Many people hire a lawyer to handle their case in the court system because it is
hard to do without training and experience. Your case may be so important or so
complex that you will benefit from the assistance of a lawyer. Sometimes when
people represent themselves, they end up having to hire a lawyer to "fix"
their mistakes, which can be costly. It is a good idea to start by talking to a
lawyer about your problem before you decide to represent yourself in court.
to download a brochure titled
Handling Your Case in Family Court
, which offers more information.
Finding a Lawyer
Talk to family and friends for their recommendations. The yellow page directory is
another source for lawyers in your area.
The Missouri Bar provides several tools to help find lawyers or other resources available locally. LawyerSearch
is an online tool to find lawyers currently accepting new clients. You can search by areas of practice and location. The Public Resources Directory
is an extensive listing of resources available to Missouri citizens at the local, state and federal level. Also available is a searchable tool that allows you to check whether a lawyer is in good standing with the Supreme Court of Missouri and included in the Official Missouri Directory of Lawyers
People of modest means may be eligible for assistance through local legal services
Hiring a Lawyer
The Client Resource Guide
is a publication of The
Missouri Bar that contains helpful information about hiring a lawyer. Talk about
the fee at your first meeting with a lawyer. The lawyer wants you to be pleased
with the service and expects to discuss fees with you. Lawyers are prohibited from
charging a "contingent" fee (a percentage of money collected) in family
Lawyers enter into several types of arrangements to represent people:
: A lawyer will discuss your case
and provide some advice at an hourly rate.
Advance Fee Deposit
: A lawyer may ask for part of the fee in
advance, particularly if the lawyer will represent you in court. Often, the lawyer will be responsible for all the services required in the case. The lawyer
may have a fixed fee, or may charge you by the hour.
: It always is best to be informed about your legal rights. New rules allow Missouri lawyers to assist people with some of the legal work in their cases. The client remains responsible for tasks not handled by the lawyer. Examples of work the lawyer may perform include the following: consulting about legal rights and strategies, preparation of court documents, and appearing in court with the client to prove up an uncontested case. Lawyers may charge by the task or by the hour.
The fee generally is based on the amount of work performed by the lawyer. More information is available from the Limited Scope Representation: Hiring a Lawyer by the Task
Collaborative Law: An
exciting new approach to divorce and other family legal disputes. In the collaborative law process each spouse is represented by an attorney hired to advise
the client and achieve a negotiated settlement in a context of full and open
disclosure where the goal is a fair and equitable resolution of all issues. A team
of related professionals can be available to work with the family and the attorneys
providing coaching in communication, guidance on child issues, and practical
assistance with financial matters. The parties and the professionals agree not to
litigate the dispute or participate in court proceedings. The focus and energy and
resources of all involved in the process is on creative problem-solving based on a
sound legal foundation. This model offers a divorce process which protects the
dignity, integrity, and long-term best interests of all family members.
"Pro Bono" Assistance: Some
lawyers are willing to assist people with low income at no cost. Your local bar
association or Legal Services agency has a list of lawyers willing to donate legal
services. Go to the county resources list for your county for details.
The Missouri Bar has a fee dispute resolution program to help
people work out disagreements over fees with their lawyer.
Not sure which way to go?
Going to court without a lawyer is called pro se and pronounced "pro-say." The law and rules of court apply to everyone, people represented by
lawyers and people representing themselves. You can learn more about this by
viewing the education program.