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Should you Hire an Attorney or go pro se?

Pro Se litigants hire an attorney when in Superior Court or Circuit Court

Before you hire an attorney, whether to represent you or to consult with as a pro se litigant, work Lawsuit Analyzer© so you understand what lies ahead and whether it makes sense to add another potentially expensive and complex element to your dispute — an attorney.

When Should You Hire an Attorney to Represent You?

Although this website focuses on handling your legal dispute pro se or with limited attorney involvement, the following situations may warrant representation by an attorney:

  • When your dispute will have to be tried in the Upper Civil Courts (civil cases above Small Claims limits)
  • When you do not feel sufficiently competent to represent yourself
  • When an attorney fee provision entitles you to reimbursement of your attorney fees if you prevail
  • When your case value warrants legal representation

The Upper Civil Courts (Superior Court or Circuit Court) is your Forum

Given the complexities of the Upper Civil Courts (as distinguished from Small Claims or Mediation and Arbitration), you will most likely choose to be represented by counsel – whether you are a Plaintiff or Defendant. On this website we use a metaphor of the House of Horrors for the Upper Civil Courts to emphasize this point.

We’ve prepared a 20-page coach called the Upper Civil Court Coach to help you detour your case out of the House of Horrors before you are prey for the wolves.
Upper Civil Court = House of Horrors

Whether you are the initiating or responding party, the Upper Civil Courts mandate legal rules and practices that are best tackled by an attorney. Both a Complaint and Answer to Complaint must conform to a full array of legal checklists.

Once you get past this Pleading stage (you plead your case), the Discovery stage which we refer to as the Litigation Frenzy gobbles you up. These requirements are so complex that even trained attorneys are challenged by them.

While the courts have begun to cater to pro se litigants, especially since the Coronavirus pandemic when court was out of session, the challenges of the House of Horrors are so intense that you should do everything you can to detour into Alternative Dispute Resolution or Small Claims Court.

🍪 Smart Cookie Tip: Review the Upper Civil Court Coach, Upper Civil Court Mechanics, and Legal Self-Help Coach if you are inclined to represent yourself.

If you Do Not Feel Comfortable Acting Pro Se

Always consider hiring an attorney to represent you when you don’t feel comfortable representing yourself.  Most people would never consider self-representation while others are able to step into this role with ease, after considerable research, of course.

Consider how much being represented by an attorney is going to cost and whether it is financially worth it if there is no Attorney Fee entitlement in your case. Don’t just sign an Engagement Agreement with an attorney without understanding how much this might cost you. See more about the different types of Attorney Retainer Agreements in the Hiring an Attorney Coach.

If You Have an Attorney Fee Provision

If you have a written agreement with your adversary stating the winning party in your dispute will receive an Attorney Fee Award, seriously consider hiring an attorney to handle your dispute. This assumes that you have performed a collectability assessment  and determined that your opponent is likely to be able to financially respond to any judgment you may obtain.

🍪 Smart Cookie Tip: Even if your attorney fee provision says that only one party is entitled to fees, in many states this one-sided provision is held to apply to all contracting parties. So don’t let a one-sided provision scare you off. If you signed the contract, the fee provision probably applies to you, too.

Warning: Attorney Fee Provisions Can Work Against You

Always keep in mind that these provisions can be a double-edged sword. It all depends on who wins. If you thought paying attorney fees is expensive, wait until you must pay your opponent’s fees as well.

If you have a High Value Case

If your case value is sufficiently high you should also seriously consider hiring an attorney. Although the expense of retaining counsel will cut into your recovery, the expense may be well worth it with a case of high or reasonably high value.

Interviewing Attorneys

If you determine that attorney representation is important, don’t just jump in and grab one. Have the Hiring an Attorney Coach Interview Checklist in hand. You are about to partner with someone who could make or break your case and your nest egg.

Person sitting with attorney Discussing a contingent fee arrangement with their attorney candidate. Compare hourly fee and contingent fee.

Attorney Retainer Agreements

When you find the right attorney, don’t just sign the Retainer Agreement they propose.  There are many different ways to hire an attorney and pay them ranging from Contingent Fee, Pay by the Hour, a hybrid, and many others.  Again, let the Hiring an Attorney Coach guide you to the best decision for you and your case.

When Should You Hire an Attorney to Assist You, not Represent You

One of the best uses of attorney services is to partner with them instead of having them represent you. Your attorney can guide you through the process with as much or as little participation as you need.

An attorney can:

  • Evaluate your case
  • Provide you with applicable law
  • Prepare a Small Claims Claim
  • Prepare Mediation or Arbitration Statements to summarize the facts and law
  • Identify exhibits that support each and much more

You do the leg work; they do the desk work. This approach can give you the confidence to present your case clearly and briefly and limit the funds you will pay for an attorney.

A productive way to begin this partnership would be to work your case through Lawsuit Analyzer© and review your results with your attorney choice. This will give the two of you a professional basis to perform the job delegation between the two of you.

Interviewing Attorneys for Long Haul Litigation

Be sure to work the Lawsuit Analyzer© to determine whether it makes financial sense to hire an attorney for your case.

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Hiring an Attorney Coach

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