Almost everybody will need legal advice at some time or other. The objective and purpose of this guide is to help you know when you might need legal help, how to choose a NYC attorney, what to expect from them and what they should expect from you. It is intended to take the worry out of looking for, and dealing with, a lawyer.
The laws that govern our lives come from 7 basic sources:
1. The U.S. Constitution – the supreme law of the land, the standard against which all other laws are measured. It is a living document, in that our lawmakers can amend it to respond to changes in our country’s needs, concerns and values.
2. The Bill of Rights – defines the fundamental rights of all Americans and the guarantees of certain freedoms, which include:
• The right to free speech
• The right to freedom of the press
• The right to freedom of religion
• The right to bear arms
• The right to a speedy and public trial
• Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures
3. State Law – each of the 50 states can make their own laws as long as they don’t conflict with the tenets of the Constitution.
4. Statute Law – laws adopted by Congress and by state and local elected officials. These laws most affect our daily lives. They apply to such things as our credit rights, our right to leave property to others, our rights and responsibilities as married couples and parents, etc.
5. Common Law – centuries ago, early judges used the customs of the time and their own common sense to help them decide how to resolve legal controversies. Their decisions created legal precedents that guide our judges even today.
6. Case Law – when a judge interprets and applies the law to a particular case, he or she creates a legal precedent. That precedent is expected to guide other judges when they are deciding similar cases in the future.
7. Administrative Law – can be best described as rules and regulations created and enforced by regulatory agencies. For example, the Internal Revenue Service has the power to tell us what we can and can’t deduct on our tax returns. The Federal Trade Commission can establish rules governing what telemarketers and debt collectors can and can’t do when they contact us.
The reality is that laws affect almost every part of our daily lives. They reflect our standards, values and expectations. They establish the “rules of the game” in our personal interactions and in all of our business dealings. They cover our relationships with our family, with other people, with our community, and with our government. Laws help us own property, deal with birth and death, and take care of business. Laws help to ensure that we are treated fairly and that we treat others fairly. Laws establish our rights and also our obligations. Laws help us both avoid problems and resolve problems.
The law and court processes are quite complicated. It is essential to the community that some citizens have the training, skill and specialized knowledge of the law and the courts. New York City lawyers, as members of the legal profession, are trained to give legal advice and services and to represent others in court.
New York City attorneys and law firms are there to help you. However, seeking legal assistance can be difficult, frustrating and intimidating. To make matters worse, this decision making process is made even more difficult by the urgency and time constraints often associated with legal issues. Choosing a New York attorney should not be a crap-shoot; the stakes are too high and you can not afford to lose.