Should You Get a Local Attorney?

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If you’re looking for an attorney to help with a legal dispute, you may have thought of this question: “Should I get an attorney located near me?”

My answer, which is a typical lawyer answer, is “maybe.”  It depends.  Lawyers in the U.S. are generally licensed to handle Federal-law matters all across the U.S.  I personally handle Federal- law matters in numerous States, and represent clients located in States other than my mine (Wisconsin) and in other countries as well.  Those clients retained me because I have experience with Federal- law issues at hand.  For them, expertise trumped location.  Why? Because the quality of legal work is the most important issue.  And most legal work is remote: the vast majority of legal work is done via a computer, phone, and mailed or electronically- transmitted documents.  Even clients who live very close to me will only very occasionally meet in person with me, and that is almost always because we decide to meet in person, not because we have to.

With that said, there are some types of matters where an attorney’s location and licensure is very important to a matter.  For example, if a given issue concerns a particular State’s law or legal proceedings, then it will be necessary to have an attorney who is licensed in that State’s laws.  Some of my Federal cases also involve secondary State- law issues, in which event I work along with co-counsel attorneys located or licensed in the pertinent States.  Not all cases warrant this type of work-sharing, however, and an attorney should be able to explain whether it’s necessary or advisable.

Any attorney who you contact should be able to tell you whether your matter involves a State- law issue, or issue that the attorney is unable to assist you with (due to lack of licensure, etc.).  The key is to contact the attorney and ask.  If you feel a particular attorney can help you with your specific issues, don’t assume location is a barrier.

In my view, there are two better questions than “Should I get a local attorney?”  Those are: (1) Can a particular lawyer you’ve learned about help you with your concerns? (2) If that lawyer is not located near you, has that lawyer explained whether his or her location would present a barrier for you?

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