then follow the advice of your lawyer.