Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 6: Lawyers

Chapter Overviews

There are more than one million lawyers in the United States. Many work in private practice, while others work for the government, corporations, and public interest organizations. Some lawyers are also law professors, judges, and elected officials. Contrary to popular belief, most lawyers rarely go to court. Their practice typically involves giving advice, drafting legal opinions, negotiating settlements, or providing other out-of-court legal assistance. Lawyers act as advocates for their clients and must represent their clients' interests to the best of their ability.

When Do You Need a Lawyer? Generally, the best time to seek a lawyer is before a problem occurs. Attorneys can offer advice to help their clients avoid problems or make important decisions. It is especially wise to consult a lawyer when a question of law is involved, if a legal document needs to be drafted, or if you are involved in a legal case.

How Do You Find a Lawyer? There are many resources available to help people find a lawyer to meet their needs. The best way to find an attorney may be to ask for a recommendation from someone who has had to deal with a similar legal issue. You can also look on the Internet, in the telephone book, use a local lawyer referral service, or consult the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which provides general information about almost every lawyer in the United States.

If you cannot afford an attorney, there are some options for you. You may qualify for free legal assistance, or—if your legal problem is of interest to a public interest organization—the organization may agree to take your case free of charge. Attorneys also take some cases on a contingency fee. This means that the attorney will receive a certain percentage of any money the client wins in the case. If the client does not win the case, the lawyer does not receive any money.

Working with Your Lawyer Trust is essential to the attorney-client relationship. The law grants an attorney-client privilege to encourage clients to speak openly and honestly to their attorneys. This privilege prevents a lawyer from revealing the client's information without permission. Lawyers must also follow certain standards of conduct that are enforced by the state bar association. Clients can file a malpractice lawsuit against an attorney if they believe the attorney has acted irresponsibly and mishandled the case.

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