How much lawyer does a person need?

The writer Ludwig Thoma, who studied law, introduces the main character in his story “The Contract” with the following words:

“The royal district court councillor Alois Eschenberger was a good jurist and also otherwise of moderate intellect. He was not concerned with the essence of things, but solely with under what legal concept the same were to be subsumed.”


Lawyers, as the saying goes, are literally capable of anything. However, what you can expect as a customer or client in each case depends very much on what profession the lawyer is in. Training, tasks and professional duties are sometimes very different. The notary: Notaries are needed, especially when the law stipulates that a contract must be notarized in order to become effective.

This is to protect against haste, and also to provide the opportunity for legal instruction on the consequences of a contract. In this profession, there are great differences in practice when it comes to patience with the clientele – but also when it comes to the willingness of the clientele to discuss an arrangement with the notary in detail in advance. A notary, it is said, is neutral: but this is a mistake. The notary is impartial, he should support an awkward or weak party, so that the notarial agreements can be balanced. In case of doubt, the notary will even be able to take sides, as it were, so that a contract does not turn out to be too one-sided. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of investors in tax saving schemes have experienced that the notary usually leaves it to the parties to check what economic values lie behind a contract. A dilemma, because it is often not possible for the notary to see whether one side is paying too much in euros and cents. It would therefore be a mistake to believe that the notary usually checks economic risks or always vouches for the fiscal success of an agreement.

The Lawyer:

In all European countries, the lawyer is regularly a party representative. His task is then to unilaterally support only the side of his client. From the citizen’s point of view, it appears to be an imposition on the legislator to regulate more and more and more complicated life. Transparency and comprehensibility of legal regulations are not in fashion: Germany has the most complicated tax system in the world, with the most paragraphs and probably the most changes every year – worldwide. At many weddings: Lawyers are allowed to practice almost any other profession in addition, from taxi driver to property manager to board member.

However, it is not considered reputable to mix several activities – for example, as a property manager to settle rental disputes in court yourself. Anyone who takes on a case as a lawyer will first want to see if they can handle it – not every lawyer is experienced in every field. The good lawyer will be able to, and will have to, quickly familiarize himself with many areas. Advocacy: Now how do you tell the sheep from the goats? What makes the quality? First of all, it is certainly a matter of attitude: Rarely in contact with the professional lawyer the impression “the only one who bothers is the client” is created, when there is no time for a conversation and the real motives and intentions, and especially the life story, the case. The good lawyer will often have to work very carefully, and especially explain his client’s story to the court. Too many paragraphs in pleadings will be interpreted by the court as attempted paternalism by counsel. The art of the lawyer is to present the legally necessary facts.


Written interaction:

Some details get lost in the conversation, and it’s the little things that can matter: You should pay attention to whether your lawyer is interested in you and your case: Above all, whether he asks you to describe the matter in writing, so that no information can be lost. This is mostly an expression of an effort for quality of work, because the lawyer can only judge legally what he also knows as facts of life. The work of the lawyer is therefore initially past-oriented – he examines the legal situation in a concrete case. They should not withdraw from their case, i.e. put the files on the lawyer’s table according to the motto “please do not get in touch again until everything is solved”.

On the contrary, your cooperation is always required. You should be cautious if the lawyer wants to “take your case out of your hands”, for example, accepts your letters and documents uncritically in the original. A good lawyer will usually ask you for copies, and make sure you keep your originals regularly: How else will you be able to check that your lawyer has understood or written everything correctly. Speaking of writing: A good lawyer will always send you a draft of any important letter or brief in advance, for proofreading and approval – after all, this can improve the quality of the work. Even verbal advice, you should always get in writing, so that no important detail is overlooked.

By the way, it is not only dubious if you as a client do not receive transcripts. If your attorney leaves your case unaddressed for months for no reason, you should find new counsel who can devote serious attention to your matter. It can also happen that courts work slowly – 11 years of proceedings is not unconstitutional, 26 years is. This is what lawyers then derisively call the justice credit for the defendant. Remuneration: The majority of lawyers earn around 1500 euros net after deducting office costs – pension and health insurance are deducted from this. In terms of work, this usually involves a 60-hour week, about a third of which is spent on training and office management alone.

In the commercial sector, but now also in private cases, remuneration on a time basis has become common. Fees between 25 and 250 Euro per quarter of an hour are common. From the client’s point of view, it is important to know that the lawyer does not have to provide information about the legal remuneration. So it is best to agree on a fee with the lawyer beforehand and get an estimate of the time and effort involved – this is often only possible on a rough basis, but it does serve as a guide as to whether the matter is worth it to you. Specialist lawyer: The so-called specialist lawyers are an “invention” of the professional chambers – they only exist for a few areas of law, and unfortunately such designations are not a guarantee for optimal work. It will be respectable if the lawyer refers the matter to a reliable colleague if it is technically unfamiliar.

Not every lawyer can afford to send a client on. If the lawyer guarantees you that he will win a case in court, then leave it alone: The often changeable fate of many a case through the instances shows that no lawyer can foresee with certainty how a case will turn out in the end. It is not uncommon for a high court to change its case law unexpectedly – in which case disappointment may be inevitable.


Inexpensive paths to justice:

There are ways to get legal advice cheaper than going to a lawyer. If you are destitute, you can contact the advice centre at the local court. In some areas of law, such as tenancy law and social law, members of certain associations often receive legal advice almost free of charge. Legal expenses insurance, as practice shows, has numerous loopholes – the costs of a divorce or a building process are not paid. Also according to the amount, sometimes not the complete compensation is refunded by the insurance. Numerous institutions have appointed ombudspersons or offer a conciliation procedure. An example of this is the crafts sector. Finally, there is an increase in the number of cases in which the parties to a dispute voluntarily and jointly decide to engage the services of a mediator. This procedure is very successful in practice, when the parties must continue to deal with each other in the future. Think about divorce proceedings, for example, if there are children involved.


Richard Widmark once said:

“Nothing makes a man so intolerable as the consciousness of having money enough to pay for a good lawyer.” I wish you little strife!


by Dr. Johannes Fiala

Our office in Munich

You will find our office at Fasolt-Strasse 7 in Munich, very close to Schloss Nymphenburg. Our team consists of highly motivated attorneys who are available for all the needs of our clients. In special cases, our law firm cooperates with selected experts to represent your interests in the best possible way.

About the author

Dr. Johannes Fiala Dr. Johannes Fiala

Dr. Johannes Fiala has been working for more than 25 years as a lawyer and attorney with his own law firm in Munich. He is intensively involved in real estate, financial law, tax and insurance law. The numerous stages of his professional career enable him to provide his clients with comprehensive advice and to act as a lawyer in the event of disputes.
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