Limited Scope Legal Representation

Attorney's Fees - The cost of Divorce or Custody FightIf you are considering a divorce, custody modification, or child support change the first two obstacles you will encounter are (1) the decision to go forward with the legal action and (2) paying for the divorce, custody modification or child support change.

Do you want to do this yourself to save money?  Do you have the time and energy to invest but not the cash to pay a lawyer to do it for you? Are you concerned that the forms you get and fill out on-line are just not enough?  Would you hire a lawyer if he would professionally assess your case, fill out your forms, professionally prepare your Court Orders, and then explain to you what to do so that you can finish the case yourself?  What if this lawyer would do the hard work, the real “legal work” only and charge you only for what he does, letting you take over the case and complete it?

Now you can have it all with limited scope legal representation a/k/a unbundled legal services.

Limited Scope Representation is a legal contract in which the lawyer agrees to perform only certain duties.  These duties are delineated by the client and are on a “fixed price” base.  In other words, if you want to divorce, and you need a lawyer to draft the Original Petition and a simple Agreed Final Decree but you do not want to pay the lawyer to file the petition, secure citation and service, get your spouses signature and show up at the courthouse for a fee of several thousand dollars just to tell the Judge you and your spouse have an agreement – you can hire the lawyer on a limited scope basis to do only those things you want him to do.  You, the client (what some industries would call “the stakeholder”) take care of the details that you can handle and pay for professional services only for those things you cannot  do (or do not want to do) yourself

Limited Scope Representation cost a lot less than a traditional divorce or child custody/child support case.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just pay whatever is asked by the first lawyer you encounter.  That is certainly one way to go about your business, but the more practical client knows that a large part of the attorneys fees is spent waiting.  Have you ever been to the courthouse?  If not, it may be shocking to you to learn that the Courthouse is more akin to the DMV than not because there are a lot of people, they all arrive at the same time and they all just need a little time.  However, just like renewing your driver’s license – there is a process of “hurry up and wait your turn”.  If you have a lawyer on the payroll, that lawyer has two choices when waiting for the case to be called – (1) bill you and sit there, or (2) leave and do something for another client and hopefully make it back on time with a mind clearly set on your case.  Which do you think is the best choice?

With limited scope representation, you pay the lawyer to assess the case, help you with strategy if any is needed, prepare the forms, and do legal research.  You do everything else, from negotiating with your spouse or the other parent, collecting evidence, copying the evidence for presentation at the hearing, coordinating witnesses, and presenting the case to the Judge.  Best of all, you don’t have to pay an attorney to sit there with you for an hour or more just to stand up and make a 10-15 minute presentation when the case is called.  And, if you and your spouse are not quite in agreement, you can seek mediation without attorneys to resolve those last few issues.

Pro-Se litigant or educated and prepared self-starter

Many litigants try to “do this myself” – what the law calls a “Pro Se Litigant” (Pro Se is latin for “on one’s own behalf”). In fact the law says a litigant has an absolute right to represent himself but that is more akin to my playing a game of one-on-one against a NBA all-star point guard.  Sure, it would be fun.  I may even score one basket in a game to 21.  But the end result is a total domination of the court by the professional, which is the way it should be.  He is paid a lot of money to know all the rules, all the tricks, and spends hours every day honing and polishing those skills.  I am supposed to loose this game because I am going against a professional.  Which is why it is best to leave the heavy lifting to a professional.  Just because you can do the divorce or custody change or child support modification pro se, does not mean you should.

cкупой платит дважды

My russian friends have a saying – cкупой платит дважды – which translates loosely to “a cheap man will have to pay twice”.  No where is this more true than in the realm of legal services.  There are things a client/litigant can do and there are some things a client/litigant should leave to the professionals.  The difference between being “wise with your money” and being a “cheapskate” is knowing when you can do it and when you should seek professional help.

Fighting over the house in a divorceFor example, a couple years ago I was hired to fix a problem that should have never happened.  The client and his former wife divorced.  They had no kids, and the biggest asset they owned was a house.  Both agreed to divide everything except the house, both wanted to keep it and neither had a lawyer.  They had a hearing in which the husband stated he would pay the wife $5000 if he could keep the house.  Wife said it was her house and husband needed to get out (ironically, she also stated she was not willing to give the husband one penny for the privilege).  The Judge basically decided the house was worth more to the husband than to the wife and gave husband the house on the condition he pay the wife $5000.  These are two reasonably intelligent people, and to this point they had done an admirable job without any professional assistance.  However, since neither husband nor wife had any legal training – the decree they prepared left a lot to be desired.  While the words on the paper were there in black and white, each interpreted it differently and therefore the litigation continued for nearly 4 years costing thousands of dollars on each side fighting over the wording of a poorly written decree and the meaning of the words.  A lawyer could have prepared a proper decree for a few hundred dollars.

Hire an attorney to prepare documents and the things you cannot.

There is an option for the savvy client.  One that allows the client to represent himself, save thousands of dollars, and still get professional results.  Hire an attorney to analyze your facts and the law, have the lawyer advise your best course of action and prepare your pleadings and orders, and pay the lawyer to educate you on the procedural issues and strategy to represent yourself.  Then you, the savvy client, can handle the “hurry up and wait” without paying a lawyer to keep you company.