Scott Sandness, an attorney in private practice in Jamestown, answers questions related to the practice of law.

What are some of the life situations that require a person to retain an attorney?

If you find yourself in a situation where you do not understand the issues, the duties owed to you and your responsibilities to others, then it is a good idea to consult with an attorney who has experience in that area of the law. The most common examples that I see in Jamestown are criminal cases, parenting and child support issues regarding children, estate planning and probate issues, and guardianships.

Explain attorney/client confidentiality? Can it ever be broken?

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Attorney/client confidentiality or attorney/client privilege is one of the cornerstones of our legal system. Simply stated it means an attorney cannot reveal confidential information about a client to a third party without their client's consent. This privilege encourages full communication between a client and their attorney. The more information that a client gives an attorney, the better the attorney is able to represent them. There are a few exceptions to the rule, one example being if the attorney believes it is necessary in order to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial harm.

What should the client expect when they visit an attorney? How long do most consultations take?

We do not always have all the answers you seek when you visit us. Lawyers often practice in different areas of the law and our knowledge varies from issue to issue. When I meet with clients I do my best to listen to their concerns and assist in finding the best resolution possible. If I am not able to address their needs I do my best to refer them to someone who can. At my office, consultations generally range between half an hour to an hour.

What questions should the client ask when selecting an attorney?

What is the attorney's experience regarding your issue? Do they know the parties involved? Are there any conflicts or concerns that would prevent them from taking your case?

What advantage does working with an attorney offer over having legal documents generated through an online program?

The online programs often generate general or one-size-fits-all-type forms. Conversely, an attorney will listen to you, discuss your personal goals, and create documents that are tailored to your individual needs.

Is it ever advisable for a person to represent themselves in a court of law?

There are situations where a person can adequately represent themselves in court. Common examples are small claims court and traffic court. If an individual decides to represent themselves in a case with a large scope or with larger consequences I recommend at least consulting with an attorney before your hearing.