Know Your Lawyer in Illinois

The demands of society to protect personal and property rights of all persons have resulted in an increasingly complex system of laws. Long ago it became necessary for some to devote themselves to study and knowledge of the law so the majority could be advised of their rights and obligations. The lawyers in your community perform this service.

Who Can Practice Law?

Only one who has a license to practice law in Illinois may do so.

The preparation for such a license and legal practice requires a great deal of time, hard work and expense. The licensed lawyer must graduate from an accredited law school and thereafter must pass the Illinois State Bar examination, a rigid test of knowledge in all fields of law. Finally, he or she must submit to an examination of personal character and fitness to practice law before being admitted to the bar.

When Do You Need A Lawyer?

The person who is accused of a crime or is sued for damages in a civil suit usually becomes acutely aware of the need for professional legal help. But legal assistance is highly desirable and often indispensable in many other situations in life which may have nothing to do with crime or a court action. Some of these situations are:

  • When Your Status Changes -- Coming of age, marriage, the birth or adoption of children and moving to a different state may result in new or different legal and personal responsibilities. Such may also require changes in the way you conduct your business or financial affairs. Your lawyer can help you plan for and meet such obligations, including the preparation of various legal documents which may be required.
  • When You Make Or Revise A Will -- The planning and drafting of your Will is an important legal matter. In drafting your will, your lawyer can plan your estate in a way that will be most beneficial to you and to those for whom you wish to provide and your lawyer can suggest proper methods whereby substantial savings in taxes and other estate costs may be realized.
  • When You Buy Or Sell Real Estate -- Whenever you buy or sell real estate, you should have legal counsel. A real estate broker may be most helpful in putting the transaction together, but legally may not prepare certain legal documents necessary to the transaction, nor may the broker give legal advice as is often needed. There are potential legal pitfalls in the buying or selling of any real estate which can be avoided only by one with knowledge of the laws relating to real estate, taxes, insurance, contracts and other related subjects. Your lawyer can protect your against such pitfalls.
  • When You Enter Into Any Contract -- Any agreement, oral or written, which involves a consideration -- that is, the exchange of something of value in return for some goods or service rendered -- may be binding and enforceable. As a general rule, oral agreements should be avoided and written agreements should be either prepared by or examined by a lawyer on your behalf before being signed by you. You should consult with him or her regarding any agreement, particularly one representing a major financial obligation, before being entered into by you.
  • When You Are Involved In An Accident -- If you are involved in an accident of any kind resulting in personal injury or property damage you should consult with your lawyer. He or she can help you protect your rights and should be contacted immediately in order that such action may be taken quickly. In addition, you should notify your casualty insurance company immediately.
  • Whenever Your Rights Are Threatened -- The law exists to protect your rights, but often you must take definite action to make those laws work for you. Your lawyer is prepared to protect and enforce your rights under the law in all your personal or business affairs.

How Do You Select A Lawyer?

Most people select as their lawyer one whom they have met or is recommended by friends or relatives. When this is not possible, advice may be sought by contacting a Lawyer Referral Service, either locally or through the Illinois State Bar Association. However the selection is made, you should have confidence in the lawyer who undertakes to represent you.

How Do Lawyers Set Fees?

It is perfectly in order for you to discuss with your lawyer his or her fees in representing you. Bear in mind that the lawyer, like the doctor, has no fixed fees and most often cannot advise you in advance as to the exact amount of the fee. Instead, fees will depend upon the circumstances of the case, the time required and certain other considerations. It is safe to say, however, that it will cost less for your lawyer to keep you out of trouble than to get you out of trouble.

What Is Your Lawyer's Duty To You?

Your lawyer must be completely loyal to you with no conflicts of loyalty. This means he or she must have no competing loyalties to other persons. Your lawyer must uphold and protect your rights and interests with all the knowledge, skill and resourcefulness at his or her command. To do this, he or she must know all the facts of the case -- including those which may appear unfavorable to your cause -- but your lawyer must not disclose those facts to anyone else without your consent unless required to do so by law. Your lawyer must keep your confidences.

At the same time, your lawyer must be loyal to the administration of justice, of which he or she is a sworn supporter, and to society. Thus, while he or she may use in your behalf all legitimate means, your lawyer must not resort to illegal or unethical tactics or untruths. A lawyer is at all times an officer of the Court as well as being your advocate

The Illinois State Bar Association

Most lawyers in Illinois are members of the Illinois State Bar Association, which was founded in 1877. The organization seeks to promote and maintain the fair and efficient administration of justice and the highest standards of professional ethics.

*article courtesy of the Illinois State Bar Association.

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