Is a lawyer right for you?
Whether you choose to use an attorney or not, the internet is a resource that should be used to educate yourself on your legal issue. And if you do use an attorney you will have great questions to ask—fear not—attorneys are more than willing to educate their clients as best they can.
Depending on the complexity and the time available one has to invest, there are many legal services provided by attorneys that non-lawyers can successfully complete without the aid of an attorney. The advent of smart search engines coupled with a prolific online legal community; there are many (not all) very useful do-it-yourself tutorials and legal education resources available for nearly any legal issue that may arise. Although it may seem blurry, these legal education recourses and legal document providers do not offer legal advice. Largely all choices are left to the individual, confined to the construct of the legal document they purchase or based solely upon legal information discovered by the individual.
Educate yourself on your issue.
Begin searches broadly related to your needs, if you think you need a will or trust for your estate, search “what is a will?”; if you have a property line dispute with your neighbor, search “real property boundaries”; if you’re a new start-up and want to be sure you’re on the right track, search “how to start a business” (Obviously there are more than three possible legal issues).
From those searches you will learn the basic outline of the law and most importantly you will discover key words (such as “testamentary intent”, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos”, and “limited liability company”). These are national or worldwide terms, useful so that you can use them to refine your search at the state level. Every state has its own specific laws, Michigan, like the rest of the country has laws governing water flow that are so different from New Mexico, that applying the opposite states laws your conclusion would end entirely wrong. So it is very important to search your state.
Finding a lawyer.
Lawyers do far more than provide legal information, lawyers dispense calculated advice on the big-picture; some for example, have extensive business experience, technical experience, and other unique non-legal insight. Ideally a lawyer, or law firm, will compliment your expertise, and become not only your legal guide—but also provide practical advice if needed.
Finding a lawyer that is right for you may not be easy, but it can be done with patience and enough information. Additionally it can be intimidating to cold call an attorney or to simply walk-in. Take assurance, most attorneys will make you feel very welcome and are more than willing to sit down and talk for a few minutes. Don’t expect an attorney to solve your legal issue after your first meeting, nor should you settle for the first attorney you speak with unless you feel it’s a good match. Further, a lawyer will advise you that the attorney-client relationship will not be formed until there is a signed document memorializing such intent; this protects you and the lawyer.