I Need Legal Help - What Should I Do?
When you need legal help, understanding your choices and the impact they may have is important. You can often avoid costly and complicated issues if you consult a lawyer before you have a legal problem. A lawyer can evaluate your situation and help determine your next steps and possible solutions.
When should I seek professional legal advice?
Every legal situation is unique and requires specific legal analysis. In some cases, the wrong decision may cost you your legal rights.
Here are some examples of when to seek a lawyer’s assistance:
- Before signing any written contracts with major legal/financial provisions or consequences.
- Before starting or buying a business.
- When facing tax problems or questions.
- When making a will or planning an estate.
- If you are involved in an accident that results in personal injury or property damage.
- If you are being investigated for a crime.
- If you are being sued by someone, or if you want to sue someone.
- When your family status has changed through marriage, adoption, divorce, guardianship, or otherwise.
Why should I consult a lawyer?
Only lawyers can give legal advice in Arizona. Lawyers are trained professionals who must be licensed through the Arizona Supreme Court. In order to be licensed, lawyers must show that they have the education, training, and character necessary to practice law. Lawyers are also required to follow a strict set of ethical rules. If lawyers violate these rules, they may be subject to professional discipline. Therefore, to protect consumers, the law provides that only lawyers may give legal advice. To confirm a lawyer’s standing and check their discipline history, go to the online Find a Lawyer feature on our homepage or contact the State Bar at 602.340.7239.
How do I choose a lawyer?
There are many ways to find a competent and affordable lawyer in Arizona who can assist you with your legal matters.
- Get recommendations from friends and family members who have had positive experiences with lawyers.
- Search for lawyers by practice area or location at the State Bar’s online Find a Lawyer feature on our homepage.
- Visit the lawyer’s website; see if they will answer some basic questions before you commit to meeting with them. Ask about their experience in handling your particular issues, and their availability to take client phone calls and respond to emails. Some lawyers insist that clients make appointments and will not answer client calls and emails. You will want someone who is accessible when you need them.
- Consult a list of Certified Legal Specialists. Contact the State Bar at 602.340.7300 for a list of specialists in the areas of Bankruptcy, Criminal, Estate and Trust, Family Law, Injury and Wrongful Death, Real Estate, Tax and Workers’ Compensation. These lists are also available online.
- Use a Lawyer Referral Service. For a small fee, these services will find a lawyer for you. In Maricopa County, call 602.257.4434. In Pima County, call 520.623.4625. In other counties, check your telephone directory for the listings of local bar associations.
How can I get help preparing documents?
You have several options if your legal situation requires document preparation:
Lawyers can always prepare your documents. They can also give you legal advice about representing yourself in court, which is especially important if you are facing any complex issues. Be aware, however, that some lawyers will not prepare documents unless they are retained to handle the entire case.
- Prepare the documents yourself. For a small fee you may be able to purchase court-approved forms from the court where you are filing your documents. Some forms may also be accessible online or at the Clerk’s Office of your county’s Superior Court Office. You can find self-service information at the Supreme Court’s website. Please note that you are expected to know the applicable law and court procedures if you prepare your own documents, and that you will be held to the same standards as licensed lawyers.
- Certified Legal Document Preparers can only complete the documents requested by a customer. They cannot tell you which documents to use if the decision-making process involves expressing a legal opinion, provide advice, or represent you in court. It is important that you consult a lawyer or the Clerk of the Court for information about how to properly file and serve documents.
What should I do if my case goes to a hearing or trial?
With a few exceptions, only a lawyer may represent you in court. If you do represent yourself, you will be expected to be familiar with court procedures, comprehend your documents, and understand the law related to your case. Check with the court for the availability of materials that explain how to represent you in that court.
How can I be sure that I am using a Certified Legal Document Preparer?
To determine the status of a Certified Legal Document Preparer, contact the Arizona Supreme Court at 602.452.3108.
For a list of Certified Legal Document Preparers, click here.
For more information about the regulation of non-lawyers, click here.
Who can I contact if I have a problem with a lawyer, Certified Legal Document Preparer, or non-lawyer?
For lawyers, contact the State Bar of Arizona at 602.340.7280.
For Certified Legal Document Preparers, call the Legal Document Preparer Program at 602.452.3108.
For non-lawyers, contact the State Bar of Arizona at 602.340.7205.
Where can I get free or inexpensive help?
There are organizations in Arizona that provide legal assistance for free or at a reduced cost. Each organization has different eligibility requirements. Requests for such assistance are many so there may be a long wait to receive help.
Your first call should be to the Contact Clearinghouse Center at 866.637.5341. The Center is a joint program of the State Bar and the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, in partnership with numerous legal organizations.
Visit www.AZLawHelp.org to search for information, download court forms, and find the legal agencies that serve Arizonans most in need. Other useful information can be found at www.lawforkids.org and http://www.lawforseniors.org.
Some people who are not lawyers may try to practice law. Only active members of the State Bar of Arizona may practice law in Arizona. Only active members of the State Bar of Arizona and Certified Legal Document Preparers are authorized to prepare legal documents for you. You may lose your legal rights and have no avenue for recovery if you rely upon a non-lawyer for legal advice.