Chapter 6: Lawyers Mr. Weiss Street Law Breakdown of Lawyers: 65% Private practices (criminal, civil, family, environmental, etc.) 15% Government lawyers who work for federal, state, or local agencies 15% Corporations, unions, or trade associations Smaller # Public interest or legal aid organizations Even smaller # Law professors, judges, or elected officials Lawyers Most lawyers rarely go to court Instead give advice, drafting legal opinions, negotiating settlements, or provide out-of-court legal advice. Lawyers that do go to court are called litigators In civil cases lawyers are advocates for their client In criminal cases lawyer of the defendant does everything possible (without breaking the code of professional ethics) to secure the release and acquittal of his/her client. When do you need a lawyer? Majority opinion: When you get into trouble Best option see one before the problem arises You should see a lawyer if… You are buying or selling a home or other real estate Organizing a business Changing your family status (divorce, separation, adoption, child custody, etc.) Making a will or planning an estate Signing a large or important contract Handling accidents involving injury or property damage Defending a criminal charge or bringing a law suit How do you decide when you need a lawyer? You need a lawyer… If a question of law is involved If a legal document needs to be drawn up or analyzed (ex. will) If you are involved in a court case When do you not need a lawyer? Using someone in a small claims court Minor marriage issues can be solved by seeing a a marriage counselor or mediator A bar association (organization of license lawyers) and other groups have services to help you decide if you need a lawyer. Majority of these are free or have a small fee Decide whether you need an attorney or not 1. 2. 3. 4. You hit another car in a parking lot. Your insurance agent indicates that the company will pay for bodily injury and property damage. You borrow a friend’s car without his knowledge, and he reports it to the police as stolen. You buy a new stereo for $300. One month later, the receiver and speakers blow out. You return to the store, and the salesperson tells you that they are sorry but their stereos have only a two-week guarantee. You decide to trade in your old car and buy a new one. Need an attorney? (cont.) 5. Two friends are caught robbing a local store, and they name you as one who helped plan the robbery. 6. You are turned down when you apply for a job. You think you were rejected because you are deaf. 7. You do not want your family to inherit the $10,000 you have saved. You are told that you are going to die within a year and you want the money to be used for cancer research. 8. You and your spouse find you can no longer get along. You want a divorce. 9. You earn $5,000 working in a restaurant during the year. You want to file your federal income tax return. How do you find a lawyer? Make sure you find a lawyer that is right for you and your situation. Ask someone with a similar situation for their lawyers name if they were satisfied with the outcome Ask your employer, members of the clergy, business-people, or other professionals for the name of a lawyer that they trust Go to the bar association or a lawyer referral service How do you find a lawyer (cont.) Go to the yellow pages or Google and look for “lawyers” Go to the public library and look in MartinadeHubble Law Directory which lists most of the lawyers in the U.S. Provided education, professional honors, and types of cases they handle Look on t.v., listen to the radio, look in newspapers/magazines, or billboards for advertisements Other Notes If you are unable to afford a lawyer you can be eligible for free legal advice at a legal aid, legal service, or public defender’s office You need to ask for an estimate of the total charge when you see a lawyer Does your lawyer charge by the hour or is it a flat fee? Find out if the lawyer had ever handled this type of case before and if so what were the results Find out who else will be working on the case, what each person charges an hour, and how often you will be billed Lawyer Fees Most lawyers require a retainer down payment on the total fee You might be charged for court costs, filing fees, or other expenses Contingency fee this is the percentage of what the client wins in a case. Lawyers will charge this instead of an hourly fee or flat sum Client pays nothing except expenses if the case is lost Most common in personal injury cases in which money damages are being sought A typical contingency fee is 1/3 of the amount awarded to the client Can be as high as 40 % (and sometimes higher) Working with your attorney Attorney-client relationship is often based on oral agreements Best to have things in writing!!! See if your case is of interest to the following groups which will often represent you for free American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) American Conservative Union (ACU) Working with your attorney (cont.) You need to be able to trust your lawyer because your lawyer needs to know everything about your problem Attorney-client privilege whatever you say to your attorney is secret and confidential and the information can not be disclosed to anyone without your permission If you are not satisfied you may discharge your lawyer. However, if you are in court you must have a good reason to give to the judge Lawyers must follow the Code of Professional Responsibility which is enforced by the state bar association Code of Professional Responsibility Canon 1: A lawyer should assist in maintaining the integrity and competence of the legal profession Canon 2: A lawyer should assist the legal profession in fulfilling its duty to make legal counsel available Canon 3: A lawyer should assist in preventing the unauthorized practice of law Canon 4: A lawyer should preserve the confidences and secrets of a client Canon 5: A lawyer should exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client. Code of Professional Responsibility Canon 6: A lawyer should represent a client completely. Canon 7: A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law Canon 8: A lawyer should assist in improving the legal system Canon 9: A lawyer should avoid the appearance of professional impropriety. Other Notes: A lawyer must pass an examination to become a member of a state bar Lawyers can be disbarred (no longer has a license to practice law) who violate the standards of conduct If you have issues with your lawyer, you can report the problem to your local or state bar association You can sue your lawyer for legal malpractice for serious errors that result in injury or loss.