Alayna Okerlund

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

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Choosing the right professional legal aid may seem overwhelming. Websites, advertisements, and even recommendations from friends can provide a flood of information to wade through. But the most vital step before obtaining legal help is to know if it is even necessary.

American law, according to, is split into two categories: civil law and criminal law.

  • Civil Law involves every legal issue that is not dealing specifically with breaking the law or the criminal justice system. This category is specifically designed to benefit the person making a legal claim (also known as the plaintiff). The plaintiff chooses whether to take the case to court and/or settle terms. Depending on the nature and complexity of a civil suit, legal assistance may or may not be required.
  • Criminal Law deals with punishment for those who break the law. This criminal justice system is not designed for direct plaintiff, or victim, compensation; rather the victim is more of a witness in the case with the justice system making decisions on pursuit and settled punishment. Some of the punishments include jail sentences, community service time, large fines, and probation.

Understanding which situations require legal aid can save you time, money, and unnecessary stress.

When Not to Use a Lawyer

According to, there are a few circumstances where a legal representative is not necessary, including the following:

  • Anything within a small claims court: designed for "civil disputes" and less formal proceedings.
  • Traffic ticket violations: violators generally pay the fine to avoid hiring pricey legal aid.
  • Non-contesting lawsuits: depending on the circumstance, some people opt to pay the amount that someone is suing them for and plead no contest in order to save money on an attorney.

Although it's good to know what situations don't necessarily require a lawyer's help, it's also helpful to understand what circumstances do call for legal aid.

When to Use a Lawyer

According to the American Bar Association website, here are some of the legal situations that would require assistance from a lawyer:

  • Getting arrested
  • Receiving documents related to a lawsuit
  • Being involved with accidents that cause injury or damage
  • Having a death in the family
  • Adopting or birthing a child
  • Switching guardianship
  • Getting a divorce
  • Filing for bankruptcy
  • Obtaining or losing property/valuable real estate
  • Creating a will/trust
  • Being a victim of sexual assault, robbery, etc.

Knowing and understanding these legal system basics is an active way to avoid legal issues in general. However, when legal situations do arise, figuring out if legal help is needed and where to get it are both important.

Online Resources

There are multiple resources for finding legal advice and taking advantage of the many available online resources is usually the beginning step. With so many sites to choose from, it is easy to get lost when researching law help. can save you time searching for legal advice and representation by providing detailed research about the right online legal services provider for you.

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