What are the advantages of having a lawyer? Although it seems like a pretty obvious question, there are in fact a number of advantages.
1. Lawyers have knowledge and experience. A lawyer usually has special knowledge and experience acquired from their qualifications and their years of legal practice. A lawyer knows the law, should know the procedure, and will be able to prepare documents and present your case in the most effective way. By engaging a lawyer, you are taking advantage of the knowledge and skills that he or she possesses, which should benefit your case enormously.
2. Lawyers can help prevent disputes. By protecting your rights and interests, getting the agreement into writing and ensuring that everything is legally sound, a lawyer can significantly reduce the likelihood of having a costly dispute arise in the first place.
3. The other party will take you more seriously. Because lay people representing themselves are at such a disadvantage, the lawyers for the other party are less likely to put forward decent offers to settle the case, which can result in you settling for less than you otherwise would. Or if you know the offers they have been prepared to put forward are inadequate, you are less likely to settle your case than if you were represented, which means more time, stress and risk.
4. Lawyers take the stress out the situation. Having someone on your side who is handling the situation for you can be rather reassuring, and reduces the stress you are feeling about your case. It saves you from having to read every piece of correspondence that comes in about your matter, feeling like you are in it alone or having to think about it constantly.
5. Lawyers save you time. For most people, time is valuable. By doing most of the work for you, the lawyer allows you to have the time to live your life. As a result, that you can spend time with your family and friends, and not have to take substantial time off work.
6. Lawyers are not emotionally involved. Because your lawyers are not you, there is a benefit of detachment that exists that allows your lawyer to view your case objectively and provide you with sound advice and recommendations. There’s an old legal truism that “he who acts for himself has a fool for a client” because a self-represented litigant is normally too emotionally invested to conduct their case in the most effective way. This applies even to lawyers who represent themselves. This disadvantage is particularly prominent in family law, where emotions are heightened.
7. If you win, you can get your costs. In civil litigation, the loser usually pays the winner’s costs. So if you win, you get compensated for the legal bills you have paid with a costs order in your favour. In contrast, if you are self-represented you are only entitled to claim for disbursements such as filing fees, and therefore cannot be compensated for your time and effort.
8. Lawyers have insurance. In Australia, all lawyers are required to have professional indemnity insurance. If your lawyer makes a critical error which costs you a lot of money, you can sue your lawyer for this. In contrast, if you mess up your own case you only have yourself to blame and therefore are not entitled to any compensation.
Of course, all this is not to say that you need a lawyer in every legal dispute you ever have. If for instance you have a dispute over a small sum in a tribunal where costs cannot be awarded, you would probably best be served by representing yourself. But in most other cases, the benefits of having a lawyer far outweigh the costs.
This blog also has recommendations on how to minimise your legal fees and how to help your own case when you have a lawyer representing you.