How to decide if you need a lawyer on your side

Not every legal matter calls for the use of a lawyer. If you’re fighting a parking offence, for example, a lawyer could cost more than the fine so you might be better off representing yourself.

However there are many other times when having an experienced lawyer on your side can help you get out of a sticky situation with as little emotional and financial stress as possible – a difficult family law property settlement, a dispute over child custody, contesting a will or a DUI charge are just a few examples. In cases like these, the risks of not using a lawyer can be high including broken agreements, lost claims or even gaol time.

If you’re thinking about using a lawyer or going it alone, here are seven considerations to bear in mind:

  1. The law is complicated. A strong case can quickly unravel without the help of an experienced and emotionally detached lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the law and how to navigate the court system .
  2. Not having a lawyer could actually cost you more. What’s at stake? Is there a chance that you’ll go to gaol, miss out on an inheritance, or lose out in a family law settlement? When the stakes are high, having a good lawyer on your side can improve your outcome as well as reduce the stress of the process.
  3. Lawyers know how to challenge evidence. You may not even know that a key piece of evidence against you was improperly obtained or that the testimony of a witness contradicts an earlier statement. Your lawyer will find out.
  4. Lawyers understand how to properly file court documents and handle other legal procedures. If you’re not a lawyer, you may struggle with the deadlines and protocol for properly filling out and filing certain legal documents. One late or incorrect filing could derail your case.
  5. You’re not sure how to plead – or what ‘pleading’ is? You might be better off pleading guilty and arguing extenuating circumstances, or not guilty and putting the prosecution to proof. Which one is right for you? An experienced lawyer who understands the law will be able to explain your options and help you avoid potentially severe penalties.
  6. A good lawyer can strike up a good settlement offer, if necessary. Frequently, settlement is the best choice, while at other times it makes more sense to see your case through to trial. A lawyer can help you negotiate a fair settlement with the opposing party.
  7. The other party has legal representation. If your opposition has a lawyer, say in a family law dispute or contesting a will, you could well be at a disadvantage if you represent yourself.

If you’re trying to decide whether you need a lawyer, often the best step is to just pick up the phone and talk to one about your situation.

It costs you nothing and it might just save you time, money and unnecessary stress.