Going to Court

Understanding when it's important to hire a lawyer

It's always useful to have a lawyer—and sometimes you really need one. But if your budget is tight, you might be able to get through some issues without one.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

In some cases, you need a lawyer—like if you are being charged with a crime. In criminal cases, you can ask to be provided a public defender or court appointed counsel If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer.  

But what about civil disputes? A civil dispute is a legal disagreement between you and another person, like a landlord or spouse. Do you need a lawyer then?

That depends on your situation. 

Signs that it's particularly important to have a lawyer

You should do what you can to try to get a lawyer if you’re dealing with one of these situations: 

  • The case is complicated. Some legal issues, like child custody cases, can be very difficult to handle on your own. 
  • You have a huge amount to win or lose.  For instance, you could lose your house, lose a lot of money or get back a lot of money. 
  • You are unlikely to be able to agree with the other side.  If you can find middle ground by negotiating with the other side, that can be a good solution without a lawyer. On the other hand, if the other side already has a lawyer, that could mean that you should get one too.

How can you know if you can afford a lawyer?  Get more information on different types of lawyers, including free ones, and how much you can expect to pay.

Use this site to find more detailed information

A good way to judge whether or not you will need a lawyer is to find out more about the specific legal issue that you're facing. Answer some questions about yourself and your situation, and this site will provide you with information about what to expect and what legal resources—including free ones—may be available.

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