Not every legal situation requires the services of an attorney. Sometimes the situation can be resolved simply by creating and filing the proper legal forms. Sometimes the facts or details of a case are so "typical" or "common" that handling the matter on your own is simple, timely and cost-effective.
In these types of situations, Standard Legal can help.
Whether you choose to handle the matter with our easy-to-use Legal Forms Software, or if you want the help of a professional through our affordable Document Preparation Service, Standard Legal can save you time, stress and money -- with no attorney required.
IS REPRESENTING YOURSELF LEGAL -- OR WISE?
In every state in the United States, individuals are permitted to represent themselves and to handle their own legal issues without the assistance of a lawyer. This applies to matters both inside the courtroom and with local, county, state and federal government agencies.
Representing yourself in any type of legal matter without the benefit of legal counsel is referred to as acting "Pro Se". Pro Se (pronounced 'pro say') literally means "on one's own behalf" -- you choose to act on your own without hiring an attorney.
Pro se representation has been a valid option since the legal system was first created in this country, and is used every day by tens of thousands of average people.
Legal self representation applies to more than just court proceedings, too; actions like creating a Last Will and Testament, filing a Deed, writing a Lease, Incorporating a business, handling your own Divorce or filing for Bankruptcy all fall under the "pro se" category. So long as you complete the legal forms and file the paperwork without the advice or representation of a lawyer, you are acting "pro se".
This is not to suggest that every person is capable of handling their own legal situations, nor that every legal situation is best handled pro se. Criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits, issues that require intensive litigation or negotiation, complex business transactions, legal dealings with the IRS, and personal injury or medical malpractice cases are all areas where it is best to find and consult a qualified local attorney.
Further, non-lawyers cannot act for or on behalf of any other person, or even represent a corporation or limited liability company that they own; to represent another person or legal entity, one must be a licensed attorney.
However, everyday people looking to resolve common legal issues by filing the appropriate documents can achieve the same results as they would with a lawyer -- given the right information and a simple and inexpensive way to create the correct documents. Of equal importance, those persons can save themselves hundreds -- if not thousands -- of dollars in the process!
WHICH LEGAL ISSUES ARE GOOD OPTIONS FOR SELF-REPRESENTATION?
Standard Legal only offers products to help handle issues it feels are manageable by everyday people. These legal matters can be addressed via our easy-to-use Legal Forms Software, or through our affordable Legal Document Preparation Service. These legal topics include:
ESTATE & FINANCE LEGAL TOPICS:
- Bankruptcy (Personal Chapter 7 & Chapter 13)
- Wills (Last Will & Testament)
- Living Trust
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
- Promissory Notes
MARRIAGE & DIVORCE TOPICS:
- Uncontested Divorce (No Fault Divorce Without Children)
- Life Partner Cohabitation Agreements
- Premarital Agreement
- Separation Agreement Marital Separation
REAL ESTATE TOPICS:
- FSBO (For Sale by Owner) Home Sales
- Land Contracts
- Lease Agreements
- Quitclaim, Warranty and Survivorship Deeds
BUSINESS LAW TOPICS:
- Employee Manuals and Human Resources Legal Forms
- General Business Partnership Agreements
- Limited Liability Company
IF YOU DO NOT SEE THE THE LEGAL TOPIC YOU NEED TO ADDRESS IN THE LIST ABOVE, WE STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU FIND AND CONSULT A QUALIFIED LOCAL ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU.
WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE REPRESENT THEMSELVES?
A variety of legal organizations and bar associations have conducted studies of self-represented litigants, and these studies show that a wide variety of individuals rely upon themselves for handling their legal issues:
- A significant portion of self-represented individuals report they could have afforded to hire an attorney to represent them, but that they chose not to do so.
- Persons with lower than average incomes are more likely to represent themselves, to save money on legal fees.
- Several studies show that those who represent themselves are far more likely to be satisfied with the legal process than those who are represented by attorneys.
- Three quarters of those who represented themselves in court said they would do it again before they hired an attorney.
WHY DO PEOPLE CHOOSE TO REPRESENT THEMSELVES?
Likewise, the reasons that people offer for representing themselves in legal matters are as many as they are varied:
- Lawyers are too expensive;
- Many feel that lawyers do not deliver quality services, fail to return telephone calls, and treat their clients in an unfriendly or unprofessional manner, etc.;
- For many, their cases or situations are simple enough to handle themselves or involve simple legal document preparation and filing;
- People know their own situation best and believe that they are in the best position to address any issues that may face;
- People want to be in control of their own lives, circumstances and situations.
WHAT TOOLS EXIST TO HELP A PERSON SELF-REPRESENT?
- LEGAL FORMS SOFTWARE: Whether the self-help individual is looking to transfer real property, file for a divorce, loan money, sell property or set up a business, the use of accurate and up-to-date legal forms and documentation is essential. In many cases, individuals seeking the assistance of an attorney could achieve the very same result by obtaining, completing and filing/recording with the appropriate court or government entity the necessary valid and binding legal forms.
Most common legal matters involve the use of some kind of standardized legal form. For years, courts and attorneys have created these standardized forms and the use of these forms has been ongoing, often without any changes in the form or document for substantial periods of time. The use of the forms by individuals who are not lawyers does not, in any way, make these forms any less valid or binding. As long as the form or document utilizes the proper language and formatting and complies with the governmental regulations with regard to content and usage, the document is effective -- even when completed and filed by a non-lawyer.
Of equal importance to the legal forms themselves are the instructions to complete the forms correctly. Many times, a person may be able to find a generic legal form from a government agency or court website, but typically those documents will not provide any type of instructions or overviews to help a person complete and file them. So unless the person has a keen understanding of the law and its processes -- including any state-specific requirements that are usually not spelled out on the form -- the blank documents from a government or court website will be unmanageable for the average person.
So how can the average person gain access to the types of legal forms needed for common issues like Bankruptcy, Wills, Divorce, etc. with the proper instructions included? A number of the most common "do it yourself legal forms" are available in downloadable software format from Standard Legal, at a price significantly less than the cost of hiring an attorney.
- LEGAL DOCUMENT PREPARATION SERVICES: Not sure you can handle the creation and completion of legal forms on your own? Would you rather have a professional help you prepare your documents, giving you completed forms that are "ready for signature"? Then review the details of Standard Legal's Document Preparation Services. Our document preparation professionals will assist you in creating the finished legal documents you need by using the detailed, highly specific information that you provide to us. With our easy-to-use online tools and the ability to make personal contact, Standard Legal will help you complete and output the legal documents you require quickly and professionally. With Standard Legal, you can skip the frustration of trying to figure out how to do it yourself and eliminate the fear of making a mistake!
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT AN ATTORNEY?
No one can argue that there are times when it may be necessary -- or at the very least highly advisable -- to consult a qualified local attorney to handle a legal matter:
- Especially difficult for pro se cases are those with intensive litigation, negotiations or frequent and complex court proceedings.
- Criminal matters are typically best handled through an attorney (and usually cannot be resolved simply with the filing of legal forms).
- Representing one's self in a personal injury or medical malpractice case may be ill advised.
- Complex business transactions or matters involving the IRS may call for the advice of an attorney.
Further, if an individual has any questions concerning the proper procedure for any type of legal matter or transaction, is unsure the steps that must be followed to achieve a specific legal goal, or has any difficulty in understanding directions or completing legal forms, then those persons should seek the advice of a qualified local attorney.
Self representation makes sense at many times -- but let common sense prevail! Don't let anger, stubbornness or "penny pinching" cloud your judgement when important legal matters can have long term effects. Weigh all of your options carefully, then decide if you should act pro se or if you should find an attorney.