If you’re considering hiring a lawyer, it means that you’re facing a legal problem you don’t think you can handle yourself. While plenty of issues don’t require hiring a lawyer, going into a complex, high-stakes dispute without competent counsel can be a huge mistake. Hiring the wrong lawyer can be just as disastrous as not hiring one at all, but not all lawyers and law firms are the same.
Two-Thirds of Americans Experienced Legal Issue In Last 2 Years
According to a recent study by the World Justice Project, 66% of Americans experienced a legal problem in the past two years. Nearly half of these people said the problem was so bad that they experienced a hardship such as health problems, damage to their personal relationships, substance abuse, and losing their job or home. Yet only 38% reported hired a lawyer.
Many people choose to forego legal representation and represent themselves to avoid attorney fees. While the so-called “justice gap” is real (around 50% of middle class Americans and 80% of low-income individuals say they can’t afford a lawyer), Graham & Graham handles most cases—including all personal injury, social security, and workers’ compensation cases—on a contingency fee basis.
But there are also costs to not hiring a lawyer. No matter how many online legal resources a person reads, it won’t prepare them to do the roughly 200 tasks—like filing motions, compiling evidence, and interpreting the law—that self-representation requires. Not surprisingly, most ‘do-it-yourself’ litigants are not successful. So you have to ask yourself: can I really afford not to hire a lawyer?
When Lawyering Goes Bad
Trying to navigate the legal system on your own is a mistake. But unfortunately, lawyering up is no guarantee of success. Whether it’s a civil case or a criminal case, not having the right legal counsel can cause you major setbacks.
A prominent case in point is the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp defamation trial. Heard’s lawyers were criticized for a series of missteps that included the comically-bad move of one attorney objecting to his own question—thereby highlighting his own mistake. Another of her lawyers was criticized for being “too confident” and overly reliant on a single piece of evidence they were sure would sink Depp. The jury ordered Heard to pay $15 million.
Hiring a lawyer has costs, but not not hiring a lawyer—or hiring the wrong lawyer—has costs, too. If a criminal defense lawyer doesn’t do their job, for example, it could cost you your freedom.
But there are many examples of bad lawyers that never receive Heard-Depp levels of publicity. In criminal cases, the rate of wrongful convictions is estimated to be between 2 and 10 percent. That works out to around 50,000 – 250,000 innocent people locked up. Some of these wrongful convictions are attributable to lawyers not doing their job. A woman convicted of theft-related crimes says that her counsel did not conduct an investigation, call witnesses, or attempt to introduce reasonable doubt.
There is no right to a lawyer if you are involved in a civil lawsuit. But in criminal cases, defendants have the right to counsel. Often, this means a court-appointed lawyer. Public defenders typically have huge caseloads—sometimes hundreds of new cases a year—that prevent them from giving every case their full attention. This is one reason why around 95% of felony convictions are the result of plea bargains (i.e., the defendant admits guilt and waives their right to a trial).
How to Choose the Right Attorney
The Internet is now the most common way that people find a lawyer. But a single search can return dozens of results. How are you supposed to choose the right one?
Online reviews and rankings can be a useful starting point, but they don’t tell the whole story. A local family law firm may have many 5-star reviews, but if you’ve been in a motor vehicle crash, you need a firm with a proven track record in car accidents. Likewise, a car accident lawyer with a sterling record may not be a good fit for a truck accident case.
In short, there is no substitute for experience, but not all experience is equal. Specifically, you should seek a law firm with years of successful experience in the area where you need help, whether that’s personal injury, criminal defense, business law, Social Security, or workers’ compensation.
Graham & Graham has been serving Southeastern Ohio for nearly 100 years. Over four generations, we’ve earned the trust of our community by not only winning cases, but giving people the respect and attention they deserve.