Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Fool for a Client? More on DIY Divorce

Now it is often said that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. But is that always true? When something very important is at stake, the answer is usually yes.

However, I was just quoted in today's Boston Globe, by relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein, in her short piece DIY divorce: Is it a good idea? - The Boston Globe. I appear in the article as the attorney who surprised the reporter by favoring do it yourself (DIY) divorce in some cases. Unfortunately, given the shortness of the article, my view that most divorces require legal representation, and that DIY divorces are only advisable, or even possible, in a limited number cases where there is really little in dispute, probably did not come through clearly enough. But the important counterpoint was provided by Attorney Laurie Israel, my friend from Brookline. Of course I think there are important truths in the comments by both of us.

If you're interested in the subject, see my previous post Massachusetts Divorce & Family Law Blog: NOLO, Its New Divorce Blog, and Do It Yourself Divorce and also see the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library's blog post from back in January, discussing and linking to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's recent report on self-represented litigants: Massachusetts Law Updates: Self-Represented Litigants Report.

The fact is many people are taking their divorces, and family law representation, into their own hands, whether we like it or not. As a result our court system is reacting. Eventually, perhaps, there will be more unbundling of legal services, after the current experimentation with such unbundling of legal services in a few counties in Massachusetts has been sufficiently tested so that the results will give a greater degree of comfort to the judges, lawyers and clients who are trying this out, and consequently also to those of us who have not yet tried this out.

I do not believe one size fits all.

The longer I practice, and the more people I see, the more I am convinced that some people need no lawyers, while others should use a mediator, others could make very brief and efficient use of attorneys outside of court (unbundled legal services), others would be wise to choose collaborative lawyers, and still others should use more traditional divorce lawyers, and yes, sometimes even very aggressive trial lawyers who will have to take their cases all the way to trial.

I do imagine that some day it will not seem odd to find other trial lawyers, like me, who can openly acknowledge that many people should in fact handle their divorces on their own, or with minimal help from a mediator or a few attorneys outside of court.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

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