You Pay Less in Legal Fees if You Can Do Some of the Work
Handling your own legal needs without an attorney is called “pro se representation.” This means going to court without a lawyer or handling some other legal need, like a will or a contract, by yourself. If you feel uneasy about that, you should. But you really want to save money on legal fees? You can. Officially, it’s called “unbundled legal services.” More commonly it is referred to as “limited services,” “limited representation,” and sometimes “coaching.” You do some of the work, the lawyer does some, and you pay only for what the lawyer does.
Maine Bar Rules now allow attorneys to help clients with parts of a larger case, charging standard fees for what the lawyer does. Usually you work out a written agreement stating who is doing which parts. This keeps responsibilities and fees clear.
Unbundled or limited is not the same as “reduced fee services,” which are available for only some kinds of cases, and most often for people of severely limited means. In your case, for whichever tasks the attorney takes on, he will charge standard fees, and you should be sure to reach a very clear agreement about how much the fees will be, and how they will be billed.
Not every legal need is appropriate for the unbundled approach. Some attorneys prefer to be retained for the whole case, or not at all. Many legal matters, such as a personal injury case or bankruptcy, are quite complex and should be handed only by an expert. Other, more straightforward matters, like collection of a debt, are easier to divide between a lawyer and client.
LRIS invites member attorneys to sign up for unbundled services in various areas of law. When you call and describe your situation, we search our database and come up with an attorney who offers unbundled services in the area of your legal need. Call us, and we can help you find an attorney.
Before you decide to take the unbundled approach, do some research on the kind of case you have. Also be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses. Would you feel comfortable speaking in court? The better prepared you are, the better decision you will make on whether to unbundle your case and the better you will work with the attorney and make the most of his advice and services.
These sites may be helpful.
www.mainebar.org, click on Find A Lawyer – for referral to an attorney doing Unbundled Law, and for informational publications
www.helpmelaw.org – for information on most areas of non-criminal law
http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/consumer_law_guide.shtml – for information regarding landlord/tenant and consumer law issues
http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/specialized/small_claims/index.shtml – for information about how small claims court works
http://www.courts.state.me.us/citizen_info/representing_yourself.html – for information about representing yourself in Maine courts
http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/specialized/family/handbook_parents.html – regarding child protection cases
http://www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/forms/index.html – links to legal forms for everything from probate, to family, to business cases
http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/index.htm – for assistance researching Maine law
http://ilapmaine.org/about.html – for information regarding immigration and citizenship
For a Limited LEgal Services Attorney
This is for general information only. It is not intended as legal advice.