Breakdown of Lawyers: • 65% Private practices (criminal, civil, family, environmental, etc.) • 15% Government lawyers who work for federal, state, or local agencies • 15% Corporations, unions, or trade associations • Smaller # Public interest or legal aid organizations • Even smaller # Law professors, judges, or elected officials
Lawyers • Most lawyers rarely go to court • Instead give advice, drafting legal opinions, negotiating settlements, or provide out-of-court legal advice. • Lawyers that do go to court are called litigators • In civil cases lawyers are advocates for their client • In criminal cases lawyer of the defendant does everything possible (without breaking the code of professional ethics) to secure the release and acquittal of his/her client.
When do you need a lawyer? • Majority opinion: When you get into trouble • Best option see one before the problem arises • You should see a lawyer if… • You are buying or selling a home or other real estate • Organizing a business • Changing your family status (divorce, separation, adoption, child custody, etc.) • Making a will or planning an estate • Signing a large or important contract • Handling accidents involving injury or property damage • Defending a criminal charge or bringing a law suit
How do you decide when you need a lawyer? • You need a lawyer… • If a question of law is involved • If a legal document needs to be drawn up or analyzed (ex. will) • If you are involved in a court case • When do you not need a lawyer? • Using someone in a small claims court • Minor marriage issues can be solved by seeing a a marriage counselor or mediator • A bar association (organization of license lawyers) and other groups have services to help you decide if you need a lawyer. • Majority of these are free or have a small fee
Decide whether you need an attorney or not • You hit another car in a parking lot. Your insurance agent indicates that the company will pay for bodily injury and property damage. • You borrow a friend’s car without his knowledge, and he reports it to the police as stolen. • You buy a new stereo for $300. One month later, the receiver and speakers blow out. You return to the store, and the salesperson tells you that they are sorry but their stereos have only a two-week guarantee. • You decide to trade in your old car and buy a new one.
Need an attorney? (cont.) 5. Two friends are caught robbing a local store, and they name you as one who helped plan the robbery. • You are turned down when you apply for a job. You think you were rejected because you are deaf. • You do not want your family to inherit the $10,000 you have saved. You are told that you are going to die within a year and you want the money to be used for cancer research. • You and your spouse find you can no longer get along. You want a divorce. • You earn $5,000 working in a restaurant during the year. You want to file your federal income tax return.
How do you find a lawyer? • Make sure you find a lawyer that is right for you and your situation. • Ask someone with a similar situation for their lawyers name if they were satisfied with the outcome • Ask your employer, members of the clergy, business-people, or other professionals for the name of a lawyer that they trust • Go to the bar association or a lawyer referral service
How do you find a lawyer (cont.) • Go to the yellow pages or Google and look for “lawyers” • Go to the public library and look in Martinade-Hubble Law Directory which lists most of the lawyers in the U.S. • Provided education, professional honors, and types of cases they handle • Look on t.v., listen to the radio, look in newspapers/magazines, or billboards for advertisements
Other Notes • If you are unable to afford a lawyer you can be eligible for free legal advice at a legal aid, legal service, or public defender’s office • You need to ask for an estimate of the total charge when you see a lawyer • Does your lawyer charge by the hour or is it a flat fee? • Find out if the lawyer had ever handled this type of case before and if so what were the results • Find out who else will be working on the case, what each person charges an hour, and how often you will be billed
Lawyer Fees • Most lawyers require a retainer down payment on the total fee • You might be charged for court costs, filing fees, or other expenses • Contingency fee this is the percentage of what the client wins in a case. Lawyers will charge this instead of an hourly fee or flat sum • Client pays nothing except expenses if the case is lost • Most common in personal injury cases in which money damages are being sought • A typical contingency fee is 1/3 of the amount awarded to the client • Can be as high as 40 % (and sometimes higher)
Working with your attorney • Attorney-client relationship is often based on oral agreements • Best to have things in writing!!! • See if your case is of interest to the following groups which will often represent you for free • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) • American Conservative Union (ACU)
Working with your attorney (cont.) • You need to be able to trust your lawyer because your lawyer needs to know everything about your problem • Attorney-client privilege whatever you say to your attorney is secret and confidential and the information can not be disclosed to anyone without your permission • If you are not satisfied you may discharge your lawyer. However, if you are in court you must have a good reason to give to the judge • Lawyers must follow the Code of Professional Responsibility which is enforced by the state bar association
Code of Professional Responsibility • Canon 1: A lawyer should assist in maintaining the integrity and competence of the legal profession • Canon 2: A lawyer should assist the legal profession in fulfilling its duty to make legal counsel available • Canon 3: A lawyer should assist in preventing the unauthorized practice of law • Canon 4: A lawyer should preserve the confidences and secrets of a client • Canon 5: A lawyer should exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client.
Code of Professional Responsibility • Canon 6: A lawyer should represent a client completely. • Canon 7: A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law • Canon 8: A lawyer should assist in improving the legal system • Canon 9: A lawyer should avoid the appearance of professional impropriety.
Other Notes: • A lawyer must pass an examination to become a member of a state bar • Lawyers can be disbarred (no longer has a license to practice law) who violate the standards of conduct • If you have issues with your lawyer, you can report the problem to your local or state bar association • You can sue your lawyer for legal malpractice for serious errors that result in injury or loss.