Everyone in the United States has the legal right to act as their own attorney before the court – and it’s not difficult to find the resources on the Internet as well as in libraries and places of government that allow a person to thoroughly educate themselves. However, because dealing with legal issues can often be stressful, it’s usually best to have a trained professional – namely, a trained lawyer – to act on our behalf in these situations.
People often think of a lawyer and an attorney as being one and the same, but there is a neat difference. Legally, anyone may act as an attorney, or legal representative, on another’s behalf; this is the actual definition of the word “attorney.” A lawyer usually acts as an attorney for his/her client(s), but is specially trained to study the law as it has been enacted in society. This individual actually holds a degree that is equivalent to a doctor’s (known as J.D., or Juris Doctor).
For instance, you may be granted “power of attorney” if someone in your family asks you to make medical or financial decisions for him or her should they become incapacitated. Another instance in which you may have power of attorney is if you are entrusted with a large amount of money belonging to someone else, or named as a guardian for a minor child.
When it comes to the law, however, things get quite a bit more complicated. This is why it’s a good idea to have a licensed lawyer on your side. There are a two broad and distinct areas in which lawyers or attorneys practice. One of these is criminal law. Most ordinary working people who are charged with crimes cannot afford defense lawyers’ fees, so a public defender is usually appointed to represent them. The other area is civil law; this involves issues such as lawsuits and contracts.
Like doctors, lawyers often have their own specialties; some practice criminal law, while others litigate lawsuits, deal with contracts or work in family law (divorce, adoption, etc.) It’s a good idea to choose the right attorney for your particular legal issue.