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Types of Legal Services: Which Do You Need?
A lawyer can provide a number of different services for his or her client, depending on the type of law he or she practices.
As such, when hiring a lawyer, you may need him or her to carry out a number of duties for you as to effectively handle your legal
issues, challenges or problems.
Here are just a few of the legal services a lawyer may be able to provide:
- Provide legal advice — Often times, you may need a lawyer simply for legal advice, regardless of whether a lawsuit or other legal process is imminent or in progress. A lawyer who provides legal advice to a client generally advises the client regarding what to do or when to do it.
- Counsel clients — When litigation is pending or in progress, a lawyer will likely counsel his or her client. In fact, counseling clients is often thought to be one of the most important aspects of a lawyer’s job. Often times, the relationship between the client and lawyer begins with an intake interview. During this interview, the lawyer asks a number of questions and begins to understand the client’s expectations, as well as his or her ultimate goals. During the counseling, the lawyer will inform the client of the costs associated with the service.
- Complete court papers — Often times, a large part of a lawyer’s job is preparing documents for court. In order to complete court papers and outline the client’s case, the lawyer will often perform research. In addition to preparing court papers, the lawyer will often prepare for his or her oral argument in court.
- Provide oral arguments in court — A common service of a lawyer is to provide oral arguments to the court and appear on behalf of his or her client. Although in a number of court settings, including small claims courts, clients appear on their own behalf, in most courts, it is the lawyer who makes the oral argument on behalf of the client in the courtroom. A lawyer can represent a client in court, in arbitration, and in administrative or legislative hearings.
- Negotiate and draft contracts — Many lawyers, although they are trained to provide oral arguments in court, actually spend most of their time negotiating and drafting contracts. In particular, lawyers who specialize in business or intellectual property law spend much of their career either drafting, negotiating or reviewing legal contracts. Just some of the documents that are handled by lawyers include agreements, leases, wills, corporate documents and other court forms.
- Prosecute or defend of criminal suspects — Trial lawyers are often hired by criminal suspects to argue their case in court. Criminal defense lawyers specialize in defending criminal suspects.
- Handle documents relating to a deceased’s property — From wills and trusts to the transfer of real estate and other personal property upon death, many lawyers are skilled in probate court.
- Protect intellectual property — Intellectual property in the form of patents, trademarks and copyrights, is often protected by lawyers skilled in intellectual property law.
The hats lawyers wear are plenty, and there is certainly one who can effectively assist you in your legal needs.
How to Choose the Right Lawyer
Finding a qualified and competent lawyer is no different than finding a dentist or a doctor. You must be able to locate a lawyer who is willing and able to perform the job – and perform the job well. From dispensing legal advice to solving and handling your legal problems, a lawyer can prove to be indispensable for solving a number of legal issues.
Whether you need a divorce lawyer, business lawyer, criminal lawyer or civil lawyer, it is important to choose the right lawyer for your particular legal needs. Here’s how to do it:
- Obtain personal referrals — Often times, a personal referral is the best way to begin your search for a lawyer.
Talking to friends and family or finding members of your community who have been in the same position as you is a
great way to begin searching for a lawyer who can fulfill your legal needs. But don’t stop with just one referral.
Try to capture as many good leads as you can so you will be able to talk to several lawyers – and interview several
of them – before making your decision.
Although obtaining personal referrals is a logical first step when choosing a lawyer, it is important not
to base your decision solely upon a referral from a friend or family member. Not all lawyers will understand or
appreciate your particular legal problems and not all lawyers are skilled to handle your situation. In addition,
finding a lawyer who meshes well with your personality is a must, as you will want to develop a good rapport with
him or her because your working relationship may last a long time.
- Utilize lawyer referral services — Lawyers who carry licenses to practice law must be registered with the
American Bar Association. As such, utilizing the American Bar Association’s website (www.americanbar.org) is a great
way to obtain a list of lawyers in your area who specialize in the type of law for which you are seeking. It is quite
easy to search by state and by specialization through this site. In addition, there are a number of great websites that
also offer lawyer referral services, thereby allowing you to obtain a number of referrals from the comfort of your
home. Many of these websites provide a large amount of information beyond just the lawyer’s contact information,
including experience, education, fees and philosophies regarding law.
- Consider a specialist — A lawyer who practices general law, or advertises him or herself as specializing
in a number of areas of law, may not be the right lawyer for you and your legal needs. Instead, a lawyer who
specializes in a certain area of law will most likely have a deep understanding of all the nuances that may occur
in that area. In other words, you can be sure that the lawyer is far along the learning curve when it comes to their
area of specialty, unlike a general lawyer who may be spread too thin across too many areas of law.
Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between losing and wining your legal case. By taking the time to
carefully interview and screen an attorney, you can tip the (legal) scales in your favor.
A Breakdown of the U.S. Court System
The U.S. court system is most easily broken down into federal courts and state courts. However, the breakdown of these courts can be
quite in-depth. Here is a basic breakdown of the U.S. court system:
- The Federal Court System — The Federal Court System in the United States is, in reality, a number of courts, including: the U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also two special courts within the Federal court system, including the U.S Court of Claims and the U.S. Court of International Trade. All of the judges in the Federal court system are appointed by the President of the United States, along with the consent of the Senate.nder the Federal court system are additional courts that are established by Congress. These courts include: magistrate courts, bankruptcy courts, the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the U.S. Tax Court, and the U.S. Court of Veterans’ Appeals. The judges of these courts are also appointed by the President, along with the consent of the Senate.
- The U.S. District Courts — Each state in the United States has at least one district court, with some of the larger states having multiple district courts. As such, there are 94 U.S. District Courts in the United States. Within each court are a number of U.S. District Court judges. Some courts have as little as two or as many as 28 judges. The U.S. District Courts hear both civil and criminal cases, and all of these courts are considered to be trial courts.
- The U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal — Within the United States there are 13 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. If a party is dissatisfied with a judgment brought down by a U.S. District Court, he or she may appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal within their district. It is important to know, however, that the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal only hear cases when mistakes of the law are thought to have occurred.
- U.S. Supreme Court — The Supreme Court of the United States consists of nine judges, or justices, and one Chief Justice. The U.S. Supreme Court hears cases when parties are dissatisfied with a decision made by the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. However, this can only be done when a “Petition for a Writ of Certiorari” is brought to the court. The U.S. Supreme Court then decides whether or not to hear the case.
- State Court Systems — State court systems are different from state to state. In general, however, they are made up of two sets of trial courts, intermediate appellate courts and the highest state courts. Judges in these courts are usually elected by the citizens or appointed for a set number of years.
- Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction — Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction oversee specific cases and are usually presided over by just one judge. The courts within the Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction include: probate courts, family courts, traffic courts, juvenile courts, municipal courts and small claims courts.Indeed, the US court system has many tiers, with each one designated to handle specific legal cases.
The Foundation of the U.S. Legal System
The U.S. legal system, although arguably quite intricate and complicated, has one basic function: to resolve disputes as to maintain peace. Whether through federal courts, state courts, private courts or public courts, the goal always remains the same.
Laws are contained in both federal and state constitutions, as well as a number of statutes and administrative regulations. The following sectors make up the framework of the American legal system:
- Legislative branch — Among the three branches of the U.S. legal system, the legislative branch is primarily responsible for making laws. Congress, as well as the House of Representatives and the Senate, make up the legislative branch.
- Judicial branch — The judicial branch of the American legal system includes the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and the District Courts. Each state also has its own system that mimics the federal legal system, which includes trial courts, appellate courts, and the highest court. States also have small claims courts in addition to trial-level courts.
- Executive branch — The Executive branch of the American legal system lies with the President of the United States, although other departments that hold power in the executive branch include the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice.Within the U.S. court system there are state court systems that often vary from state to state. Generally, however, state courts are structured in the following manner:
- Judges — Within each state are courts of limited jurisdiction that are presided over by a judge. The judge hears both civil and criminal cases, while separate trial courts are presided over by a judge as well. In addition, many states have separate courts for both traffic and family law, both of which are also overseen by a judge. Other courts that are found in individual states include: a state supreme court and a court of appeals.
- Court administration — Court administration is responsible for managing court budgets, reviewing procedures and matters, and studying court performance, among other things. The administrative offices of the U.S. courts also manage the day-to-day operations of the courts, including payroll, and may also oversee training programs for judges and court personnel.
- Prosecutors — Prosecutors within the federal court system, which are referred to as U.S. attorneys, are part of the U.S. Department of Justice and are generally appointed Senate and the President. Prosecutors for each state, called the attorney general, are appointed through a vote by the citizens. There are also other types of prosecutors, including state attorneys and district attorneys.
- Lawyers — Lawyers are an important part of the U.S. legal system because they represent their clients and their clients’ legal rights in a court setting. Although individuals are allowed to represent themselves, this task is most often left to lawyers who are skilled in the law. Although private lawyers are paid by individuals to defend themselves in criminal and civil cases, state public defenders are appointed to individuals who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Lawyers often specialize in areas of law, such as business law, intellectual property law, criminal law, etc.