A lawyer, at the most basic level, advises and represents individuals, businesses, and government agencies in criminal or civil legal matters.
But the title “lawyer” can conjure contradictory notions. Are they the protectors of the afflicted, as “Law & Order” would have us believe? Or are they the crooks depicted in John Grisham’s “The Firm”? Are they the smooth-talking smarty-pants billing their client’s gazillions of hours from ergonomic chairs inside their sleek offices? Or are they the safeguards of our futures, the ones we trust to administer our wills? Are they victims of short-sighted public opinion? Or are they simply the butt of many bad jokes? The jury finds this case … complicated.
When it comes to criminal proceedings, the engagement of a lawyer is never mandatory. In criminal proceedings, the opposing party is not a fellow citizen or organization but the Public Prosecution Service. This body ensures that criminal offenses are detected and prosecuted and works closely with the police. If one receives a summons from the Public Prosecution Service, he is regarded as a suspect and the public prosecutor has decided to prosecute him for committing a criminal offense.
Although it is not mandatory to engage a lawyer in criminal proceedings, it is strongly recommended that you do so. In addition to the fact that lawyers specialized and can best represent your interests, (formal) errors are sometimes made during the investigation phase by, for example, the police. Recognizing these, often legally fraught, errors require the professional knowledge a lawyer has and can in some cases lead to a major positive effect on the final verdict, such as acquittal. A lawyer can also be present during your interrogation (and the interrogation of witnesses) and thus ensure your rights.
Lawyers typically do the following:
- Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters
- Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case
- Conduct research and analysis of legal problems
- Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
- Present facts in writing and verbally to their clients or others, and argue on behalf of their clients
- Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, appeals, wills, contracts, and deeds
Lawyers, also called attorneys, act as both advocates and advisors.
As advocates, they represent one of the parties in a criminal or civil trial by presenting evidence and arguing in support of their client.
As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. All attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the laws to the specific circumstances that their clients face.
Lawyers may have different titles and different duties, depending on where they work.
In law firms, lawyers, sometimes called associates, perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Those who represent and defend the accused may be called criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys. Attorneys also work for federal, state, and local governments. Prosecutors typically work for the government to file a lawsuit, or charge, against an individual or corporation accused of violating the law. Some may also work as public defense attorneys, representing individuals who could not afford to hire their own private attorney.
Others may work as government counsels for administrative bodies and executive or legislative branches of government. They write and interpret laws and regulations and set up procedures to enforce them. Government counsels also write legal reviews of agency decisions. They argue civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.
Under certain circumstances, it is possible in a civil case to ask the court for a quick (provisional) decision in an emergency procedure. The emergency procedure is also known as summary proceedings. One can think of, for example, the summary proceedings of ‘Viruswaarheid’ about the abolition of the curfew.
If you start summary proceedings yourself at the civil court, it is mandatory to have a lawyer. This is not the case if the proceedings can be started in the subdistrict court or if you defend yourself in summary proceedings against you.
Although engaging a lawyer is not always mandatory, it is often advisable. Lawyers often know all the ins and outs of the profession and how they can best bring your case to a successful conclusion. However, engaging a lawyer is not only useful if you have to or want to go to court. Think, for example, of a notice of objection against a government agency or a fine, a notice of default due to non-performance, or a defense when you are in danger of being fired. Given his legal knowledge and skills, engaging a lawyer offers you the best chance of success.