Keep reading to learn how to find a small claims lawyer. First, know the difference between lawyers and attorneys. Next, read about the advantages of a lawyer in small claims court. Finally, learn some practical steps to sourcing a lawyer and things to look for when choosing a lawyer.
Determine if you need a lawyer, where to find a lawyer, and make sure your lawyer is reliable.
Lawyers can get expensive. Do your research, because you may not need a small claims lawyer.
Do I need a lawyer for small claims?
Short answer - no.
In most states, lawyers cannot represent you, the plaintiff, in small claims court. Of course, you can always consult with a lawyer but not use them in court. But if you want your lawyer to represent you in court, check your state's laws for small claims court.
You may not need a lawyer. Small claims court is supposed to be inexpensive and fast. So if you know the facts of your case, save your money. Or, if you're willing to do research, spend some time reading self-help articles. You can also use an online filing company instead. What is a small claims lawyer?
Attorney vs. Lawyer - what is the difference?
Attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. Both require completion of law school and passing the bar exam. But attorneys practice law in court, while lawyers may only consult or advise.
In certain states, lawyers are not allowed in court for small claims. But lawyers may give you an advantage against the other party or an opinion on your case's strength. Legal counsel can advise you on how to proceed; something self-help services cannot do. Finally, they can prepare evidence for small claims court.
I want a lawyer for my small claims case.
You want a lawyer. But how to find one…
- Use your network. Ask a friend or relative. Someone you trust. Although they may not have an answer, they may know someone who does.
- Check out local ads. Bar associations may recommend lawyers based on areas of expertise. You can also search for lawyer referrals by state too.
- Ask your employer. Some employers have legal insurance plans. Always check your coverage and how much you will be expected to contribute.
Things to look for in a small claims lawyer
Lawyers with these qualities are likely to be helpful with your case.
Your small claims lawyer has a good reputation
Please pay attention to what other people say about them. Your community has probably "vetted" their services before. So they can let you know if this small claims lawyer was great or mediocre. Take advantage of other client reviews. Especially reviews that are written by people you trust.
Check local reviews and ask friends about their experiences.
Your legal advisor is knowledgeable and experienced
More years of experience = less experimenting on your case.
No referrals from past clients? No evidence of past wins? The absence of references or relationships might signify they haven't had much success yet. Or your lawyer is inexperienced, and they may be using your case as practice.
Specifically, check if they are familiar with local law in your region. Small details vary based on location, so find a small claims lawyer who knows your area well.
Also, check if they've had some wins on related cases. Related success indicates they are familiar with the specifics of small claims.
Ask: How long have you practiced law? What kinds of cases do you tend to handle? What are some similar cases you've worked on?
Your small claims lawyer communicates clearly
You want to be able to understand your lawyer. And other people should be able to understand your lawyer too.
They should be quick to respond and provide information. Also, your small claims lawyer should have perspective or advice that makes sense for your small claim. And finally, they should share how they recommend moving forward.
If there is an urgent question, you should know how to reach them. And they should respond promptly
Ask: What is the best way to contact you? How long does it take for you to respond?
Your lawyer should be transparent and honest. You're paying them. So your small claims lawyer should use your resources well and responsibly.
Your legal advisor is honest if there are other ways to solve your problem
And they should be upfront about the costs. Sometimes larger firms cost more because they have more resources. But smaller firms may be more personal and cheaper.
Ask: What are your legal fees and costs? What is billing like? What other resources can help me solve my problem?
Your small claims lawyer is realistic about the strength of your case
They should not promise to win. No lawyer can guarantee a win because it's ultimately up to the judge to decide.
Ask: What is the likely outcome?
Your legal advisor is available
They should be able to take your case immediately. Small claims trials move faster than normal civil courts, and the lawyer may need to respond quickly because your case is short-term.
Ask: What is your caseload? How much do you typically take on?
Your lawyer should have time for you
A lawyer who is hard to reach may not be the best choice. If they cannot answer your questions promptly, they probably won't have time for your small claims case. You need to trust your lawyer to handle your case professionally and with care. And if they're overloaded, it is hard for them to give your case the attention it deserves.
If they tend to be late, perhaps find another advisor. Courts already move slowly - try to find someone who will make the process faster.
Your lawyer should be organized
If their office is a mess, documents are more likely to get lost. Courts need information in a particular format. And incorrect or incomplete documentation makes the process even longer. So save yourself stress and frustration from disorganization, and keep searching.
Your small claims lawyer should be clear on billing
You can only sue for up to $10,000 in small claims court. And less if you're filing as a business. Lawyers should be upfront about how much their services cost. Make sure that you can afford their services and avoid the surprise of extra fees.
If you want a small claims lawyer, you must learn the laws of your area. Then, find out if you're allowed a lawyer. Also, utilize your local network to see if anyone has lawyer recommendations. And finally, do your research and check for red and green flags.
Remember, you're hiring your small claims lawyer to help you. So you should trust them and feel confident in your lawyer's services.
Keep in mind how much you’re willing to spend - hiring legal counsel can get expensive and is typically billed by the hour.
Not sure yet? Check out some self-help articles to get more background. Or, if you already know what you want to file and want to reduce costs and save time, use a small claims filing secretarial service.
At Dispute, the small claims filing process is made easy and affordable through our app. Let the app manage all of the paperwork, court dates, and filing. All you have to do is check your user dashboard for updates on your case. Our tools make it easy to manage the details for any state and county. All you need to do is put together evidence and show up for your day in court.