What is Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) and Is It Right For You?
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You may have heard about Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) from attorneys and legal organizations in Massachusetts. At first blush it may seem like an option only available to destitute clients, or a type of representation that may not afford you the piece of mind of traditional representation.
Both of those assumptions are, of course, false. Many individuals seeking legal advice and representation hire attorneys on a limited basis for a variety of reasons, including:
• To maintain a sense of control over the work that gets done on their behalf;
• To reduce fees spent by limiting the tasks that an attorney will complete;
• To obtain experienced legal advice and representation for a less complicated legal matter; or
• To have a competent professional draft important legal documents.
What Is LAR?
LAR is a type of attorney-client relationship where a client hires an attorney to complete a limited set of tasks. The client is then responsible for all other aspects of his or her case.
LAR attorneys owe the same duties to their clients as any other attorney would, and commonly charge their usual rate for their services. Clients control the amount of money they spend on their case by limiting the work that the attorney completes.
How Does It Work?
LAR typically involves the following types of services:
• Document preparation. An attorney can prepare pleadings, motions or other legal documents. You can then use those documents for your case. The attorney is not required to identify himself or herself, but pleadings should state that an attorney helped prepare it;
• Court representation. You may hire an attorney to represent you for a specific hearing or set of hearings. Note that the attorney’s appearance does not replace your own, and you must be present at the hearing as well; and
• Advice or consulting. You can hire an attorney on a one-time basis, or for regular meetings to discuss and obtain advice concerning your legal issue.
Attorneys and clients often create a complete “checklist” of tasks related to the client’s case. The items are then assigned to either the attorney or the client, depending on the arrangement. This process ensures that both the client and attorney fully understand who is responsible for completing each task.
How Much Does It Cost?
Hiring an LAR attorney can cut down on legal fees if used wisely. Typically LAR attorneys have a pay-as-you-go or a flat fee-for-service structure.
It’s important to understand that an LAR attorney may factor in his or her usual rate — determined by level of expertise and years of experience — when calculating a fee structure. While LAR can save you money by limiting the amount of work your attorney does, it is not always low-fee or pro bono representation.
Is LAR Available for All Cases?
LAR arrangements are permitted in almost all courts in Massachusetts, including District Courts, Probate and Family Courts, Housing Court, Land Court and Boston Municipal Court. It is not yet available, however, for Superior Court cases.
Is LAR Right For Me?
LAR can be a good option if you have a general understanding of your matter and/or the legal process, and you would like some assistance on completing certain tasks, large or small.
It may be that after consulting with an attorney, the attorney determines that LAR may not be right for you. Your case may be too complex or involved, rendering full-service representation necessary so that your attorney can effectively and zealously advocate for your interests.
LAR is NOT emergency representation. If you are seeking LAR, you should hire an attorney within a reasonable time to allow the attorney enough time to prepare.
What Should I Look For When Hiring an LAR Attorney?
It’s important to make sure that your LAR attorney has completed the required training and certification processes promulgated by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Order.
As with any other matter, your attorney should be experienced in the field in which he or she offers services. Furthermore, your attorney owes you the same duties of competency, communication and confidentiality as he or she would if you were a full service client.