Lawyer Up! Why Representing Yourself is a Foolish Idea

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More and more people are getting worried about their finances. They’re counting all their pennies. They’re looking for every way possible to save all the money they possibly can. This is a good thing, in my opinion. If you’re not smart about your finances, you’re going to feel the burn eventually. But sometimes, people choose some really unfortunate ways to save money.

This can be very damaging when it comes to the world of business and finance. Saving money often means that people decide to skip out on quality in favor of saving a bit of money. But a lot of the time that sacrifice really isn’t worth it. Quality is so important in these areas. Sure, it’s definitely possible to spend too much. But sometimes spending a bit more for good quality means that the money you spend goes much further. Especially when compared to the lesser amount you would have spent for a lower-quality option.

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But there are some cases where sacrificing quality in order to save money can get you in big trouble. I’m not talking about a tangible business asset or even a personal asset here. I’m talking about lawyers. In recent years, more and more people have taken to representing themselves in court.

Now, it’s important to contextualize my claim that representing yourself is “foolish”. There are going to be people out there who simply do not have the money to get a decent lawyer. The fear that a pro bono lawyer would mess up the case results in people being convinced that they should do it themselves. Sometimes, the decision is forced and unfortunate more than it is “foolish”.

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But there’s no denying that a lot of people out there simply get a bit cocky. They don’t want to spend the admittedly-large amounts of money a lawyer can cost. They have money, but are afraid of blowing such an amount to get legal help. After all, isn’t defending yourself fairly simple? If you know you didn’t do it, or if you have sufficient evidence for a strong defence, isn’t it fairly straightforward?

In this article we’re going to be having a look at that line of thinking.

Okay, yes: sometimes lawyers cost too much

You’ve probably heard someone, at some point in your life, complain that they wasted money on lawyers. Now, this isn’t necessarily them saying that they shouldn’t have had lawyers. Rather, it’s more likely that they were lamenting the fact they didn’t get a particularly good lawyer. It’s difficult to say that a good and ethical lawyer can ever cost too much.

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Of course, we should probably define “too much”. When do lawyers cross the line between “a wise financial choice” and “too high a cost”? Generally, it’s when law firms start to do needless things that cost their client a lot of money.

The most common means by which this is accomplished is by filing unnecessary motions. Motions are the tool we use to bring specific issues to the attention of the court. There are a lot of types of motions that can take place in both civil and criminal cases. Much of the time, these “motions” don’t serve the tactical purpose they’re made out to serve. And many firms may charge you per motion.

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In fact, a for-profit law firm could charge you for pretty much everything. And I mean everything. Of course, in many instances, lawyers are right to charge so incrementally. The law is a complex thing, and what seems like a small task to us is actually a big undertaking for a lawyer. Most lawyers are required to keep timesheets of six minute increments – or tenths of an hour. But some lawyers who lean towards “unethical” will bill you for the time they spend thinking about cases. And many will engage in “minimum billing” for everything. This means that if they spend a tenth of an hour on a task, they might have to bill you the minimum of three-tenths of an hour.

Law firms might also start involving more than one lawyer in your case. This might work to your benefit in a tremendous way. But it can also work as an effective money-wasting technique. For example, they might have a younger, less experienced lawyer draft something. You’ll be billed for the younger lawyer’s time. But then they’ll have a senior lawyer review it and redraft it. You’ll then be billed for that lawyer’s time, too!

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Finally, there’s the widespread problem of rejecting resolution opportunities. A lot of lawyers don’t like to “fold” too quickly. If there’s a settlement on the table at an early stage in the case, then that could be the end of it. But a lawyer may want to reject that settlement and drag out the process with more motions, more investigations, more arguing. It makes them look tougher and smarter. It also keeps you paying their salary. Unless the settlement is offensive to you in some way, smart lawyers will want to resolve the case quickly and prevent overspending.

Understanding what a good lawyer does

Don’t let this article convince you that all lawyers are money-grabbing, unethical, heartless businessmen. That would absolutely not be the aim of the article. The fact is that you need to understand the ways in which wastes of money can occur. There are some bad apples among the law professions that’s for sure. (What professional doesn’t have bad apples?) But there are plenty of great lawyers out there who will genuinely look out for your interests. They will be costly, yes. But as I said earlier, a good lawyer is worth the cost.

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Television and film tends to skew the public perception of what the work of a lawyer is actually like. It’s sensationalized, dramatized, almost beyond the realms of the reality of law. (Example: Ever see a court case in a drama in which witnesses or evidence is presented that shocks even the opposing lawyer? Yeah, that doesn’t happen in real life. Courts preclude this with disclosure laws.)

Trials are rarely exciting. They’re also rarely as easy to grasp as dramas make them out to be. In general, the life of a lawyer just isn’t as sexy, dramatic, or easy as it’s often made to look. Trials go on for hours, days, weeks, months, and they’re almost invariably boring and complex. Outside of the trial, the whole pursuit is mostly paperwork. It’s about constructing arguments.  Turning over every stone possible in order to find supporting evidence. It’s about applying everything that lawyer has learned in the past decade or more. They also have to figure out the safest and most financially sensible way to resolve a case.

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What you need to do

The first thing you need to do is not represent yourself. A lot of people who choose to go down this path have severely underestimated the workload. The way the law works is intricate. The manner in which you have to argue a particular case or argument is a sensitive and complex matter. It’s not something you’ve been trained to do. It’s also rarely going to be something you have time to do. This is a full-time job. And by “full-time”, I’m not talking 9-5. I’m talking abode and beyond the average eight-hour day. If you need to work for a living, then I doubt you’ll have time to get any of this done properly!

If you’re really eager to save money, then your best bet is going to be finding a good lawyer. One of the best ways of doing this is by making sure you work with a lawyer with expertise in your problem. Let’s say you’ve been involved in a car accident and that you were injured as a result. You should be going to a lawyers that have a lot of experience in that field, such as Nationwide Injury Lawyers. This is often the first step you should take: make sure the firm know the area of your claim!

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In order to avoid the money-wasting we went into earlier, you should find out as much as possible during the consultation. And if the firm don’t offer some form of free consultation or advice? Then you’re probably best not working with them.

When you’re talking about your case, make sure you know who you’re going to be working with. How experienced will your given lawyer be? Will more lawyers become involved in the process? And if so, how much is that going to cost you? Ascertaining cost and getting a rough figure on paper is the ideal first step. You’ll also want to check the feedback of any previous clients. Testimonials are often available on the website of the law firm.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is become more knowledgeable about your case. You shouldn’t just leave everything to the lawyer and let the whole thing be a mystery to you! Get to know more about the legal intricacies of your particular case. It will help you appreciate just how complex this business is. It will also help you understand just how worthy an investment your lawyer has been.

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