Its 3:30 in the afternoon, and I have just finished a consultation with You, potential client about a legal matter. After spending 45 minutes with you, the potential client, discussing the merits of your case, not yet down to the nuts and bolts, but definitely a very detailed discussion about the “ins and outs”, you lean back and cup your chin with your hand, although you have no inkling of a beard and not even a 5 o’clock shadow to rub, you gesture with your hand as if you do. You look toward the ceiling and then back at me, and with one short breath you ask…
“Do I really need a lawyer, is this something that I can do myself?”
When I hear that question, I often wonder to myself…does a dentist get this same question? I mean, after you sit down with the dentist and she explains that you need a root canal, do you turn to the dentist and ask…”Do I really need a dentist, can I do this root canal myself?” I am quite certain that the dentist does not get that question. I then remember the old saying…“A person who represents themselves, has a fool for a client!” Now, I don’t tell that to you, so I try to let you make your own decision.
Its really no wonder that people have devalued the services of lawyers. Watch an episode of CSI Miami and you realize that crimes are solved and prosecuted and won when the scene cuts to David Caruso putting on his dark (I just solved the crime all by myself) glasses and with a raspy whisper, he delivers his last stinging sarcasm to the bad guy, after a full confession in front of a lawyer, who seems powerless against Caruso in the beautiful Miami backdrop. Even Robert Shapiro and his Legal Zoom have helped people to develop this idea that they can be full time employed at anything else and then part time lawyer on their lunch hour. I wonder if he has a will done by Legal Zoom? Probably not! Just because someone holds their own against Judge Joe Brown or you want to give Judge Judy a piece of your mind…does not mean that when the rubber meets the road, you are prepared to handle this matter without that experienced lawyer.
I know that there may seem to be a sense of “lawyers are expensive and I know that this is just a simple speeding ticket and that lawyer is going to charge me $$$$ to do 10 minutes worth of work.” Think of it like this, you can buy the Crest Whitening Strips to bleach your teeth, but you know that it is not what the dentist has under his cabinet. So yes, the Prosecutor may say, “I am going to give you a break..” and you plead to 9 miles per hour over the speed limit as a reduction from 15 miles per hour over, maybe you don’t know that the lawyer could very well have either kept your record free from conviction or made that a non-moving violation. Don’t try the tactics you have seen on the “Peoples Court” or “Judge Mathis” or “Divorce Court“…that stuff is made for television.
I assure you that there is no tom-foolery involved, there is no pulling back the curtain with lawyers. I do know that people are skeptical of lawyers, even my own grandmother thinks ALL LAWYERS lie for their clients…Grandma?!
So my answer is this, you have the right to be represented by any lawyer of your choosing, or represent yourself and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you (only in criminal matters where jail time is possible), but do you really want to handle this matter on your own? Maybe it is something you can do on your own,but it may be an expensive lesson if you cannot?