f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

December 19, 2003

A Few Stocking-Stuffers for Legal Consumers

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:59 pm

Light Bulb good ideas
A number of recent developments should bring joy to consumers of legal services — especially, if they are copied throughout the nation.  Let’s hope that these efforts to increase consumer options (and maybe save them a few dollars) are infectious


California Court of Appeal Creates Step by Step Guide for the Self-Represented in Civil Appeals


As reported at the Self Help Support website, The California Court of Appeal in San Diego has recently released an online manual for pro se litigants (and “attorneys with little or no appellate experience”) who are bringing civil appeals — The California Court of Appeal Step-by-Step.


The manual described the civil appellate process and the related Rules of Court in simple terms.   The Introduction states:


The process of appealing a civil case is presented as a series of steps. Many of the steps are in the form of questions that you need to answer in the order shown. This manual answers some questions and guides you in answering others. At the end of each chapter are the forms for the Fourth Appellate District, Division One, that are most often used in appeals and are referred to in the chapter. Each form has instructions and a blank for you to use in your appeal if you wish to do so and are filing in Division One of the Fourth Appellate District.

For filing, briefing, and/or arguing your appeal, think about hiring an attorney if you are able to do so. Bringing a case to the Court of Appeal without an attorney is hard work and takes a good deal of time. If you are self-represented, you are held to the same level of work as if you were an attorney. In most cases, you have only one chance to have the court hear your case. In addition, you must follow all of the court’s rules and procedures. If you do not, your case may be dismissed.


Va. County Requires Mediation Orientation for All Cases

Effective Dec. 1, 2003, in order to encourage the consideration of mediation as a dispute resolution option in every case, all civil litigants in Chesterfield County (Virginia) Circuit Court are required to complete a Mediation Orientation Certification Form and indicate their interest in participating in a mediation orientation session.  According to a court newsletter announcing and describing the program


The Mediation Orientation Certification Form requires that Counsel certify to the court that they have discussed with their client the availability of mediation and also indicate the client’s willingness to participate in or opt out of an orientation session. A copy of the Mediation Orientation Certification Form will be provided to counsel by the Court.  . . . Pro se parties will also be required to complete and return the form to the court. If at least one party indicates a willingness to mediate, the court will refer the case to a mediation orientation session. The Court may also on its own motion enter an Order of Referral.


A procedure is included that would allow a litigant to opt out of the mediation orientation.   This is meant to be model program that could, if successful, be spread statewide.  (Thanks to Steve Minor for the pointer. 12-18-03)

  • Besides needing well-trained and motivated “neutrals” to conduct the orientation and mediation sessions, the program will need the good faith participation of all lawyers involved — including a fair, objective description of the mediation process and its potential benefits and disadvantages for the client.  If one does not already exist, I hope a well-written brochure describing mediation will be made available to attorneys to help inform their clients.


Florida Bar Committee Rejects ABA Changes to Model Rule on Fees
Stating that Florida Bar “contingent fee requirements are much more extensive than the ABA model rule,” the Bar’s Special Committee on Revision of Rules rejected the ABA’s new Model Rule 1.5 (Final Report, at 40) (thanks to sunEthics.com for the pointer).   The Bar’s Board of Governors will take final action on the Report at the end of January, 2004, before forwarding any recommended rule changes to the state Supreme Court.  As we reported on June 30, 2003, Arizona also rejected the ABA’s weakening of protection for clients in contingency fee arrangement.

  • Through Rule 4-1.5(f) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, clients entering into contingency fee arrangements have greater protection than in any other state, including a Statement of Client’s Rights for Contingency Fees (stating, among other things, that there is no set percentage fee and that the client has the right to negotiate the fee level), a 3-day “cooling off” period to reconsider after signing an agreement, and step-down maximum fee levels as the amount awarded increases.  See our compilation of the Florida Bar Continency Fee Rules.


The Blawgosphere Helps Spread a Client-Oriented Message

Dennis Kennedy wrote yesterday that Blawgspace is a Generous Place, stating that “the earliest group of blawgers (the “First Ones”)” have been very generous and helpful to new blawgers.”  Dennis adds:


Ernie the Attorney, Tom Mighell, Denise Howell . . . and others have gone out of their way to mention new blawgs and give new blawgers a bigger audience and more recognition at the start than they could ever have imagined.

As we near the end of 2003, it is so cool to see how blogs have not only brought back the enthusiasm and energy of the early days of the web, but also provided a medium in which lawyers can show that the TV picture is not the only picture, that lawyers can be creative, generous and help in creating communities.


With that, I salute those who have created the blawgosphere in 2003.

I want to express my own thanks to the First Ones, including Dennis, for their spirit of generosity and welcome.  They have helped this webjournal achieve far more than I could have possibly imagined when I started last summer.  The resulting audience and receptivity for a client-oriented perspective on legal ethics and the delivery of legal services may not produce miracles in 2004 or anytime soon, but it will surely give lawyers the chance to reflect more deeply on many relevant topics and give consumers more information to help make them wiser participants in the legal marketplace.

  • P.S. Soloist maven Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle added her perspective on the beneficent blawgiverse today (12-20-03).  Carolyn says she, too, has benefitted from that welcoming sense of community and sharing, but I want to attest that she has “played it forward” and has often reached out to assist and gently nudge this webjouraliste. [Must be the Hanukkah spirit, but this goy is getting all verklempt.]

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