Do I Need an Attorney to Bring a Lawsuit?

Do I Need an Attorney to Bring a Lawsuit?

When You Should Use an Attorney

In most circumstances, it is not a requirement to have an attorney in order to bring a lawsuit but depending on the specifics of your particular situation, it might be recommended that you use one.

There are many different factors that go into determining whether or not you should use an attorney to file a lawsuit. A private citizen or organization that wants to sue another private person or organization can usually do this in a civil court. Only the government or someone acting on behalf of a government agency that is authorized to do so may arrest and charge someone with a crime.

The following information is not legal advice nor is it intended to be construed as such. It is general information about some common things it may be important to consider when trying to decide whether or not your particular legal situation warrants the need for an attorney.

Small Claims Court

Individuals and sole proprietors are allowed to sue a person, organization, business, or entity, etc. in small claims court for up to $10,000. Corporations and other entities are limited to $5,000. There are more rules and regulations for what you can and can’t do in small claims court, including limits of how much one person is allowed to make claims for in small claims court, per year.

Each state has different laws that govern small claims courts. In a few states, such as California, Michigan and Nebraska, you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you in court. In other states you are allowed to be represented by a lawyer in small claims courts but the limits on the amounts that can be disputed do not usually make hiring a lawyer cost efficient for a small claims lawsuit.  

Filing a Lawsuit Without an Attorney

One thing that can be difficult for many novices when it comes to trying to file (or bring) a lawsuit without an attorney is figuring out what the legal wrong is that forms the basis for a solid lawsuit. 

The rules and procedures for filing a civil lawsuit claim are very specific, and this is one of the many reasons that people recommend getting an attorney’s help. Failing to comply with all of the necessary paperwork requirements and other deadlines may jeopardize the possibility of you being able to successfully file your claim. Depending on the scope and nature of your legal problem, even though you may have to pay attorney fees, or you may have to agree to give an attorney a percentage of your award or settlement in the event you get one, hiring an attorney may wind up being more cost efficient than trying to file a lawsuit on your own. Especially because an attorney can help you to make sure that this gets done the correct way, as opposed to you trying to do it yourself and potentially doing it wrong. 

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4 Reasons to Reconsider Representing Yourself in Court

It is within your legal, constitutional rights to file a lawsuit without an attorney. But with a few notable exceptions (mostly involving small claims court), it’s almost always a bad idea. It can be a tempting cost-saving measure, but not having legal representation in your corner may very well cost you a great deal more in the long run, and will consume an exhausting amount of your time. Here are some key reasons that having an attorney bring a lawsuit on your behalf is a smart move.

1. Lawyers understand the appropriate documentation and procedures

You certainly can go to your local library and read through legal textbooks to try to learn the process of filing your lawsuit. Afterwards, you can go to your county courthouse and request the appropriate forms, fill them out, and submit them. But wouldn’t you rather have this done for you by someone who does it every day? The reality is this: even with the best intentions, you are very likely to miss some details, or make more work for you then you need to. Filing incorrectly can lead to major delays or worse. It just makes sense to fire a professional.

2. Lawyers understand when and how to challenge evidence

Chances are, your opponent in the courtroom will have legal representation. What would you do if you’ve presented your evidence, just to have the opposing counsel object and the judge sustain the objection? Likewise, would you be able to recognize an opportunity to challenge your opponent’s evidence? This is where an attorney’s years of training and skill come into play. Simply put, they will pick up on things that you almost certainly won’t.

3. Lawyers will negotiate on your behalf

Oftentimes, the best legal strategy is to avoid the courtroom. But if you could do this with your opponent one on one, you wouldn’t have needed a lawsuit. This means that if their counsel wants to negotiate a settlement or counter-offer, it’s you versus a lawyer. You may pride yourself on your haggling skills, but going up against a legal expert is simply a bad idea.

4. The law is a complicated, intricate thing!

Depending on the details of your case there may be many more areas where a non-lawyer is likely to be out of their depth in the courtroom. The bottom line is this: You are entitled to bring a lawsuit on your own, but your chances for a successful outcome increase dramatically if you rely on the expertise of someone who has graduated from law school and spent years practicing law.