WORK IN PROGRESS
What To Expect When You’re Suing or Being Sued
Continuation of Chapter One
Choosing a Lawyer
Cases that You Should Refer Only to the Experts
In the previous portions of this on going article (please check our archives the first portion appeared on July 27, 2001), we discussed the seven basic traits that you should look for in a lawyer, the dilemma of choosing among the big or small law firm and the solo practitioner, and the issue on legal fees. In this last installment, we will discuss cases falling on fields of law that should be referred only to the experts. This is necessary in order to ensure that very little mistake will be committed in the handling of your case.
No lawyer can say that she can handle every case referred to her. Law touches upon almost every aspect of human life that it is impossible for any lawyer to exhaust it. While most lawyers can handle mainstream litigation, such as land disputes, collection cases, fraud, murder and corporate disputes, certain fields of law are easily beyond the grasp of most lawyers. We believe that at least three fields of law should be left to the experts. By “expert”, we mean that the lawyer has spent a major part of her professional life on the field. She should be so immersed in the field that she has ready answers to problems that non-experts can take days to even understand. These fields are as follows:
Tax and Customs Litigation
Tax and Customs litigation deal with disputes relating to tax assessments, tax refunds, tax protests, as well as tariff and customs disputes, including forfeiture proceedings. This field should be left to the experts because it is a universe in itself. Even the simplest of issues in tax and customs litigation will require thorough study from any practitioner. In addition, the field is highly technical. Legal maxims are mixed with percentages and mathematical formulas that ordinary lawyers will not easily comprehend. One nuance that we learned the hard way, for example, is that all pleadings filed with the customs collector have to bear a documentary science stamps tax. Otherwise, it would be disregarded. Who would know that but only an expert?
Election law requires a lawyer who has a thorough knowledge of election laws and procedures and usually a strong disposition. Court jurisdiction and time periods for filing of pleadings appeals and other documents are often confusing and tough. Many election protests have been lost on technicalities because counsels are not familiar with the basic election laws. In addition, the election lawyer often has to deal with a roomful of people and confused election registrars. Your election lawyer should have a loud but not annoying voice to be convincing in this situation. In addition, deadlines in election disputes are really tight. Sometimes your counsel will only have the following day to file her protest. Only lawyers who are used to this environment can deliver the goods to their clients.
Admiralty deals with the law of sea transportation. It has been around for centuries. Yet, demurrage, salvage, collisions and other disputes relating to admiralty are not easy to understand and have been mastered by only a handful of practitioners. This should be left to the experts.
The common element in the above fields of law is that they not only have a different set of laws, they also have different sets of procedures in resolving disputes. We find that their procedures as complex and uncommon that only experts in the field may fill at ease in litigating those cases. While you can take a chance on a neophyte to handle any case falling under the three on your behalf, the risk of failure is going to be great that you might as well not have lawyer at all. You don’t want your lawyer coming to you with a decision that says you lost because your lawyer missed one rule in the book, and not because of lack of merit. It is one of the most agonizing losses you will experience in your life.
Next Chapter: Preparing to Go to Court