Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lawyers Take Cue From Mobile Phone Industry

Cell phone companies have been unbundling their services for years. While these a la carte offerings are not meant for everybody, they work really well for certain individuals. Even though most phone plan providers push their contracts, pay-as-you-go cell phone customers can receive certain freedoms that do not come with a monthly plan. For instance, users only pay for the minutes used and there are no monthly bills. Participants can avoid lock-in and experience cost savings.

On May 1, 2009, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts took its cue from the mobile phone industry and permitted limited assistance representation (LAR) or the "unbundling" of legal services in all trial court departments. This expansion enabled litigants to hire an attorney to assist them with part, but not all, of a legal matter. In essence, attorneys and clients enter into an agreement identifying the tasks that the client is responsible for and the tasks to be handled by the attorney. This means that self-represented individuals of all income levels and especially those with low to moderate incomes can receive competent legal advice, while paying only for the services or "minutes" desired.

There are three basic types of LAR:
  • Document preparation: an attorney may provide LAR in the form of drafting documents, including pleadings and motions
  • Representation in court: an attorney may provide LAR in the form of one or more court appearances
  • Advice and counsel: an attorney may provide LAR in the form of advice and counsel 
Certain litigants can really benefit from LAR such as those who want to pay-as-they-go or those who just need assistance with part of their case. For example, in Massachusetts, a pro se litigant in a divorce matter can represent himself in court, but hire an attorney to help him with the paperwork beforehand. In applicable courts, any party to a case can utilize LAR, but it is important to reinforce that LAR is not for everyone. There are certain situations in which full representation is necessary and a qualified attorney can help you to make this assessment. 

The bottom line is that you don't have to buy the iPhone 6 just because it came out. Sometimes you need all the bells and whistles and sometimes you just need to make a call. Think carefully about what legal services you might need and how much you can afford before hiring an attorney to represent you soup to nuts. Piecemeal legal services may be available.

Click here to learn more or to find a limited assistance representation lawyer in Massachusetts.

The Law Office of Kathryn A. Kellett is included on the Massachusetts Court System list of qualified limited assistance representation providers in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.