Individual Representation is the best way to describe our relationship with clients that hire us to advocate for them as their attorney We concentrate on advocacy rather than adversarial representation to help clients achieve their goals with the least amount of conflict possible. When you hire us as your counsel we consider it our duty to provide more than just litigation skills. At Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. we provide our clients with information, support, and confidence, in addition to our court experience. Advocacy can include representation in a mediation or negotiation, or participation in a litigation in court, or both. Many of our attorneys have devoted themselves to out-of-court settlement so not all of our staff still participate in litigation. For more information about litigation see the pros and cons below. We have also have provided answers to many of the common questions that we are asked about Individual Representation below that chart. If you would like more information please do not hesitate to call us at 508.655.5980 or e-mail us. –
- Take Advantage of the Court Protections and Rules
- The Court Process is Available to Everyone
- Have an Advocate on your Side
- The Court Deadlines can Keep the Case Moving Forward
- If Served you Have no Choice and must Participate
- Forced to Work on the Court’s Deadlines
- Displaying your Disputes Publicly
- Typically more Expensive than Mediation or Collaborative Law
- Court may not Completely Address Complicated or Unique Issues
It is not ethical or practical for a lawyer to represent both parties in a Divorce or similar action. In fact, Rule 1.7 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from representing a client if that representation will be directly adverse to another client unless the lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client AND each client consents after consultation.
Although both clients might consent, it is not reasonable to believe that a lawyer can represent two adverse clients at the same time in the same action and look out for both of their interests. It is possible to have a lawyer act as a mediator but in that case the lawyer does not represent either party and is not looking out for either of your individual interests as an advocate would. Instead, the role of a mediator is to assist the two parties in reaching an agreement that they are both satisfied with, regardless of whether that agreement in the opinion of the mediator might favor one party or the other. It is also possible to have only one party hire an attorney, but it is important for the other party to recognize that that attorney is not looking out for their interests too.
We often counsel clients who are participating in Mediation in order to ensure that they complete the court paperwork correctly, and that they fully understand the consequences of their agreements. Many mediators will encourage their clients to consult with an attorney at least once regarding their Agreement to ensure they understand what rights they might be giving up. It’s important to understand that a mediator does not represent either party’s interest and is not in a position to tell you if you might be agreeing to something that is not in your best interest.
At Skylark Law & Mediation, PC it is our belief that every case can be settled, and we are always considering the various options that can lead to a mutually agreeable settlement. In many cases the costs of litigation (both emotional and financial) far outweigh the benefits that will be received by “having your day in court.” In much the same way that mediation can give people more power over the process of their divorce, settlement provides both parties with an opportunity to have a say in how their case is settled. In contrast, when a Judge decides the details of your case your life is in the hands of a stranger.
On May 1, 2009, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts expanded the Limited Assistance Representation program (hereinafter “LAR”) to include all trial court departments. At Skylark Law & Mediation, PC we recognize that LAR gives us the opportunity to provide “unbundled” services to clients at a Flat Fee, which can be a great service for clients of limited means.
Limited Assistance Representation (also called “unbundling”) allows a lawyer to provide partial services to a client, limiting the attorney’s representation to only a specific matter while the client manages the remainder of the case. In Family Law, this often means that the lawyer either assists in the preparation of court pleadings, but doesn’t go to court, or agrees to only go to court for specific events. Limiting services in this way allows for greater predictability in the amount of time an attorney might spend working on your case. This predictability allows us to provide a Flat Fee for many family law related services.
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your case can prevent costly mistakes. If you sign agreements you do not understand, you will still be stuck with the consequences. For example, in cases that could involve future alimony, or complicated income or business issues, the choices you make now could create lifetime obligations. We guide our clients through the court process ensuring they understand the documents and agreements they sign, or the consequences of seeking the opinion of a Judge at trial. LAR allows you the option of hiring an attorney for advice, or limited appearances without having to incur the cost of an attorney for your entire case. In many circumstances this also allows the attorney enough predictability to be able to provide a flat fee service, something that is otherwise typically unusual in divorce litigation.
Every case is different, and although our hourly rate is standard, it is very hard to know how much time a particular case will take especially in divorce litigation which often involves high emotions. The LAR program allows us to limit our representation in a way that allows greater predictability in the amount of time we will have to spend on your case. After consultation regarding the type of services you want to limit our representation to and the complications involved in your case, we are usually able to provide a flat fee that we are willing to work for in those circumstances. If you then decide to hire us for further services we can agree to work on an hourly basis or work out a new flat fee for those additional services. In each case, a Limited Assistance Representation Agreement will be signed by both the attorney and the client, specifically stating what services the attorney is to provide and what portions of the case, the client intends to perform on their own.
The LAR program is an exception to the normal rules, in which attorneys file unlimited appearances and “ghostwriting” is frowned upon. Under the LAR program, “ghostwriting” (writing pleadings on behalf of a client who will present them without counsel) and limited appearances are permitted by the Supreme Judicial Court to give more parties the opportunity to have legal advice even if they cannot afford an attorney for their whole case. The program requires that attorneys participate in a training for LAR in order to be eligible to provide these limited services. All of the attorneys at Skylark have participated in the required LAR training and are therefore certified to practice LAR.