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  Frequently Asked Questions  

When do you need a lawyer's help?
Sometimes it's a no-brainer, like when you get sued or when you're arrested and charged with a crime. But keep in mind that people hire lawyers for advice and expertise all the time, in all kinds of situations, not just to deal with problems but to prevent them as well. And while you may be able to get through a legal problem without hiring a lawyer, you should remember that when you represent yourself, you might have a "fool for a client," as the saying goes.

One of the first things to ask yourself in deciding if you should consult an attorney is: "What's at stake?" When your finances or liberties are in serious jeopardy, the obvious answer is to get legal help as soon as possible. But what is serious? An ordinary parking summons is a brush with the law, but you need not consult with an attorney to pay the fine or even to fight it. However, if you've accumulated a number of unpaid parking tickets and a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you would probably want to hire a lawyer to help you best resolve the situation, and perhaps save you money or even keep you out of jail.

In good times as well as bad, individuals and businesses rely on their lawyers' advice to understand and secure their legal rights and financial interests. Lawyers help clients with estate planning and business negotiations, strategies and transactions. With good legal advice, clients are better prepared to comply with, and navigate through, the complex mazes of governmental rules and regulations.

It is also a lot easier to rest easily after consulting with experienced lawyers for important undertakings such as tax and estate planning, drafting wills and trusts, negotiating business deals and even pursuing personal family matters, such as adopting children or getting divorced...

What should you consider before you hire a lawyer?
It never hurts to talk to a lawyer, and it may be the best thing you can do if you think you have a legal problem that you can't resolve yourself. At Bodwin & Associates, P.C. we offer a free 30 minute consultation on any legal matter in our wide range of practice areas.

Short of hiring a lawyer, you may want to look at alternative sources to resolve your legal issues. For example:

Many companies and public utilities offer customer service departments that effectively address consumer problems and complaints.
Many state attorney general offices and other agencies provide consumer protection departments. (But it's not usually a good idea to try to gain an advantage in a legal dispute over adversarial parties by threatening to contact a government agency if they don't comply with your demands. It is possible that such action could be characterized as attempted extortion on your part - a serious crime.)
If you have a problem with a regulated industry such as banking or insurance, contact the agency in your state responsible for overseeing that industry.
Many community groups such as elder associations, civil rights groups and other organizations offer free legal help and information.
Some disputes may be resolved by using increasingly popular litigation alternatives such as mediation or arbitration. Businesses and individuals might agree to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) rather than court action to resolve legal conflicts.

How quickly should you consult a lawyer?
In many situations it's obvious that you need to act fast. But even if you think you have lots of time to consider your alternatives, deadlines sneak up on you, and lawyers need time to prepare. Moreover, rush jobs cost more because the attorney has to drop everything else to address your issue. Therefore, it's always better to start looking for a lawyer sooner than later.

If you've been injured in an accident, keep in mind that there are time limits on your right to file a lawsuit. These "statutes of limitation" depend upon the facts and type of claim in each case. In some instances, the law requires a claimant to notify potential defendants about any injury within an extremely short period of time - as little as a few months. For example, a violation of the Whistle Blower's Statute must be brought within 90 days. If you sit on your rights, you could lose them. Another example is, you might have been angry for years over your neighbor's fence encroaching on part of your property, but if you wait too long without objecting or taking some legal action, the law might consider the fence as the property line, by acquiescence.

What are you trying to achieve?
This is an easy question to answer if you find yourself a defendant in a civil suit or charged with a crime. In these cases, your goal is to keep your money out of your adversary's pocket, or avoid criminal sanctions.

In other situations, your objective may be less clear. If you feel your employer unlawfully fired you, you might want to get your job back, or you might just want money damages. Perhaps you are faced with a situation where you want to stop someone from doing something or force someone to do something. In that case you will need to seek an injunction. Think about these things before you hire a lawyer.

If you aren't sure what your legal rights are, it might be worth your time and expense to retain a lawyer to evaluate your situation and advise you on alternative courses of action. Even if you end up having to pay a few hundred dollars to consult with an attorney, it could be a very wise investment that ultimately saves you time and money.

From agricultural law to zoning and land use - from family law to taxation and more, lawyers can provide incredibly useful information that can empower you to make better decisions with respect to your legal concerns.

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