Acting as your own Attorney
If paying an advance fee deposit for legal representation isn’t possible for you at this time another option for you to consider is unbundled legal services. This is a pay-as-you-go service option for consultations or specific legal assistance such as reviewing paperwork, answering questions, preparation of legal documents or correspondence, assistance with court filings, serving legal papers, etc.
Bear in mind though that even though you are consulting with an attorney, you represent yourself. In this do-it-yourself age it is reasonable to explore your options to determine if you need paid legal representation or if the matter is something you can handle yourself. The websites on our Resources page direct you to self-help options for a variety of legal matters. I encourage you to check them out before contacting our office.
In Washington State a party representing him or herself in court is referred to as “Pro Se” party. Some legal matters are fairly easy to do yourself such as probating an estate, small claims court, and even some family law matters. I encourage parties to represent themselves in some legal matters, but not all. Sometimes meeting with an attorney is for peace of mind to confirm that you know what to do and you’re on track to do it. However, I strongly urge you to meet with an attorney before you start or respond to a legal matter in order to make sure you are prepared.
Legal expenses are made up of attorney’s fees and costs. Attorney’s fees are the services billed by the attorney or staff. Costs are expenses such as postage, court filing fees, messenger fees, mileage, etc.
Services will either be billed hourly or on a flat fee basis. Depending on the type of services provided we will require an advance fee deposit. The amount of the advance fee deposit depends on the type of legal action. Full representation on a case begins with a signed contract between the Law Firm and the client that details the type of services to be provided and the hourly rate of fees. Where possible, an estimate of fees will be provided, though fees can rarely be accurately estimated at the outset of a litigation case. For those who are unsure if they need full representation we offer a free 20 minute initial phone call to determine what the legal issue is and whether the matter is something our Law Firm can assist you. If the legal issue or your questions require more than a 20 minute phone call you have the option of setting an appointment with the attorney for a paid consultation. The cost of the consultation will be at the attorney’s hourly rate, for the actual amount of time of the consultation. Fees are not listed on this website, but will be disclosed at the time of scheduling the consultation.
Legal Fees & Costs Generally
There are many legal matters you may be able to handle yourself. The websites on the Resources page of this website direct you to self-help instructions for a variety of legal matters. Many of the required court forms (pleadings) in Washington are pattern forms that are available for free download or purchase through your local superior or district court clerk's website and office. For example, Divorce, Garnishment, Protection Orders, Guardianship, etc. can be downloaded for free from the Washington Courts website. Court records and audio recordings of hearings can be purchased at your local courthouse. The state and local court rules that all parties to a legal action must follow are published online through state and local court websites too. An invaluable resource is the public law library at your local superior court courthouse. The librarians will assist you in researching legal issues, finding the rights forms, and assisting you in accessing legal support resources you could not otherwise access on your own.
In Washington a party representing him or herself in court is referred to as Pro Se party. Regardless of the fact that you have no legal experience, you are held to the same standard as an attorney in the legal case. You are required to know and comply with state and local court rules if you act as your own attorney. You are required to be fair and truthful in your dealings with the other party, their attorney, and the court. You are expected to be prepared with appropriate paperwork (pleadings) and to make appropriate legal arguments. The court takes your self-representation very seriously and you are expected to do the same. It is my experience that Pro Se parties struggle to know and comply with the local court rules regarding court deadlines, page limits, signature requirements, confirming hearings, and unauthorized contact with the judge. Just one of those can be a costly mistake, both, financially and emotionally. Do your due diligence to determine if you are comfortable and capable of representing yourself in court. There are some legal matters that are not appropriate for self-representation due to complex court rules and procedures, not to mention the potential case outcome. I would encourage you to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to represent yourself in a legal matter.
What if I Can't Afford an Attorney?