A woman called my office recently asking for help with a child custody matter. She found something on the Internet that said I do a sliding fee scale. When I told her that no, I do not discount my fees, I could feel her disappointment. She started to cry. She said, “I just feel so discouraged. I need help, but I cannot afford to pay what everyone is asking for a lawyer.”
“Let’s talk,” I said, “Tell me what’s going on, and I’m sure we can figure out how to get you the help you need.”
She proceeded to tell me about how she represented herself in a divorce involving her now 3-year-old child. Her ex had a lawyer who drafted up the paperwork. She felt like, because she sat in his office and read the papers line for line, that she knew exactly what she was signing. Now, it turns out she has owed child support that she never even knew about, and her ex has been keeping the child from her at his will and claims ‘the papers’ say he can do that.
She was lost. She wanted to see her kid and she could not afford the amount of child support they were claiming she owed given that she was a full-time college student on scholarship. She did not even know where to send the child support payments.
My heart sank when she said, “I really need a lawyer who will help me on a sliding scale. Can you please, please help me?”
Here’s the thing about this young woman: she is intelligent. She knew exactly what questions to ask me, exactly what issues to focus on, and already had a plan for how she wanted to tackle the situation (child support first, then custody/visitation). She knew the consequences for not paying child support and she had already made some calls to the right people. She was stuck because she lacked experience with the process, not because she wasn’t putting forth the effort.
I told her that I can help her. That made her cry again. Apparently she had made lots of calls and so far no one had given her any sense of hope. She said, “Really? No one has told me that before. I’m kind of shocked.”
I gave her my hourly rate and my retainer. She sighed a heavy sigh.
Then, I told her about legal coaching.
I told her that she sounds like an intelligent person, that she obviously is not afraid to get in and get her hands dirty, and she wants to do the right thing. That’s 90% of the battle in family court. The other 10% is knowing the procedure and having the experience to develop an effective strategy to reach your goals. If that’s all you need, then there is really no reason to hire an attorney to do all the other stuff for you.
Yes, you read that right: I, a lawyer, am telling you that you may not actually need to hire a lawyer and pay traditional legal fees.
I told her that for a set monthly fee, she can join the Legal Coaching Program where I help her represent herself in court. She would still have to work diligently, but she would have the benefit of an experienced attorney without the hefty retainer or hourly fees. Her membership fee covers one extended phone call each month where we can cover her questions and tweek her action plan as needed. If she needed more extended coaching sessions, she could book those at her convenience on a reduced rate pay-as-you-go system. And, if quick questions came up that she needed help with, she can text me for quick answers at no additional charge.
I smiled as felt the load lift off this woman’s shoulders. She started crying a little bit again, but this time it was tears of joy. “That costs even less than I was expecting, and it would be so amazing if I really can do this on my own with your help,” she said, “how do I sign up?”
This woman got the exact legal help she needed.
She got it for a fraction of the cost she was expecting.
She had an experienced attorney, not a discount lawyer.
In the end, she got exactly what she wanted.
When her case was over, she said to me, “that was even better than a sliding scale.”
“What was?” I asked.
She smiled, looked at me, and said, “I got results, I saved my money, and now, I know I got this.”
The Legal Coaching Program at The Lien Law Firm helps you represent yourself ‘pro se’ in family court. You can follow this link to apply online and see if the program is a good fit for your needs. To speak with our lawyer (and legal coach) directly, call our office at 314-722-8557 or follow this link to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.