How do I decide when I need to hire an attorney and when I don’t? The short answer is when there is a lot at stake. Obviously, criminal offenses that carry a penalty of jail time are serious enough to consider hiring an attorney.
Minor traffic offenses that only carry a fine as penalty probably are not worth hiring a lawyer. However, factors such as racking up enough points so that you could lose your driver’s license may make sense to consult an attorney. Make sure you are aware of the penalties of any criminal or traffic offenses to avoid a nasty surprise. For example, did you know that failure to keep your vehicle license plates current carries possible penalty of 3 months in jail and a $500 fine? Nebraska Revised Statutes 60-3170 and 28-106.
In civil matters, if the dollar amount at stake is small and you might spend more on attorney fees than the case is worth, you probably don’t need a lawyer. Larger dollar cases probably do justify hiring an attorney.
REPRESENTING YOUR SELF
Abraham Lincoln once said, whoever represents themselves has a fool for a client. That is especially true when the legal issue has high emotional stakes, such as a custody battle in a divorce action. Also, many judges hold pro se (self representing) litigants to the same procedural reqirements as an attorney. Hiring an attorney may result in a better outcome when cooler heads prevail.
Generally speaking you can obtain an initial consultation with an attorney for a nominal fee (or even for free) to get a general assessment of the seriousness of the matter. The final decision to hire or not to hire an attorney is a very personal choice and you will have to make the decision based on what is best for your situation.
Every legal matter is factually different so nothing stated here should be considered legal advice for your personal situation. Reading this post does not create an attorney client relationship.