Listed below are some common questions we receive. It is hoped that by providing answers to them, we can give you some guidance on matters of general interest.
Is the KCBA a government organization?
No, the KCBA is a private member supported organization. It is organized as a not-for-profit corporation. Its main source of income is from membership dues.
If I need a lawyer can the KCBA help me find one?
Yes, please check out our Find a Lawyer Service.
Can I represent myself in Court?
Yes, however court rules are extremely complex. If you decide to represent yourself, you will have to learn and follow the rules as they apply whether you have a lawyer or you represent yourself. You may be at a distinct disadvantage and you may even lose a claim that you were otherwise entitled to win because you didn't know all the rules. Remember, the Judge cannot advise or help you, he/she must be impartial to both sides and the Judge is prohibited from giving legal advice. Also, it is even more important that you retain an attorney if your opponent has one.
How do Lawyers charge for their services?
Lawyers as all other private businesses charge based on their costs to provide that service. They may do so on an hourly basis, on a project by project basis, or they may agree to take a portion of any amount you recover from the person you have sued (contingent fee). Fundamentally though, the lawyer can only charge you in the way you have agreed to pay at the time you retained him or her.
Do Lawyers specialize?
No, with the exception of Patent and Admiralty Law, there is no recognized specialty in Illinois. In fact, lawyers are prohibited from advertising that they specialize in a field of law. However, many attorneys will limit their practice into one (or a few) area(s) of the law and they are permitted to advertise such a limitation.
Can one lawyer represent both a buyer and a seller in a real estate transaction or a simple divorce?
No, our ethical rules prohibit one lawyer from representing both sides in any transaction or court proceeding. This is because even if both sides believe they are 100% in agreement, issues may arise where a party needs advice on decisions that need to be made. When that happens, no lawyer can properly represent both parties. Remember, your lawyer must be 100% devoted to your interest, and that is not possible if the lawyer also represents the other side. This does not mean that the other person has to have a lawyer, but if they choose not to, they risk not being as well informed or protected as the person with an attorney.
If I am sued can I obtain a public defender or other free legal services?
If you are a defendant in a criminal case and cannot afford an attorney and the possible penalty includes jail time, the Judge may appoint the public defender. It depends on your particular financial situation. A public defender will not be appointed for civil matters or traffic matters that do not carry a penalty of possible jail time. There are other free or discounted legal services available depending on the type of service you need.
If I sue or am sued and win, can I recover my legal fees/costs from the other party
a) in a civil suit?
No, except if d) below applies or if a state statute calls for it.
b) in a divorce?
The rules in a divorce typically contemplate an equitable division of attorney's fees between the husband and wife. These rules are complex and you should consult with an attorney for the specifics.
c) in a criminal case?
d) if the agreement says so?
If a contract which you have entered into with the person you are suing (or being sued by) states that the losing party will be responsible for the prevailing persons fees, then the court may award reasonable fees.
If I lose can the other side get their attorneys fee/costs paid by me?
Again, see the answer to the last question. If the agreement or a statute calls for it, the court may award attorneys fees.
Do you have questions that you think are of general interest that you would like to see answered here?
E-mail your question to Director@kanecountybar.org. We cannot give legal advice.