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When Should You Ask Another Attorney for Help?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 18, 2016 2:59 PM

We all need help sometimes, especially in the beginning. Other more experienced lawyers seem like an obvious choice. But at what point does asking for another attorney's help become total dependence on that other lawyer? Just keep a few things you mind.

Ask For Another Lawyer's Help When:

You Don't Know the Procedure: It's a sad reality of life but law schools do seem to place too much emphasis on theory and not enough on actual procedural implementation of the law through motions, petitions, and pushing papers. Each practice area (and each state) has its own way of doing things. Family lawyers do not practice law in the same way as corporate lawyers. If you have no idea where to begin, asking the advice of another attorney is your best bet. Another good alternative is to ask the advice of a very experienced paralegal who has many years' experience. In fact, paralegal advice is probably even preferred over the attorney's.

You Need Strategy Guidance: This is closely tied to procedure and motion practice. Some attorneys make it their specialty to know the local rules of court or other obscure procedural nuances better than anybody else -- and they fight their battles there. Attorneys can sometimes win a case for their client simply based on a procedural technicality. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, the rules are there to be used. But you don't just get good at this right out of the gate. You need help from lawyers who've learned the tricks.

You Need a Third Perspective: Attorneys come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they all have different ways of thinking. Some are naturally more objective than others. In either case, asking for help from another attorney by asking them to be your sounding-board can be useful. Many cases have multiple ways of being characterized. As a result, different legal theories may apply to a particular case for or against your client. Sometimes, it's good to get another legal eagle to help with possible defenses or other complaint theories.

When You Shouldn't Ask For Another Lawyer's Help:

When They'll Take Over Your Case: Lawyers tend to have a lot of ego on the line and this makes things difficult. There's a good chance that the attorney you turned to is older and more seasoned than you are. Even if she isn't, the fact that she knows more about the general area will make it tempting to simply allow her to captain the case. At that point, she became your client's lawyer and not you. Now you have an issue from which you'll find it difficult to extricate yourself. Always draw a line in the sand and avoid third party-lawyer takeover issues.

When You Feel This Will Set a Bad Precedent: By precedent we mean "bad business arrangement," not stare decisis. In other words, asking another lawyer for help is great, but not if it means that the other attorney will interfere with your work. Different attorneys work differently and think differently. That can be a strength. But it can also harm the progression of the case.

If They're Unethical: This one shouldn't even need mentioning, yet hear we are. Lawyers that have been around the block a few times know, unfortunately, how to twist and game the system either coming dangerously close to ethics breaches, or jumping right into that realm of illegality. Either way, if your aim is to stay practicing law, your job is to avoid working with unethical attorneys. In fact, according to the ABA rules, you may even be obligated to report unethical attorneys to your state's ethics board.

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