I don’t want to resort to scare tactics, as there are some instances where the person may be able to handle it on their own. If you are facing a legal problem, and are unsure if you need an attorney, find out what the worst case scenario will be – if that’s a lot more than the cost of an attorney, time to be very honest about your chances beating the other party in court. I’ll give you a one piece of solid advice right now – if the other party has an attorney and you don’t, your options aren’t as good as you think. If you can’t afford to lose, you need help.

Modest Means is a great way to get advice, but as I said, it’s not in every region, and some people make too much to qualify. You do have other options – and one of them, is to ask if the lawyer offers Un-Bundled services. This may be a way to get the information you need and still keep your costs down.

Think of the classic case of attorney-client contracting – the client gets a 30 minute appointment, explains the problem, and the lawyer agrees to take the case, and then takes over the situation. The Lawyer (and staff) do the research, prep the case, deal with the opposing side, gets all the evidence together, negotiates, manages witnesses, and eventually goes to trial on your behalf. This is your complete, “Bundle” of services which include research, document management, communications, counseling, as well as legal representation.  To save some money (if you have the time to devote to it), you can take on some of these jobs, and reserve the attorney work for the things you cannot do.

Keep in mind, some attorneys may not want to do this. The reason may not be greed – it may be a concern for your case and the worry that if they do not do all the jobs, a job won’t be done right. This would leave the client exposed, and good attorneys don’t want that – but in my view, it’s better than a person going in with no help at all. A lot of lawyers are starting to come around to this view point.

If your attorney is open to an unbundled services arrangement, be realistic about what you can handle, and what you need the attorney to do. If you are going to use the lawyer to consult with as you prepare to represent yourself, do the homework and be prepared to use the consulting time well. If you want to do the pre-trial work yourself, be careful, you can lose a case before you ever see a trial if you don’t meet all the deadlines. Litigation is complex, but with guidance, you can take on some of the tasks, and save a lot of money.

So – if you find an attorney you like, who seems like they are the right fit for your problem but you can’t afford the deposit, ask about unbundled services. How much can you do, and just have the lawyer handle a few jobs? This will lower the amount the attorney will need to do the case, and it will keep you intimately involved with the litigation process. However, a word of caution – legal work is intense and confusing. Please only use unbundled services when you know you have the time and ability to take on the complexity of a lawsuit.

-Trail Potter, Esq.

AZ Bar: http://www.azbar.org/workingwithlawyers/topics/howtotalktoyourlawyer

ABA Journal: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/lawyers_offering_unbundled_legal_services_must_consider_the_ethics_issues/

Modest Means: https://www.azflse.org/modestmeans/