If you have a legal issue, it’s only natural to ask the lawyer in the family some questions. Whether you want to hire family as counsel is another matter, however, and one to consider carefully.
There are advantages to knowing your lawyer well and to having counsel that really cares about you. But family relationships can be complicated, and mixing it up is not always wise, even if it is allowed. So let’s take a look at why you might not want to hire your cousin Vinny to be your counsel, although technically there is no prohibition.
Too Much Information?
When you talk to a lawyer about a matter, counsel will often have questions that touch on a personal or private aspect of your life. Whether you’re planning your estate or defending against a criminal accusation, legal issues can be extremely personal. Do you want Vinny to know everything, considering that you’ll also be eating Thanksgiving dinner with him next year?
You need to be forthcoming with your lawyer. For some people and for some matters it is easier to share private details with a stranger in a professional context than with a cousin you used to have slumber parties with. For other people, a close cousin is the perfect representative.
What is best for you will depend on your case, your relationship, and your other options. Maybe Vinny knows somebody he can recommend to represent you. Having a lawyer in the family is a great starting point for an inquiry but your cousin’s office should not necessarily be the last stop. Also, because attorneys are licensed by state bar associations, you can always inquire with local authorities and find out more about your prospective lawyer.
Other awkward matters arise when it comes to representation, like legal fees. Depending how established your cousin Vinny’s legal practice is, you may or may not be able to afford his fees. Maybe Vinny offers you a deal or graciously says he will handle the matter and not to worry about the money. Sounds nice, but you should still find out Vinny’s usual price for representation in this type of matter.
You do not want your lawyer to feel taken advantage of because resentment doesn’t lead to great representation and it is hard not to resent someone who wants work for nothing. Lawyers do all kinds of things for clients — from making phone calls to writing letters to going to court to filling out forms and much more. All of it is informed by their study of the law. Years of training and practice go into becoming a lawyer. Keep that in mind when you take up Vinny’s time with your personal legal matters.