Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"I have a legal problem: At what point do I talk to a lawyer?"

Most of my blog posts are more or less specific to one area of law.  This post is intended to be broad.  For additional information, you are welcome to contact my office or another attorney.

Regardless of what it is, you may find yourself in the position that you suddenly realize you have a legal problem.  That problem could be that you were speeding and got a ticket, you've decided you might be interested in divorce, you suddenly realized you don't have a will, etc.  Typically the next thought is, what do I do about my legal problem?

While it may be tempting to say "I'll try to handle it myself, first", you should seriously consider saying to yourself "I need to talk with an attorney as soon as possible."  This does not mean, I need to retain an attorney as soon as possible; it simply means, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Yes, you may be charged for a consultation (or you may be offered a free consultation), but it will almost always save you money down the road.  The reason for this is that as soon as you realize there is a legal problem, you could be doing or saying things that harm yourself or your case without even realizing it.

For example, you've decided you want a divorce and before speaking with an attorney, you leave your spouse and move out of the marital home.  You could possibly be subjecting yourself to liability and a fault-based divorce.  By speaking with a lawyer, they can listen to all of the facts and tell you the best way to remove yourself from the marriage while minimizing the likelihood that you would be liable for a fault based divorce.

Another example, you've been arrested (maybe a felony, maybe just a misdemeanor) and the police officer says: "Just tell us what happened and we'll let you off easy."  You may be admitting to crimes you did not commit and you may not be fully aware of your right to remain silent.  By speaking with an attorney, that attorney can analyze your situation to determine if it is best for you to speak with the police officer or if it is best for you to remain silent.

At the beginning of a legal problem, it may seem manageable and not very complicated.  However, as you proceed through that legal problem, it will inevitably get more complex and difficult.  You would (I think) rather be in a position where you have representation at the beginning, guiding you through the whole problem, that have representation half-way through that results in a lawyer having to fix things that may have already gone wrong but could have been prevented.

Many attorneys will offer free consultations, or consultations at a reduced rate.  Even if you do not retain an attorney in the beginning, you should certainly consider speaking with one as soon as possible so that you are aware of your rights and responsibilitiess as you move forward.