What If You Can’t Find a Lawyer?

Young businessman on sofa in powerful pose

(DGIwire)  Common knowledge informs everyone that lawyers are expensive. Sometimes lawyers will take cases on a contingency, which means they get compensated out of their client’s recovery. But hiring a lawyer “by the hour” is usually more expensive than people want to pay. This uncomfortable truth results in facing the possibility that a person will have to handle their own legal problem without the help of a licensed lawyer. In fact, experts are in accord that many people with legal issues are handling their matters without a lawyer’s assistance, even going to court alone. Sometimes paralegals or document preparers offer assistance at rates much lower than lawyers, but only licensed lawyers can give legal advice, and affordable legal help is often nowhere to be found that meets the client’s budgetary constraints.

The economic reality of a lawyer’s practice is that it has to provide a living. That’s why lawyers go through the long, often grueling, usually expensive, and inevitably difficult process of law school. Passing a state’s bar examination is no picnic. And running a law practice requires the expenditure of overhead, always at least minimal, sometimes hefty. What happens if there is no lawyer to be found for the “right” price, and what is the “right” price? In the book, Litigation – Insult to Injury: What Judges and Lawyers Know About the Legal System That You Don’t, its author, Janet Sobel, gives those considering handling their own legal matter, and those who have already hired a lawyer and need to keep tabs, a basic understanding of all aspects of the American legal system.

Sobel explains, “Finding the right lawyer for the case is fraught with difficulties. Trying to find the right lawyer for the right price is often like finding a needle in a haystack.” She continues: “There are many factors that come into play in finding a lawyer. The pricing of legal services is but one factor, albeit a large one.” In her book, Sobel gives the consumer with a legal problem the tools for intelligently evaluating whether to hire a lawyer or to go it alone. She covers the gamut of the litigation “game” and raises the level of understanding to enable smart choices. For example, there are many ways for the person with a problem to find smaller pieces of legal advice that can greatly enhance the self-representation that will have to suffice. Moreover, in addition to getting bite-sized pieces of legal advice that can increase the chances of victory for the person handling their own matter, there are many strategies known to lawyers that can just as easily be used by a self-represented litigant who does some homework.

Depending on the nature of the lawyer’s practice, legal fees can range from a low of about $200/hour (for the solo practitioner who has only one staff person on the payroll and modest office space) to more than $1,000/hour (for well known law firms who represent large business clients, have numerous personnel, and posh space). Presumably clients get what they pay for, and the best match is for the client to hire the right lawyer for the job (if the case demands it). The solo practitioner can likely handle the uncomplicated breach of contract or personal injury case, but specialized cases, like ones involving securities, banking, insurance, or government regulation, will oft-times require the large, well known law firms. Litigation – Insult to Injury offers guidance to the person seeking legal help, giving pointed advice on how to find that right lawyer for the right price. Maybe that lawyer cannot be found, but there’s no harm in trying – and important things can be learned along the way.”

For people who have no choice but to pursue legal rights, every attempt should be made to get legal help. If that legal help is affordable, all the better. If not, then the next best thing is to proceed intelligently, doing the best one can. The person who is confronting these challenges for the first time ought not proceed without some educated guidance so that good choices can be made. Sobel warns, “ignorance is not bliss when it comes to dealing with legal matters.” She adds, “there are many things to know. Although they are not secrets, they certainly can be hard to find.”