What is an Advocate?
An Advocate is someone who works on behalf of another person. People in need of advocates are usually members of a population that may have significant challenges or roadblocks to resources, understanding or navigation within the legal system.
Common Types of Populations That Benefit from Advocate Help:
- Abuse victims
- Victims of crimes
Unlike attorneys, there is no certification or degree process associated with becoming an advocate. The best advocates usually have many years of experience regarding the community they have chosen to represent.
Advocates regularly attend continuing education, training, and workshops. It is also not uncommon for an advocate to be a college or law student. Many advocates are employed by law firms or government agencies. More experienced advocates tend to be subject matter experts and often have authored books, articles, blogs, and informative/training materials.
When deciding if you would like to use an advocate to assist you with a matter, do not hesitate to ask the advocate for references or materials that verify their expertise. Good advocates should be forthcoming with their experiences and be able to easily demonstrate their knowledge and familiarity with the community and situations they claim to represent. Advocates are a great option for those who need good information but who may not have funds available to pay legal consulatations.
Since non-lawyer advocates are not attorneys or members of the bar, they are not able to “practice law” and must adhere to the strict rules each state has regarding their involvement in legal matters. Non-lawyer advocates will not be able to represent clients in court and should not be preparing complaints or other legal paperwork on a client’s behalf. While it is not necessary that an advocate work directly with or be supervised by an attorney, it certainly does not hurt. More experienced advocates may even position themselves as mediators working to resolve disputes between parties in order to try to avoid lengthy and costly trials. Depending on your situation, it may make sense to work with an advocate who has a close relationship with an attorney or law firm.
When hiring an advocate remember the following points:
- Good advocates should know their professional limits. They should be able to tell you upfront how much they can do for you in your situation and under what circumstances you will need to talk to an actual attorney.
- Good advocates can explain to individuals their rights within the areas they have expertise.
- Good advocates are generally well versed in explaining the laws as they pertain to the population they are representing.
- Good advocates should be able to outline legal processes that may be needed to remedy a situation.
- Advocates who claim they can do the same thing as an attorney should be avoided.
- Be aware that, depending on the state you reside in, advocates may or may not be able to participate in legal proceedings such as hearings.
If your business has an issue in which an advocate is involved, give us a call. We can counsel you on what your next problem solving step should be. Contact Law 4 Small Business today!