One study related to the IRS scandal showed that non-profit groups with legal representation were subjected to fewer probing questions and experienced fewer obstacles during the non-profit application process than groups without legal representation. Interestingly, many groups that began the application process without an attorney noticed that their applications were quickly approved right after hiring an attorney.
This is probably not all that surprising to attorneys. We, of all people, believe that our services are valuable. One can typically expect a better result and smoother legal process by hiring a lawyer, although not everyone is convinced of this.
In this day and age it is easy to obtain information about any legal topic. Many people feel that as long as they are well informed and educated about their specific legal predicament then they can handle the issue on their own. In a down economy it is even more common for individuals to try resolving legal problems on their own, thinking they can save a buck.
The answer to the question, “Do I really need an attorney for this?” is almost always “no.” But knowing the law is only half the battle, and an attorney can bring so much more to the table than just information:
- ability to strategize
- ability to organize information
- ability to present information (verbally and in writing) in a logical fashion
- superior persuasion skills
- ability to apply the law to a specific set of facts
- real life experience
It’s one thing to know rules in the abstract, but it’s quite another to have seen how the rules play out in practice. This is particularly true in the world of Federal Tax Resolution where the IRS is inconsistent and unpredictable in the application of the rules. It is the difference between book smarts and street smarts, and tax lawyers typically have both.
Yes, of course you need to do your own research. And, yes, you need to be careful and thorough in the process of hiring an attorney. But you should also be well aware of what you may be giving up by representing yourself in an important legal dispute.