Finding the best lawyer (attorney or advocate) for your legal matter – Top advice for anyone with a legal problem in South Africa
It is best to stay out of trouble. However, sometimes trouble finds you. And if that happens, you must obtain the best lawyer suited for you (attorney or advocate) to assist you with your legal problems. If you do not need an attorney or advocate to assist you with your matter, it may be best to first schedule a consultation with one, at least for peace of mind. Read on further to ensure you obtain the best legal practitioner (advocate or attorney) that suits your budget and case.
Is the top or best attorney or advocate necessary in every legal matter?
The legal problems people have varied from case to case. Some are simple. For example, a traffic fine which you wish to dispute. Others can have severe consequences on your life. For example, going through a divorce or being arrested and charged for a crime you did not (or did) commit. Whatever the legal issues, obtaining the best advice is always the best. It does not mean you need to source the top lawyers in South Africa for every legal problem. That would not make sense if the issues involved were relatively minor and the consequences were not dire. For example, if you are disputing a traffic fine of R 500 – 00, it does not make sense to consult with the top criminal lawyer in Cape Town, who may charge you R 5000 – 00 for the consultation. However, if you are facing jail time, consult with an experienced attorney or advocate who charges more than others based on their experience and is worth their fee.
What is the first step to take when faced with a legal problem?
When faced with a minor legal problem, it may be a good idea to research the topic first. For example, someone owes you money and does not want to pay you. Doing some basic research will tell you that you can send that person a letter of demand, and if that does not work, approach the small claims court. If you do not want to go through all that effort, approaching an attorney or advocate may be less stressful. However, there would be legal fees involved. And in some cases, the legal costs involved would be more than the amount claimed.
If, on the other hand, there are serious legal consequences, for example, losing your home, jail time, custody of minor children and so on, we advise you best to obtain legal advice and assistance from the start. Usually, serious legal matters are time sensitive, and a delay can cause more significant issues. For example, if someone is suing you for money through the court, and you receive the summons, you have two weeks to file a notice informing the court you are defending the matter. If you do not do so within two weeks, the other party, the plaintiff, may obtain a default judgment against you.
Do senior advocates and attorneys charge more than junior lawyers?
The more experience an attorney or advocate has, the better they are for your case. That experience earns the advocate or attorney the right to charge more than his competitor with less experience and who may have to learn how to handle your matter. An experienced lawyer may charge more per hour but spend less time dealing with your matter. A less experienced lawyer may charge less per hour but spend many more hours dealing with your matter with less experience and skill than the senior lawyer would have.
At the same time, it would be overkill to use a senior attorney or advocate if your case does not require their skills and expertise. In many cases, a junior lawyer would have the necessary skills and expertise to assist you as a senior advocate would. It would all depend on the nature and complexity of your case and whether your budget allows it.