If you are an individual thinking about pursuing a legal matter– and you are like most people– you probably haven’t given thorough thought to the investments required for that type of legal matter.
Investments are not just money, but also time and emotion.
Sometimes, people proceed without an attorney, and are surprised to learn later than an attorney would have represented them on a contingency (pay-only-if-you-win) basis, or at a fee far less than what was envisioned.
Some people proceed without an attorney, and are surprised to learn there are investments of time and money (aside from attorney fees) that they did not anticipate or estimate accurately.
Sometimes the investments that play out for a legal matter turn out to be far more, or far less, than what an individual had expected.
For example, individuals who pursue a discrimination complaint without a lawyer are often surprised to learn the process can take years, and that significant fees (other than attorney fees) can come up, like deposition fees, as the matter progresses.
If you start a lengthy legal process before talking to a lawyer– e.g. say you file a discrimination complaint, and don’t talk to a lawyer until a year into the legal process– you may learn that you made significant investments that were not appropriate. For example, when an attorney works for an employee on a discrimination complaint, it is common for the attorney to exceed 100-200 hours on that matter until the point of a legal determination. If the employee proceeded on her own and did, say, 150 hours of work, then the value of that work– if paid at only the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour– would be $1,087.50. Even if it seems proceeding on a matter without an attorney will not be costly, the value of unanticipated work, and the value of real out-of-pocket expenses, can make the real-world investments greater than what you may have envisioned.
One way an attorney can provide a great deal of value– often for a few hundred dollars or less, and sometimes for free– is at initial consultation. That is, when an attorney evaluates your potential legal matter before you begin it. If you cannot consult with an affordable attorney, then you should try to seek out another knowledgeable source– say, a representative within the legal system (e.g. a discrimination agency representative)– to ask basic questions such as how long a matter like yours takes on average, what statistics exist about how cases are resolved, and for any required investments that that person may know of.
In many instances, the investments are worth it. But you have no way of knowing that in advance, unless you get comprehensive information about what your likely investments will be, with and without a lawyer.