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Bridging the Gap in the Legal System

The latest statistics in the State of Connecticut indicate that due to the recession and increasing hourly rates charged by lawyers, over fifty percent of family law litigants are entering the family courts without an attorney. Self-represented parties are not just people who fall into a low income bracket but include middle class litigants experiencing unfavorable economic conditions who cannot afford a traditional full-service family attorney. In addition, the self-represented also consist of the independent-minded consumer of legal services who demands more control over their case than the traditional model affords. For many individuals who have been negatively impacted by the downturn of the economy, self-representation today is not a choice, it is a necessity.

The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch has a total of 13 court service centers and 11 information desks, and while they assist self-represented individuals with filling out forms and advising them on court procedures, they are not allowed to give legal advice. Statistics show that in 2007 the centers helped 240,000 self-represented litigants, and in 2008 the number rose to just over 260,000, and is expected to keep growing. Self-represented individuals, especially in the area of family and divorce law often feel there is nowhere to turn when they cannot afford full representation. Legal Coaching bridges the gap between the high cost of full representation or going it alone.

A new niche, Legal Coaching, is an alternative to self or full representation, where a lawyer partners with the self-represented individual to coach them through their family law matter. With Legal Coaching the self-represented party remains in full control of their case at all times. Lawyers and clients discuss options, the legal process, issues in dispute and the specifics of their case, and together they decide which parts of the case require legal assistance. Clients pay a reduced rate, on a pay as you go basis. Legal Coaching can range from helping clients fill out court forms to the daunting task of completing a financial affidavit, assisting with motions and court conferences to explaining court procedures, as well as drafting agreements and negotiating settlements. Legal Coaching is the best alternative for someone who does not have the means to pay the high cost of full representation yet wants and needs the advice and support of an experienced family lawyer.

Connecticut Legal Coaching:
"The Rules of Professional Conduct encourage all attorneys to make legal advice and access to the judicial system available to all. I firmly believe that building Legal Coaching into my Family Law Practice will allow me to assist more individuals who otherwise would be entering the court system with little or no legal advice. Legal Coaching not only serves the individual who comes to me for support, assurance and guidance but it is an invaluable service to the court system and fellow members of the Connecticut Bar who are struggling with this new and increasing class of self-represented litigants. Legal Coaching and other forms of Unbundled Legal Services should be embraced by the public and the legal community".

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If the court refuses to award alimony at the final hearing, and if alimony is not included in the final judgment, neither spouse can return to court in the future and request alimony due to a change in circumstance. Many final divorce judgments in Connecticut award $1 a year in alimony because this preserves the right to revisit the alimony issue if circumstances change.
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