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Do I have to hire an attorney?

dennis_saysEvery day at least one person visiting the Circuit Clerk's Office asks, "Do I have to hire a lawyer?"

It doesn't matter if that person is being sued, getting divorced, is charged with a crime or wants to file a deed, many people don't like having to hire the services of an attorney.

Hiring a lawyer is just like using any professional service. I don't like going to the dentist, but I understand the need to take care of my teeth. I certainly would never attempt to pull my own tooth.

My doctor is a nice guy, but I don't go visit him when I feel well. When I'm sick, I depend on his professional judgment to get me well.

As a small business owner as well as an elected official, my tax returns can be complicated. I use the services of a certified public accountant.

My advice to everyone is that if it is important to you, use the services of an attorney or a title company.

Many people say they can’t afford to pay for professional advice, but a serious mistake can cost a lot more.

Now back to the original question. The answer is no, you do not have to hire an attorney.

Even before the U.S. Constitution was approved, this country recognized the right of people to represent themselves in court. It is called Pro se legal representation. 

Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf." It means advocating on one's own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer.

If you want to represent yourself, the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership website provides many commonly used forms as a service to low-income Arkansans. These interactive forms are available free to Arkansans representing themselves in a civil court matter. Just go to the website at www.arkansaslegalservices.org and select the form you would like from the list under the "Easy to Use Legal Forms" link at the right side of the page.

Forms for preparing a deed and many other frequently used forms can be purchased from many business supply companies or from the internet. Remember, if you prepare your own deed, you must get the land description right. If the original deeds describes the property as  "Northwest corner of the Northeast corner of...." and you put on the deed it is the "Northeast corner of the Northwest corner..." the deed will not transfer the property. The land description must be accurate. It is important to understand you cannot transfer a property if you don't own it. If you don't get the land description right, that's what you have done.

This is the Information Age and many forms are available on the Internet. However, you need to be sure the forms you use are for use in Arkansas. Many legal forms differ from state to state.

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur.”

-- Red Adair

Dennis Milligan

 Saline County Circuit Clerk