Reasons to Contact a Lawyer
Lawyers, also called attorneys, are individuals who have been educated and trained in the practice of one or more areas of law. There are dozens of areas of law and potentially hundreds of specialties within those areas, from personal injury to divorce to bankruptcy to intellectual property to criminal defense. A person or business that has a legal problem is certainly in need of legal counsel, but sometimes a lawyer's consult can help before a problem arises.
Common reasons to contact an attorney include the need to sue someone, the need to defend against a lawsuit, the need for document preparation (such as wills, real estate contracts and other agreements), financial difficulties, a criminal arrest or marital problems.
Finding the Right Attorney
Finding legal counsel may be as simple as performing an internet search for someone who already knows what he needs. For example, if someone has been hurt in a car accident, he might search for a car accident attorney or simply an injury attorney.
On the other hand, if a legal problem or need is more complicated, the person in need of help might not know what type of lawyer to call. In that case, she can contact the state bar association for the state in which she lives, and the staff may be able to direct her to the right type of lawyer.
Regardless of the source, once the potential client finds a few names, the client can meet with different attorneys and choose which one best suits the situation.
Getting in Touch With Counsel
Many attorneys have websites that include contact forms, phone numbers or even email addresses for contacting them and setting up appointments for consultations. Beyond that, once contact is made, the attorney may ask the client for more information or for documents related to the issue. In that case, a letter may be appropriate.
Writing a Letter to a Lawyer
The letter should be dated and addressed to the specific attorney at the firm with whom the client is working, and it should contain all the information the lawyer needs to consider the case.
The top of the page should contain the writer's contact information (or letterhead). Below that, either on the left or in the center, is the date. Below the date, on the left side, the attorney's name, law firm name and law firm address should appear.
Below the name and address block, the writer may want to put a subject line advising of the purpose of the letter. Below the subject line is the salutation, which is typically "Dear Mr. <lawyer's last name> or "Dear Ms. <lawyer's last name>." If the lawyer is a woman, the salutation should say "Ms." rather than "Miss" or "Mrs." unless you know she prefers one of these. If the client is on familiar terms with the lawyer, it may be addressed to the lawyer by first name.
After the salutation is the body of the letter, where the client should explain the reason he is writing and provide details about the facts of the case as well as a request for assistance at the end. He should make it clear what he wants from the lawyer; he may want the lawyer to do everything for him, or he may simply want the lawyer to write a letter or make a phone call.
Ending the Letter
At the end of the letter, the writer may include a closing, such as "Sincerely" or "Very truly yours" followed by a comma, then three or four spaces for a signature, followed by the typed or printed name of the sender.
The client should include copies of any documents that may help the lawyer solve the problem. Copies of contracts, lawsuit documents or other papers that relate to the matter can be sent to the lawyer with a request for confidentiality. If documents are included, the letter should, in the lower left corner after the closing, include the word "Enclosures" or the abbreviation "Encl."
- Be polite in the letter. Do not be rude or demanding. The attorney has no obligation to represent you. If you come across as an unpleasant person in the letter, the attorney may decide that you are not someone that she would like to assist.
- If you are sending any documents along with the letter, make sure that you do not send the original versions of those documents. The documents may be important evidence in your case. If the attorney decides not not respond to your letter or misplaces it, your documents will be lost.
Rebecca K. McDowell is a creditors' rights attorney with a special focus on bankruptcy and insolvency. She has a B.A. in English from Albion College and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. She has written legal articles for Nolo and the Bankruptcy Site.