Saturday, February 28, 2015

When do you need a lawyer?

Last week, I talked about how to win a case without a lawyer. This time, I'm going to write a short list about the situations when you need a lawyer.

1. You are being arraigned in a criminal case. Arraignment is the time when the criminal charge against you is read in court. You need a lawyer here because your right to counsel is provided in the Constitution. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the state will provide you with one, usually from the Public Assistance Office (PAO).

2. You are going to file or answer a civil case in court. Except for small claims cases, you need a lawyer to file in court a civil case, which seeks to protect or enforce a right or prevent or redress a wrong. Civil cases usually deal with family, property, obligations, and contracts. If you have the means to retain a counsel, acceptance fees for civil cases range from Php 40,000 to Php 100,000.

If you are indigent, you may seek legal assistance from PAO, alternative law organizations, law schools, and legal aid clinics. Of course, one of the best legal aid office is the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of Legal Aid (OLA). Local government units sometimes offer legal aid to residents.

3. You are required to have a document notarized. A notary public is a lawyer, so if you are seeking the notarization of a document, you are using the services of a lawyer. Documents that are notarized include affidavits of loss, deeds of sale, articles of incorporation, articles of partnership, applications to the government, extrajudicial settlement of estate, etc.

4. You are appealing a decision to a court. Sometimes you have made a claim to an executive agency, but you disagree with their decision. Depending on the issue and agency involved, you may appeal further to the head of the agency, the Office of the President, the Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court. If you are going to appeal to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, you would need to hire a lawyer to represent you in your appeal.

Here are some instances when it would benefit you to have a lawyer because they have the knowledge and expertise in handling these cases. However, hiring a lawyer is not required as long as you can read the relevant codes, follow the forms provided in government websites, and your issue is not complex. If you have the money, hire a lawyer in the following cases:

1. You are making a corporation. Sure, you can copy the provisions for the articles of incorporation in the Corporation Code and follow the relevant laws in your industry or field (if you know them). But do you know if there are updates in these laws? Maybe there were recent cases that could have changed these laws. It's the job of corporate lawyers to be updated and knowledgeable in these laws.

2. You have a pending tax case. Come on, you are paying taxes, so you must have some money. Get a lawyer to help protect your money, especially if you think the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is taking too much of your money. Hire the lawyer if his or her acceptance fee (Php 50,000) is less than the savings (Php 100,000) in tax that you will make.

3. Your properties or businesses are complicated. You might own several properties that you want to sell, donate, or dispose before you die. You may be the owner of several companies where the workers are striking, the managers are stealing your ideas, and the consumers are getting poisoned by your products. Hire some lawyers to sort through the civil cases, tax issues, labor disputes, and other administrative problems you may have.

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