The Sunday Mail
“Don’t talk to me, talk to my lawyer.” This statement sounds familiar right? This is one of the statements that has now been abused in town by some entities that are advertising legal aid or registered ones, legal insurance. We will talk about the concept of legal aid in future articles. In case you decide to take out legal aid please ensure that you take it from a legal insurance company that is registered with IPEC, and secondly, ensure that whatever cover you take gives you access to a lawyer of your choice within the limits of your cover. A number of people get shell shocked to have a random lawyer imposed on them.
Lawyering is personal. Get access to an attorney of your choice, who you can also afford to pay. There is a tendency even by some firms to just impose a lawyer on your case, when they created an impression that your matter will be handled by a particular lawyer. Insist when you retain a firm to have terms of business, that will speak to how you will be working together with the firm, and also the particular person you will be working with on your case or cases.
I want to tackle a question that many people do not usually think about, and only get to think of when they are in difficult times. One of the reasons for this column is to demystify the law, and to contribute towards legal empowerment. There are at least three people that you need in your life:
A Doctor — your health is your wealth
An accountant — your books and taxes need to be in order
A lawyer — you need to be advised along the way before you engage in major steps.
Do you really need a lawyer?
I am going to deliberately rephrase this question. I am going to take you through a few points that you may need to consider before answering for yourself the question above.
- The law is complicated
The law is not as easy as you may think. When the Constitutional Court sat to preside over the electoral petition, many people were treated to the front row seat of the legal proceedings. However, truth be told, very few people actually understood what was happening, and many just caught one or two words. The explanation is simple, the law is not as simple as you may think. The law is actually complicated. In a jurisdiction like ours, where the law is constantly changing, and developing, you may not be quick to understand all of these developments. You need a legal mind to assist you in understanding the law especially if this will impact in a major decision that you will make.
I have seen people who prepare papers on their own, and at times recklessly throwing in Latin terms they do not even understand. Whilst you may be a self-actor, the law will not tilt because of this. It’s in your best interests to secure legal representation. Even experienced lawyers typically do not represent themselves in court. They rely on the services of other attorneys. You can lose a potentially good case because of lack of counsel. Failure to hire an attorney when starting a business, reviewing a contract or embarking on other endeavours with potential legal ramifications can result in otherwise avoidable pitfalls.
- Not having a lawyer may actually cost you more.
What is at stake? Do not approach an attorney too late. A criminal case may determine whether or not you spend time behind bars, while a civil case could hurt you financially. I have seen people who come for help when they have been convicted, and now need help avoid jail time. Sometime you may get help when it’s too late for real help. I will talk on some of the legal arrangements that can secure legal representation even if you do not the money.
It’s better to prevent problems in the first place rather than try to fix them once they arise. You may have heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Hiring a lawyer in many cases will help you avoid potential legal headaches down the road. Are you sure you know what you are signing for, or making someone sign? This is the duty of your attorney to help you with.
- Lawyers know how to challenge evidence
Which evidence is admissible or not? In what instances can you object to production of evidence? What is evidence and what is not evidence? Do you understand the laws that govern admissibility of evidence? If you are not trained in law, you may not actually understand this. This is where legal training comes in. Sometimes, you may not even know that a key piece of evidence against you was improperly obtained or that the testimony of a witness contradicts an earlier statement. Was the evidence properly stored in terms of the law? Your lawyer will know this.
- Attorneys understand how to properly file court documents and handle other legal procedures.
The High Court now has a new set of rules. If you are not a lawyer you may not even know of this. When you decide to approach the Court, you are expected to comply with the mandatory rules. If you’re not a lawyer, you may struggle with the deadlines and rules for properly filling out and filing certain legal documents. You can lose cases on technicalities by failing to abide by the rules of the Court.
- You need help with pleading
You may not know what pleading is. This is why you need a lawyer. I have seen many unrepresented accused persons pleading guilty to a charge they can properly be acquitted of should they have representation. When you have a criminal case, bear in mind that you may not see your loved ones in a long time if you are convicted and sentenced to do prison time. Do not take chances. Get help.
- The other party has legal representation.
The necessity of having an attorney heightens especially if the other party has legal presentation. You will be at a serious disadvantage when you are in Court faced with a lawyer, and you do not have the experience. The law is complicated. You will be shocked the number of lawyers who get lost on legal principles. Your ignorance of the law may work to the advantage of the other party. Lawyers take advantage of this.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The material contained in this post is set out in good faith for general guidance in the spirit of raising legal awareness on topical interests that affect most people on a daily basis. They are not meant to create an attorney-client relationship or constitute solicitation. No liability can be accepted for loss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in the post. Laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements.
Arthur Marara is a corporate law attorney. He has specialized in employment law matters having worked with corporates, trade unions, and individuals in their labour matters. He is also a notary public and conveyancer. You can follow him on social media (Facebook Attorney Arthur Marara), or WhatsApp him on +263780055152 or email [email protected]