An individual is almost never required by law to have a lawyer. However, individuals are required to follow the same rules as lawyers when in a courtroom, and the law does not recognize “ignorance as an excuse”. Whenever individuals engage in business activities, litigation, or other legal matters without the advice of competent legal counsel, they are taking the risk that they may actually create more problems than they solve. Two additional caveats to this answer are: (1) companies (corporations, LLC’s, etc.) must be represented by an attorney whenever they are involved in court proceedings; and, (2) one individual cannot represent a second person in court (so, for example, a husband cannot represent his wife, but she must physically appear on her own behalf).
To be fair, people have asked this question for centuries. We believe that good lawyers know their clients, know the law, and know their own limits. Whenever we represent a client, we first try to make sure we know the client’s goals for the representation. We also try to get to know more about what is important to that client, so that we can offer advice that matches the client’s priorities, budget, and timeline. Our lawyers work hard to keep up to date on changes in the law, emerging trends, and new options for solving old problems. Finally, we realize we all have limits. Whenever a client’s situation requires expertise beyond our scope of knowledge, we help the client find qualified representation in the right field of expertise.
The cost for our service depends on the type of service we are providing. Some transactions, like buying or selling a house, can be done for a flat fee. Most courtroom work, and many of our transactional files, gets billed at an hourly rate based on the level of the lawyer’s experience and the nature of the work to be done. Finally, we are able to accept select cases on a contingency fee basis that compensates our firm as a percentage of the recovery that we obtain for the client. We welcome your inquiry about the costs of our services when you first contact us.
People often ask this question in the context of a divorce (“Can one lawyer handle the whole case?”), or when buying/selling a house (“Can the buyer and seller use the same lawyer?”). Usually, people are asking this to save cost. While we appreciate the need to save money, we can rarely represent more than one person at a time. In a court case, whether divorce or otherwise, the same law firm cannot represent parties on opposite sides of the case. In transactions like real estate sales, there are inherent conflicts of interest to representing both buyer and seller.
The question above asks about whether the same lawyer can represent two or more people in the same case or transaction. Quite often, when we advise a person that the same lawyer cannot do it, the next question is whether another lawyer from our firm could handle it. The rules that govern lawyers are quite specific in these situations. If one lawyer in our firm has a conflict of interest, then every lawyer shares that conflict. In other words, we cannot allow one lawyer to represent “one side” and a different lawyer from our firm to represent “the other side”.
All lawyers in Illinois are licensed by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. You can access the records of the ARDC on their website. The ARDC’s listings will tell you if a lawyer: (1) is properly licensed in Illinois; (2) has any disciplinary action; and, (3) carries malpractice insurance coverage.
The Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law. A lawyer may describe the fields of practice in which he or she prefers to practice, but a lawyer may not use the terms “certified,” “specialist,” “expert,” or any other, similar terms to describe his or her qualifications as a lawyer or his or her qualifications in any subspecialty of the law.