Similar to how illnesses often necessitate the treatment of a doctor, legal issues often require the expertise and guidance of an attorney. Like medicine, law is complex, specialized and constantly evolving. Understanding laws, as well as legal systems and processes, not only takes years of studying and an advanced degree. It requires continuing education to ensure that attorneys are aware of new laws and stay abreast of changes to existing laws.
Although the increasing availability of legal services on the internet has made it easier to access basic legal information, these services are no substitute for the expert advice of a licensed, local attorney. Typically, online legal services offer only national perspectives, whereas local attorneys are able to provide clients with market-specific, regional insight and the personalized guidance needed to resolve a particular legal issue.
While self-representation in tax-related legal matters may work for some, studies show that representing yourself, or “Pro Se” (the official term for legal self-representation), can result in costly mistakes and unfavorable outcomes. Consider these findings:
- In a study of tax deficiency cases that went to trial in the United States Tax Court, researchers found that the amount at stake that the taxpayer had to pay was an average of thirty-five percent lower for litigants with legal representation.
- Another study revealed that taxpayers with legal counsel went to trial less frequently than those without counsel and more frequently settled their cases at either the district or appellate level.
- Research shows that Americans who file pro se when fighting the IRS only win their cases 10 percent of the time. Those who do have legal representation increase their chance of winning by two-and-a-half times.