Do you really need a lawyer?

The Madison County Record Jul. 18, 2010, 7:15am

Sometimes it's obvious. You've been accused of a crime or you are sued for damages in a civil suit, and you become very aware of the urgent need for professional legal help.

Other times, it's less clear. The fact is that legal assistance is often desirable, even essential, in situations which may have nothing to do with crime or a court action.

How do you determine if you need a lawyer? It depends on the issue. If you've received an ordinary parking ticket, you probably don't need legal help. But if you're facing a situation involving a significant amount of money or your personal rights are in jeopardy, it may be wise to seek out professional legal advice.

Common situations where you need a lawyer include the following:

When You Enter into a Contract: Any agreement, oral or written, which involves a consideration -- that is, the exchange of something of value in return for some goods or service rendered -- may be binding and enforceable. Generally, oral agreements should be avoided. Written agreements should be either prepared by or examined by a lawyer before you sign anything.

When Your Personal Status Changes: Marriage, the birth or adoption of children and moving to a different state may result in new or different legal and personal responsibilities. Your lawyer can help you plan for and meet new obligations, including the preparation of various legal documents which may be required.

When You Make Or Revise A Will or Estate Plan: The planning and drafting of your Will is an important legal matter. Your lawyer can plan your estate in a way that will be most beneficial to you and your heirs. In addition, your lawyer can suggest ways to organize your estate so that substantial savings in taxes and other estate costs are realized.

When You Buy Or Sell Real Estate: Buying and selling real estate is a huge financial transaction for most people. Your lawyer will review all legal documents necessary to the transaction and participate in the closing, in order to avoid legal pitfalls that could lead to losing your home.

When You Are Involved In An Accident: If you are involved in an accident of any kind resulting in personal injury or property damage you should immediately consult with a lawyer. Your lawyer may also be helpful if you believe that a doctor or other professional has committed malpractice.

Whenever Your Personal Rights Are Threatened: The law exists to protect your rights, but often you must take definite action to make those laws work for you. For example, you may need a lawyer if you've been fired from work or have faced discrimination or immigration problems.

When Financial Problems Arise: If you have tax problems or face personal or a business bankruptcy, your attorney can help you wade through the maze of legal issues towards a satisfactory solution.

When Organizing a Business: Your attorney can help with the formation of your business and assist in the ongoing concerns about employment law, workplace safety issues, immigration issues, intellectual property rights and other matters.

When You Are Arrested: If you are arrested for any reason or are accused of or questioned about your involvement in a crime, you should consult with an attorney immediately. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you free of charge.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association-member lawyer in your area or visit

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