When to Seek Legal Counsel

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When to Seek Legal Counsel

When to Seek Legal Counsel

Many people live a lifetime and never consult an attorney. But there are times when talking to an attorney can really make a difference. So how do you decide when it is the right time to make that call? I’m glad you asked.

  • First, you should consider contacting an attorney whenever you are dealing with a significant situation that involves legal issues you do not fully understand.
  • Second, you should consult a licensed attorney whenever the potential benefit of that legal advice outweighs the cost of that advice.

I know. I know. That sounds like double speak, but it really isn’t. Attorneys cost money, but not consulting a competent attorney could cost you a whole lot more. I always encourage people to spend at least an hour with an attorney before making important legal decisions. Meeting with an attorney does not mean you have to hire that attorney.

So, if you are dealing with situations that involve:

  • estate planning
  • real estate
  • contracts
  • leases
  • rental agreements
  • disputes
  • debts
  • lawsuits
  • divorce
  • custody
  • competency
  • aging
  • public benefits
  • collections
  • accidents
  • disability
  • employment
  • timeshares
  • school administration

… and a whole host of other types of matters, you should talk to an attorney that can give you accurate and trustworthy advice. Many times that first consultation is free.

The best way to ensure that the information and advice you get is accurate and trustworthy is to find an attorney who is well versed in that specific area of the law. For this reason, every adult should identify a legal referral service or a trustworthy attorney they can call if they ever need legal advice. That referral service and attorney do not need to be experts in the area of law that concerns you. They only need to know the names of attorneys in your area who are competent and efficient in that specific legal area. Notice I said competent and efficient.

Competency means the attorney has an expertise in the subject matter that concerns you. An attorney who specializes in a specific area of the law can almost always give you answers to your basic legal questions in the first hour. They normally don’t need to do a lot of research. It is far better to pay a qualified attorney $500 an hour than an unqualified attorney $250 an hour. Remember, just talking to an attorney is not the answer. Finding the right attorney can save thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. But competency itself is not enough. The attorney also needs to have a reputation for efficiency. An attorney may be an expert in family law, but he or she may also be very unorganized and inefficient. That lack of administrative skill could result in dozens of extra hours spent on a legal matter.

I get calls regularly asking for help with legal matters, or for referrals to other attorneys. It is not always easy to find the right attorney in the right area of the state. So that is why I always encourage people to interview the attorney I recommend in that first meeting, and ask very specific questions about rates and expected outcomes.

Recently, I was asked to help a Hispanic family in Southern California with the resolution of a dispute between an elderly father and mother about how their estate should be distributed upon their deaths. Both of the parents spoke very little English. Why did they contact me? Simple – they knew and trusted me. Though I have been handling estate planning matters for almost 40 years, I referred them to an attorney in Southern California. That attorney helped them find a local Hispanic attorney who better understood their language and their culture. That attorney met with them and was quickly able to understand their situation and put an estate plan in place that was satisfactory to the entire family.

As a final thought, every one of you need an estate plan; that means you need to consult an attorney at least once in your life. Please don’t try to do it yourself. Give me a call at (559) 323-3558, or call the Baptist Foundation of California at (909) 738-4000. Let us help you get started on the preparation of a God-honoring estate plan. Or, if you prefer, let us refer you to a private attorney who can provide that service for you.

About the Author

Phil Kell
Planned Giving and Legal Consultant, CSBC

Phil Kell serves as the Planned Giving and Legal Consultant for the California Southern Baptist Convention. He holds a Bachelor of Science from California State University Sacramento, a Juris Doctorate from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, as well as a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from California Baptist University. He and his wife, Debbie, have been married for almost 50 years, and together they have 4 daughters and 7 grandchildren. Phil and Debbie are members of Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, California

More About Phil Kell
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