Using Consultants

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The other day, I read a post by South Carolina trial lawyer David Swanner listing the types of consultants he uses: business consultant, marketing consultant, trial consultant, case management consultant.

That might be interesting for lawyers in their practices, but what does it have to do with people who are trying to handle their own legal matters? Just as Dave says he can use all the help he can get, I think it’s useful for self-represented litigants to think about the help they can use. Maybe you’re thinking: “If I can’t hire a lawyer, how can I hire consultants?” Bear with me — I’m thinking more broadly. Here are some “consultants” that might improve a lay person’s handling of a legal matter, often free or for as little payment as a plate of cookies:

Editorial Consultant. Maybe you’re willing to dig through the sources and draft your own pleadings and briefs, but are you your own best proofreader? Probably not — even professional writers benefit from having others edit their work. Find a friend who can spot typos, grammatical errors, and confusing sentences, and have the friend read over your work before you submit it to the court.

Domestic Management Consultant. It’s hard enough to puzzle through legal materials, organize your thoughts, and write clearly without trying to do all that while watching your kids and doing laundry. See if your neighbor will watch your kids for a couple of hours so you can focus.

Research Consultant.¬†You’re probably new to legal research, but there are people out there who make a specialty of it and are happy to give you guidance. Use your library — in person, via telephone, or online.

Stress Management Consultant. One thing that makes doing your own legal work hard is that you’re usually stressed by the situation that gave rise to the legal problem. For instance, you’re not only handling your father’s estate, you’re also mourning your father; you’re not only suing your employer for discrimination, you’re also out of work and upset by what happened; you’re not only working on divorce papers, you’re also steamed at your ex. If law is the only way you are addressing the problem, then your legal work will suffer. Find people who can help you with your emotional distress — loved ones, a therapist, people in your faith community, or companions in a support group or twelve-step program.

Others? What other “consultants” are useful for self-represented litigants? Comment if you have ideas.

1 Comment

  1. david giacalone

    October 3, 2006 @ 11:56 pm

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    What a great post, Mary! I’d add that the Editorial Consultant should include cooling overheated rhetoric and taming exaggerations as part of her or his role, or a separate Tone Moderator should be employed. We all need that kind of Coach.

    If readers want a short piece on doing grief work during a divorce, they might try an old monograph of mine, which can be found here – http://www.singlesoutreach.org/Resources%20and%20Links/good.htm .

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