Lawyers are not just for your parents and grandparents. If you are a young business owner you might consider engaging an attorney on a retainer to be available for general needs, or if you find yourself in a dispute (either involving your business or personally), you should consider obtaining the advice of a lawyer. Between the common scenarios of a parking ticket or a disagreement with your business partner, however, are many less obvious instances which may or may not require hiring a lawyer. To understand what situations require legal representation, we outlined the different types of law and situations in which you should consider hiring a lawyer.
The Different Types of Law
Civil law is an area of law that includes all legal issues that are not linked to criminal activity or breaking the law. Typically, one party sues another party because they have been “wronged” and want compensation for that “wrong.” Civil law is made famous by movies displaying courtroom action, like The Social Network, Erin Brockovich, and A Civil Action. However, civil law includes a number of other categories, including reviewing and negotiating contracts,
real estate transactions, planning for death, and divorces,.
Criminal law involves offenses that break local, state, or federal government laws. The prosecution is handled by lawyers that are employed by the government while the defense is handled by a publicly appointed or private defense attorney. Criminal law includes small offenses (misdemeanors) and serious crimes (felonies).
If you encounter a situation that forces you to face the criminal legal system, almost without question you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. In general, however, the following guidelines may assist you:
When You Should Seek Legal Advice on a Civil Matter
1. When you are presented with a contract
It is essential that you understand the terms of any contract you are asked to sign. No matter how simple or complex a contract may be, if you are signing something, you may want to have a lawyer review it. Lawyers often read things in contracts that are not obvious to a non-lawyer, and small words and phrases can have significant meaning and long-term effects.
2. When you accept a new job
When you accept a new job offer, your employer may want you to sign an agreement. When signing an employment contract, it is important to thoroughly understand what terms you are accepting. You may be presented with obligations that are unclear, or even with situations that prevent you from working in the future in your same profession for a period of time or in certain locations. Many employers today insert “restrictive covenants” into employee contracts that prevent employees from taking certain actions, even after their employment has ended. Having a lawyer review the terms you are agreeing to will help ensure that you understand what you are signing up for and the lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to obtain more favorable terms.
3. When you make a major purchase
When you purchase residential or commercial real estate, or even investments ranging from stock in a company to art work, you may want to hire a layer to review the relevant contracts, manage the transaction and help the closing process run smoothly. A real estate attorney will review all of the paperwork in advance of a closing on your behalf and advise you of any problems or omissions with the contract or the “title” to your property. Attorneys can also evaluate other investments for hidden traps or ways to tighten up the deal in your favor.
4. When you experience life altering situations
You may need a lawyer when you get married, divorced, suffer the death of a loved one, or have a child to ensure that all of your affairs are in order. Additionally, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer when establishing wills and trusts to save your family from disputes, unnecessary court exposure, and possibly estate taxes. Your will or trust can be modified throughout your life as circumstances change.
Deciding when to hire a lawyer is not always black and white. If you or someone you know has encountered a situation in which they are not sure if legal assistance is required, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney. For questions and inquiries, call Kershner Sledziewski Law today.