Haley & Olson, PC: 100 Ritchie Road, Suite 200, Waco, Texas 76712
Dallas Office: 4350 Beltway Drive, Addison, Texas 75001
A lawyer is someone who provides legal advice and counsel on behalf of someone involved in a legal dispute or legal issue. Also called attorneys or counselors, lawyers typically represent people before a governing body (such as a court) by conducting legal research, gathering relevant documents and witnesses, drafting written briefs, presenting oral arguments, and negotiating legal rights and responsibilities of their clients. To become a lawyer, a person must complete at least three years of intensive legal education and training, take and pass a rigorous state licensing exam (known as the “bar exam”), and pass a personal and moral fitness test.
While some other countries use the terms “notary public” and “lawyer” interchangeably, that is not the case in the United States. Here, notary publics are commissioned by their state of residence to witness and authenticate signatures on legally binding documents. They do not advise on legal matters or otherwise practice law, although some lawyers also are notary publics.
Lawyers, by virtue of a state’s bar admission, are expected to both uphold the law and protect the rights of their clients. In addition to actually knowing the law, particularly within his or her practice area, an attorney must be able to communicate clearly with their clients, work competently to resolve their clients needs, and be ethical in the performance of their overall handling of a case.
The practice of law is more than just appearing in court on behalf of a client. While there are many lawyers who argue cases before a judge, there are just as many lawyers who never step foot in a courtroom. But whether in or out of court, lawyers spend a great deal of time in an office handling a variety of tasks pertaining to their clients case – such as researching new developments in the law, preparing legal documents, and giving legal advice.
No. Lawyers must comply with a state’s bar admission requirements in order to practice law in that state. However, some states allow out-of-state attorneys to practice law if they have a certain amount of legal experience and receive approval from the state’s highest court. Sometimes attorneys may participate in specific cases in states where they lack a license to do so, referred to as a “pro hac vice” (or “for this one particular occasion”) appearance.
It depends. Attorneys typically charge by the hour, based on their level of experience and other factors, but sometimes they charge a flat fee for certain transactions. While a one- or two-hour visit might cost a few hundred dollars (sometimes the first consultation is free), an ongoing legal dispute or issue can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, some personal injury attorneys don’t collect a dime unless you win your case.
Lawyers bill for a wide variety of expenses and costs in addition to their hourly or flat fee. These costs include (but are not limited to) filing fees, court costs, paralegal and staff time, postage, court reporter costs, expert fees, investigators and travel expenses.
The types of questions you ask may vary, depending on your situation, but here are a few suggestions:
- What is your legal specialty?
- How long have you practiced law?
- How and how often do you bill?
- Can you tell me whether I have a strong case without having to spend a lot of money?
- How often will you update me on the status of my case?
- What are my responsibilities as a client?
You may qualify for free legal help if you meet certain income requirements, especially if you are charged with a crime for which the sentence would deprive you of liberty (such as jail or prison time). For non-criminal matters, community legal clinics and lawyers working “pro bono” offer free legal services for those who qualify.