WHY DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?
The BIGGEST mistake litigants make in any contested legal proceeding is taking on self representation. While there are some individuals who are able to successfully navigate the procedural and substantive rules in a law suit, most individuals are ill-equipped to take on such a task. Below are five reasons why representing yourself is a bad idea.
1.) Following procedural court rules can be a nightmare. The procedural rules of any court proceeding can be the most complex aspect of a contested case. Making sure these time sensitive rules are complied with is the kind of thing that keeps attorneys awake at night. Even experienced lawyers who do not routinely practice in a specific area can be caught unaware by some unusual procedural nuance. In the Eighth Judicial District Court, proper person litigants are required to comply with all the procedural rules as if they were attorneys. That means there is little forgiveness if you make a mistake, even if you have no formal training or experience. Rather than take on this risk, retain an lawyer who practices regularly in the area of law involved in your case.
2.) Attorneys know the judges and the “unwritten” rules.
One of our attorneys was recently involved in a contested family law case where the other attorney, although licensed in Nevada, practiced primarily in the state of Utah. Our attorney explained the position he would take, which he believed would be consistent with the Court’s. Our attorney was able to predict the judge’s reaction to the case as he had argued many times before this particular judge. The opposing party did not agree with our attorney’s position and elected to present it to the court rather than settle. Opposing counsel was flabbergasted when the Court essentially repeated what our attorney had said in settlement negotiations just minutes before the hearing. When opposing counsel pressed the Judge in disagreement, the Court simply replied “You’re not in Utah.”
The scenario above is not uncommon when you have an attorney who is not familiar with the tendencies and predilections of a particular judge or department. When an individual tries to represent him or herself, the example above applies even more so. Proper person litigants simply do not have the day to day experience with the courts and judges to know how to best present their position to a particular judge. Experienced lawyers do, and can provide you with a substantial advantage depending on their experience in a particular courtroom or dealing with a specific area of law.
3.) You are emotionally compromised.
Virtually every person who has ever been involved in a law suit will tell you that it was among the most stressful experiences in his or her life. This is primarily because most parties have a significant emotional or financial stake in the outcome of the case that causes constant worry and enormous stress. When a person takes on the additional responsibility of self representation under these conditions, the results can be catastrophic.
This is true for two reasons. First, the individual is already under a tremendous amount of stress due to the existence of the law suit. This stress is, of course, in addition to the regular stressors that each of us feel on a daily basis. Self representation adds an additional level of stress and worry that can have serious long term physical and emotional effects on the individual. I have personally seen the physical deterioration of clients during prolonged legal proceedings and the effects are even more pronounced without the benefit of legal expertise.
Second, family law proceedings are by nature emotionally charged. Making legal decisions based on emotions rather than reason is always a bad idea. The attitude that is often taken by litigants that they will “fight to the end” and consequences be damned always comes at great cost and rarely results in the outcome the litigant wants. A lawyer does not have the same emotional involvement in your case that you do and can act as a filter to help you to understand the legal consequences of your decisions apart from the emotion.
4. You will end up giving away the farm.
I recently had a case where my client and the opposing party had agreed to a property settlement agreement to finalize their divorce case. My client’s last demands were to retrieve a TV and a computer that she had left in the home when the couple separated. Her husband refused unless she was willing to give up 50% of her 401k, which was worth substantially more than the used electronics. Under Nevada law, her 401K was exposed to a community property claim if the matter went to trial and my client would almost certainly lost a large chunk of her retirement savings. Yet my client was willing to take that chance in order to get a used computer and television.
This happened for two reasons. First, as explained above in section 3, my client was emotionally compromised and was willing to risk a substantial amount of money out of spite. Second, despite my many explanations to her regarding the fact that her 401K was community property and would be split by the Court, she still did not believe that he was entitled to any of it. Fortunately, I was able to talk her “off the ledge” and she realized that she would be sacrificing a huge windfall for what amounted to a few hundred dollars in used electronics. If she did not have an attorney, she would have almost certainly forced the court to make a decision which would have resulted in her suffering a substantial financial loss.
5.) You don’t let an accountant work on your brakes.
You would not let an accountant work on your car any sooner than you would let a mechanic file your taxes. Likewise, any individual who is ever exposed to a situation where legal rights or obligations are implicated should not handle it themselves, but should consult a qualified attorney. The attorneys at Mills & Anderson law group are all members of good standing of the Nevada Bar and admitted to practice in all courts of the state. Our attorneys have also argued before the Supreme Court of Nevada and the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We attend regular continuing legal education classes to ensure that we are up to date on the law in the fields where we practice. Our experience and legal knowledge provide us with a unique skill set not possessed by the average individual that enables us to assist our client in protecting and asserting his or her legal rights. If you are facing a situation where your legal rights are implicated, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney before taking any action.
Mills & Anderson Law Group focuses its practice in the area of family law including: divorce, custody, child support, spousal support, alimony, guardianship, adoption, termination of parental rights, and abuse and neglect proceedings. Get in touch with our experienced law firm to get your questions answered and discuss your case. We also practice in the areas of corporate consulting, contracts, business organizations and criminal law. If there is a specific topic you would like information on, feel free to comment on the blog or contact us directly via our “contact us” page.