What is an attorney?

An attorney is a person educated to assist people professionally with legal problems, to represent them before courts and government agencies, and to provide legal advice and services.

Are attorneys necessary?
The law is an extremely complex network of statutes, regulations, and court decisions. Without law, our society would be chaotic, and it would be difficult for an individual to engage in most of the activities that we ordinarily take for granted.
It is impossible for anyone to know the meaning of all the law, and to keep up with the frequent changes without devoting full attention to studying and working with the law. Therefore, it is essential to have attorneys who are skilled in interpreting the law to advise others about legal matters.
Laws come from many sources, and the laws arising from each source may have a different scope and effect. A lawyer must be familiar with all of the laws within his or her field(s) of practice. In Ohio, the law which governs its citizens can be classified into four groups.
Constitutional law. The United States
Constitution is the basic law of the nation, and the Ohio Constitution is the basic law of the state of Ohio. The two are similar in many respects, but where a conflict arises, the federal Constitution usually takes precedence.
Statutory law. Statutes are written laws adopted through legislation, and may come from several sources. For example, statutes affecting the entire state are enacted by the Ohio General Assembly. Federal statutes, enacted by Congress, also affect all of Ohio. Local laws, called ordinances, are enacted by city or village councils. County commissioners, township trustees and other local governing bodies also enact laws.
Administrative law. Many activities subject to statutes or ordinances are so technical or change so often or so fast that they cannot effectively be regulated by statutes or ordinances alone. In such cases, the government agency administering these activities may be authorized to adopt written rules to supplement the statutes. These written rules are called administrative law.
Common law. Common law is a large body of principles, rules, and forms of proceedings that are not founded upon statutory or legislative law, but have become interwoven with the written law through custom, use, and the reported decisions of judges in specific cases. Common law fills in the gaps and helps unify and clarify constitutional, statutory, and administrative law. lt is, therefore, indispensable to an effective system of justice. Since common law is based on generations of experience, it gives the law continuity and consistency. At the same time, it is responsive to changing needs.

What are an attorney’s qualifications?
To become an attorney in Ohio, a person must earn a bachelor’s degree and then graduate from an accredited law school. Law school courses cover contracts, real property, taxation, business organization, criminal law, domestic relations, and many other legal topics.
After graduation from law school, the candidate for admission to the Bar must produce evidence of his or her good moral character and must successfully complete the bar examination, a comprehensive test administered by the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Every active attorney admitted to practice in Ohio must complete 24 hours of accredited continuing legal education coursework every two years to retain his or her license, and there are special educational requirements for new lawyers.

What is legal advice?
When an attorney gives you “advice,” it is a conclusion drawn from years of training and study, and perhaps many hours of research to ensure that the advice considers all of the laws affecting your problem.

When should I go to an attorney?
The best time to go to an attorney is before you are in legal difficulty. It is best to consult your attorney before you sign papers or take other action that might seriously alter your legal position.

You should consult your lawyer when:
• you are planning to enter into a verbal or written contract which has major financial consequences; you are involved in an accident involving injury to persons or damage to property;
• you are seeking to collect a debt from another person, or someone is taking action to collect a debt from you;
• you need an opinion about the title to real estate;
• you want to plan your estate, make a will or create a trust;
• you are organizing or dissolving a business;
• you are settling an estate;
• you are involved in a family situation such as adoption, divorce, etc.;
• you believe your rights as a consumer or employee have been abused;
• you believe your civil rights may have been violated.

How should I go about choosing an attorney?
Follow the same steps as you would in choosing a doctor or dentist. If you do not know an attorney, ask for a recommendation from your friends, neighbors, employer, or anyone in whom you have confidence. In Ohio, there is also a lawyer referral service in each metropolitan area, operated by the local bar association. (For a Web listing of lawyer referral services in Ohio, go to the “public” area of the OSBA Web site:
Remember that when you have a legal problem, you should go to a lawyer. Be wary of advice and opinions from persons who are not lawyers. To consult someone who is not an etyma about a legal problem is always risky and often costly. Generally, no two legal problems are exactly alike.

What is my attorney’s duty to me?

All attorneys take an oath, upon admission to practice, to uphold the constitutions and the law and to be faithful to their clients.
Just as your communications with your minister and physician are confidential, so are your private communications with your lawyer. Legal ethics rules prohibit your attorney from disclosing without your permission any information you give him or her during the attorney-client relationship. However, your attorney may disclose your intention to commit a crime and the information necessary to prevent the crime. Your attorney generally cannot be compelled to disclose your private communications with him or her unless you seek advice in committing a crime or fraud, or in other, very limited, circumstances.
Your attorney’s principal duty is to see that you receive the benefit of all your legal rights. An attorney is swum to conduct cases in an orderly way that will ensure that they may be decided upon their merits. Your attorney may not make any agreement or incur any obligations that might substantially prejudice your interests, without your prior approval.

What is my duty to my attorney?
You should give your etyma all the facts concerning your case and make a full and fair disclosure of the entire situation. To serve you well, your lawyer must know not only the favorable facts but also those that may be unfavorable.

How is an attorney fee set?
In determining the fee, an attorney must take into account the difficulties involved in the problem you bring, the amount of time it requires and the value of the results obtained for you. You should keep in mind that, to serve clients efficiently, an attorney must bear certain necessary expenses. Prom the fees, the attorney must pay for office help, rent, technological equipment and furnishings. Also, an office library must be maintained and regularly updated.
You should discuss your lawyer’s fee at your first consultation. Your etyma may not be able to tell you the exact fee in advance, but usually there can at least be an estimate of the charge or an explanation of the basis on which it will be computed. Sometimes a lawyer’s fee is controlled by a statute or fixed by court rules. In some cases involving the recovery of money, the charge may be a percentage of the amount recovered. You should ask the lawyer to put into writing fee and billing agreements to avoid any misunderstanding.

HANLON, ESTADT, McCORMICK, & SCHRAMM CO., LPA A Legal Professional Association
46457 National Road West, St. Clairsville, Ohio 43950 | 740-695-1444 | Fax 740-695-1563
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