Why do you need a lawyer? On some level this is a basic and obvious question, but there is a lot more to the answer than first meets the eye. Although it seems like a pretty obvious question, there are in fact a number of advantages of having a lawyer.
1. Lawyers have knowledge and experience
A lawyer usually has special knowledge and experience acquired from their qualifications and their years of legal practice. A lawyer knows the law, should know the procedures, and will be able to prepare documents and handle your case in the most effective way. By engaging a lawyer, you are taking advantage of the knowledge and skills that he or she possesses, which should benefit your case enormously.
Lawyers know what points and arguments are most relevant and effective, and which ones are less so. Experienced lawyers know of the temperament and expectations of particular judges, and are able to tailor their approach accordingly. Lawyers can effectively advise you of the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed course of action.
In contrast, relying on the advices of people who are not legally qualified is a very dangerous thing to do, even if such people mean well. There are a lot of myths in the community about the legal system and how it works. By speaking with a lawyer, you can find out whether what you have heard is in fact true, and if not your understanding of your matter will become more accurate and realistic.
2. Lawyers can help prevent disputes
One of the popular and enduring myths about lawyers is that they create and promote conflict. In reality, lawyers issue try to prevent conflict and attempt to resolve conflict without the need for final judicial determination. Disputes can and often are resolved through the sending of constructive correspondence, negotiation and participation in alternative dispute resolution.
By protecting your rights and interests, getting the agreement into writing and ensuring that everything is legally sound, a lawyer can significantly reduce the likelihood of having a costly dispute arise in the first place. And even if a dispute does eventuate, the number of uncertainties and the risks of a seriously bad outcome are substantially less the earlier a lawyer is retained.
3. The other party will take you more seriously
Because lay people representing themselves are at such a disadvantage, the lawyers for the other party(ies) might be less likely to put forward decent offers to settle the case, which can result in you settling for less than you otherwise would. Without the benefit of legal advice, you are unlikely to know whether an offer you receive is reasonable, or whether you are likely to get a better outcome by rejecting it.
Even if you know the offers the other side have been prepared to put forward are inadequate, you may be less likely to settle your case because the other side know that you will struggle to prove your case as a self-represented litigant, which means more time, stress and risk.
4. Lawyers take the stress out the situation
Having someone on your side who is handling the situation for you can be rather reassuring, and reduces the stress you are feeling about your case. It saves you from having to read every piece of correspondence that comes in about your matter, feeling like you are in it alone or having to think about it constantly.
5. Lawyers save you time
For most people, time is valuable. By doing most of the work for you, the lawyer allows you to have the time to live your life. As a result, that you can spend time with your family and friends, and not have to take substantial time off work.
6. Lawyers are not emotionally involved
Because your lawyers are not you, there is a benefit of detachment that exists that allows your lawyer to view your case objectively and provide you with sound advice and recommendations. There’s an old legal truism that “he who acts for himself has a fool for a client”. This applies even to lawyers who represent themselves, because a self-represented litigant is usually too emotionally involved to see things objectively and make rational judgments. This is particularly the case in family law, where emotions are heightened.
7. If you win, you can get your costs
In civil litigation, the general rule is that the loser usually pays the winner’s costs. So if you win, you get (partly) compensated for the legal bills you have paid with a costs order in your favour. In contrast, if you are self-represented you are only entitled to claim for disbursements such as filing fees, and therefore cannot be compensated for your time and effort.
8. Lawyers have insurance
In Australia, all lawyers are required to have professional indemnity insurance. If your lawyer makes a critical error which costs you a lot of money, you can sue your lawyer for this. In contrast, if you mess up your own case you only have yourself to blame and therefore are not entitled to any compensation.
Of course, all this is not to say that you need a lawyer in every legal dispute you ever have. If for instance you have a dispute over a small sum in a tribunal where costs cannot be awarded, you would probably best be served by representing yourself. But in most other cases, the benefits of having a lawyer in a legal dispute far outweigh the costs.