by JONATHAN L. FELT
Felt Family Law & Mediation
I hear the question all the time. “Do I really need an attorney?” Like all good legal questions, the answer is, “It depends.”
There are many great reasons to get an attorney: professional advice, professional results, and letting someone else lift that burden, to name a few. There are also good reasons to not hire an attorney: attorneys can make simple issues complicated and often cost a lot!
The question is not much different than, “Do I really need to hire a plumber?” or “Do I really need to see the doctor?” Deciding when you do or do not need an attorney is a personal choice that depends on multiple factors.
There are situation you might want to save your money and not hire an attorney. Although attorneys like to think they are always needed, there are many legal situations that don’t really need an attorney’s help. Here are some indicator that an attorney might not be needed:
- Someone else already has expertise or experience in that area
- Everybody already agrees what should happen
- The case is not complicated
- The evidence is clear as to what happened
- The statute (or rule) is clear what should happen
- Not a lot is at stake
- Nothing was damaged
Still, even when an attorney may not be needed, getting a quick consultation from an attorney is a good idea if there is any doubt.
For those who prefer to DIY, there are great resources to help. My specialty happens to be in Family Law, so many of the resources listed below focus on divorce, custody and other family issues:
- Court self-help websites – in Utah, try utcourts.gov/selfhelp/ for help in various areas
- Court assistance programs – for Utah, try utcourts.gov/ocap/ for help with divorce, custody, and protective orders
- Mediators – in Utah, find one on the Court Roster of Mediators
- Local “Bar Nights” (where attorneys answer questions – not the beverage type)
- Veterans assistance programs – do a search in your area
In the end, I generally answer: It’s like doing your taxes. If it’s simple and you don’t mind the work, go for it. If you have questions or don’t like paperwork, hire a professional. Odds are, with an attorney you will save yourself much headache and get better results.
That said, there are some instances I never recommend going it alone, without consulting an attorney:
- Any time domestic violence or child abuse/neglect/endangerment is involved
- Any felony
- Any case or estate worth over $250,000
In each of these, a lot of money or a lifetime of consequences is at stake, and not having an attorney can cost big.
If you need an attorney or just want a consultation, for Utah Family Law I’m your guy. For other cases, I am always happy to refer great people to great attorneys I know.