Navigating your Way Through Divorce Lawyers, Divorce Coaches, and 'Unbundled Legal Services'
If you’ve ever needed legal help, you know that finding the right lawyer can feel a lot like wandering alone at night in the Fire Swamp. There are plenty of R.O.U.S.s and the financial hole you may find yourself in can feel a lot like lightning sand beneath your feet. So, what should an ordinary person needing a simple divorce do? There are certainly situations where having a highly skilled attorney on retainer is necessary. Indeed, getting good legal advice in any case is critical. But for those with more straightforward or low-conflict matters, hiring a fancy, full-time, traditional attorney is probably unnecessary.
Legal services are due for momentous change in the distant or not-so-distant future. For my inaugural blog post, I thought I would cover some potentially shifting ground in the legal world with a discussion on alternative professional legal services such as divorce coaches and divorce consultants. What are they? What is the difference between a traditional attorney, a divorce consultant, and a divorce coach?
Traditional attorney services describes the type of professional legal services where a client retains the attorney to appear on the client’s behalf in a full time capacity. The attorney may make an official appearance on the record if a court case exists. In these circumstances, all communications about the case are made through counsel. The attorney will handle most of the strategy and action that occurs in a client's case.
Typically, attorneys require a hefty retainer fee paid in full at the outset. In my corner of the world, retainer fees for a typical contested divorce or custody matter range from $2,000 to $5,000, or more depending on the firm. The attorney usually applies his or her hourly rate to all "billable hours." Attorneys in Weber County average about $200/hour, however you will find variation if you ask around. Attorneys are known for applying their billable rate for things beyond court time and document preparation, such as letters, emails, telephone calls, and travel to and from court or mediation. In other words, it adds up very quickly. It makes sense that the more you use your attorney, the higher your bill will probably be.
Divorce coaches arise from a variety of backgrounds including social workers and counselors, matrimonial lawyers, or financial planners. Their main purpose is to guide and support you through the difficult transition of divorce/separation and maximize your personal and legal success.
Divorce coaches can offer empathy and care beyond what traditional lawyers are likely to offer. They mentor you. One might operate as your "thinking partner" and sounding board as you navigate the divorce path. One critical difference between a divorce coach and a divorce lawyer is that a coach does not provide legal advice. As such, they are not a replacement nor substitution for good legal help.
Divorce coaches can help you at every stage of a divorce, from pre-planning to post-divorce and can help you avoid common mistakes. It follows, then, that a coach can help you save money by helping you avoid common pitfalls.
Unbundled Legal Services
Unbundled legal services are gaining traction in the United States where attorney fees are fast becoming prohibitively expensive for most. This seems to be true even for simple Divorce and parentage matters.
A divorce consultant may not directly represent their client. Rather, people hire these legal professionals for general advice, guidance, and education on the common legal issues encountered in divorce and parentage matters. For example, one might use a divorce consultant for advice on their self-filed divorce forms and financial statements. A Divorce consultant may guide a pro se litigant through the complex and convoluted Utah divorce process. Consultants can review stipulations and agreements and offer general legal advice to the pro se litigant. Divorce consultants empower their clients through education and information. A divorce or parent consultant may also be hired for specific, limited assignments.
Divorce consultants also provide some financial relief since they aren’t charging you for their time appearing on your behalf, preparing for hearings, making phone calls, and writing letters and emails. Often divorce consultants’ hourly rates are slightly less than the hourly rate for a traditional attorney. In my case, I offer divorce and parent legal consulting services at the rate of $155/hour. My traditional attorney hourly rate is $200/hour.
Like all complicated things, divorce is a process. As a divorce attorney and divorce coach, I am well-positioned to help you avoid the many financial and emotional pitfalls and traps that are all too common in divorce. As your coach, I will empower you with education, information, and clear guidance to help you navigate the many tough choices you will face.
image above © 2017 Jeremy Poorte
Jennifer is a trusted family lawyer in Utah, having litigated hundreds of cases as a member of Neeley & Neeley Law Office, LLC in Ogden, Utah. Her passion is helping others achieve personal harmony, success, and happiness.
Image on header © 2017 Jeremy Poorte