ON HIRING A LAWYER
One of the most frequent questions I get is whether hiring a lawyer is necessary. “Do I need a lawyer?” My answer: I don’t know; it depends; do you?
Not very helpful, I know. But it’s the best (short) answer I have. In certain situations, the answer is obvious. Complex litigation requires a lawyer. Drafting a specialized document (usually) requires a lawyer. Very specific regulations require a lawyer. Something you know nothing about (may) require a lawyer. Or an accountant. Etc. For some situations, though, you probably know more than you think you do, and you may not need a lawyer.
To answer that question, let’s talk about what a lawyer does and what law is. A lawyer navigates the law, right? So, the most helpful analysis may begin with what is law. A mysterious secret language with unknowable rituals, right? Nah. Law is a system for guiding how we do things, and in most instances what guides us is very much a reflection of exactly what you think should guide us. What is fair. What is logical. It really can be that simple. Lawyers are often accused of obscuring this with fancy language and tricky arguments, but I think that’s overblown. Our training and our skill lie in making sure that the round peg goes in the round hole and the square in the square. Easy, right?
Well, maybe. Part of this is recognizing in the first instance what’s round and what’s square. Most things in life are more oval, as I’m sure you know, but our training shows us what to look for – what is one more than the other, as well as what can, with some nip and tuck, be made more square. Less. Or when it is risky (futile?) to try.
How does this relate to your situation? If you decide to hire a lawyer, recognize that no lawyer immediately understands your situation better than you do. Don’t become frustrated (as I have had happen) when the lawyer starts not by telling you what it is that you need. It’s your job to impart your understanding and objectives to the lawyer. Your situation is your situation, and even if it is something like other situations the lawyer has faced, no situations are identical. The lawyer will be listening for those aspects that make your situation unique. Perhaps when something round looks like something square. Etc., etc. Help him.
And listen to the lawyer. You’re paying him. Not to say you shouldn’t evaluate critically what he says or speak up when you don’t like what you are hearing, but do listen. Once the lawyer gets your situation, he will do his best to tell you whether that peg can fit into that hole. He may never understand your situation better than you do, but he will do his best to understand how to make your situation work for you within the law.