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Criminal Defense

Hiring a Lawyer for Someone Else

4 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Since legal situations can have an enormous impact on someone’s life, it may be helpful to find a lawyer for a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

Many people involved in legal issues want an attorney right away. However, for any number of reasons, they may have difficulty getting one on their own. 

You might be in charge of finding an attorney to represent someone else if the other person is:

  • in jail,
  • incapacitated,
  • unable to afford a lawyer,
  • your employee,
  • trusting of your judgment,
  • out of the country or having difficulty reaching local lawyers.

You may also find yourself in this situation if you are another person’s legal guardian, or if they are a minor.

If you’re not part of the legal matter at hand, you can limit your role in the process to finding and recommending an attorney. On the other hand, you can directly pay for the attorney on someone else’s behalf.

While you can research and reach out to lawyers on your own, an attorney will need the consent of the person involved in a case to actually represent them.

Where to Find a Lawyer

You can find a lawyer on someone else’s behalf in the same way that you would find an attorney for yourself. One way to screen for a good fit is to look for attorneys who are familiar with similar cases. Local directories or attorney finder services like Unbundled Legal Help are a great resource.

Simply taking the time to research attorneys for someone, or offering that person a second opinion, can be useful during a difficult time. For especially serious situations, it may be best to wait until the other party has spoken with an attorney before asking sensitive questions about their case.

You can go further by contributing to someone else’s attorney fees. In that case, it would be good for you to get an understanding of their potential legal costs before going forward. That way, you and your friend or family member will be able to plan for different outcomes without being surprised by costs.

The main difference between finding an attorney for yourself and another person is that the other person has to agree. You won’t automatically be involved in the other person’s case. 

Attorney-Client Privilege Still Applies if You Hire a Lawyer for Someone Else

Even if you’ve found and paid for someone else’s legal representation, you will not be the attorney’s client.

The attorney’s conversations with their client will remain confidential. The client’s decisions about what to do in their case will also remain their own. Your friend or family member will be allowed to discuss things with you, but they don’t have to do so.

The attorney will be required to maintain attorney-client privilege, meaning that what is discussed between them and their client is private. A lawyer who does not adhere to this standard would be committing malpractice. 

Your family member can decline an offer of an attorney. Outside of special circumstances, the attorney will need their consent before representing them in court.

Legal Outreach as an Incarcerated Person

In-prison legal services may help prisoners find a lawyer. Jail officials may have a list of attorneys on hand.

Incarcerated persons are allowed to speak with an attorney privately. If in a correctional facility, they should ask for assistance in making a call. 

How Private Lawyers Compare to Public Defenders

Persons without the ability to pay for a defense in a criminal case have the right to counsel. This means that the government will appoint a free attorney, a public defender, instead of having the person represent themself. This applies in additional cases in certain states.

Public defenders provide a valuable service, but they may be more overworked than a private lawyer. Getting a lawyer for someone who can’t afford it is a possibility, and does not negate their right to a public defender should you ultimately decline to pay more.

Everyone deserves a good lawyer. If you’re in a position to give someone this opportunity, you can do your best to assist.

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