Help With The Hard Stuff: ‘Be An Informed Shopper For Your Legal Services’


Part 9 (of 10)–“Be An Informed Shopper For Your Legal Services

Last column looked at some of the reasons agreements fail. This column notes some forms of legal services variously called “cutting edge” law or a “comprehensive law” movement, which try to better address the reasons agreements fail, especially the reasons of shallow peace, and lack of informed consent.

Remember, all forms of legal services, conventional or innovative, are very human, to me meaning that the practical, on-the-ground reality can be very different from the idealized or theoretical model. This to me means simply that you, the client, will want to be an informed shopper for your legal services. Select carefully, considering realistically your resources of time, money and energy, and your goals.

While many people distrust lawyers and their motivations (and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as individual lawyers are evaluated based on facts, and not on untested assumptions), truly, some lawyers want to “do good” not just “do law”. From hence come some of the newer developments in legal practice. Prof. Susan Daicoff studies lawyer personality and lawyer distress, the “soft skills” of the law, and what factors make lawyers effective, among other things. Her website includes information and links relating to thecomprehensive law movement, defined as nine main disciplines [“Therapeutic Jurisprudence (“TJ”), Preventive Law (“PL”), Procedural Justice (“PJ”), Holistic Justice or Law (“HJ”), Creative Problem Solving (“CPS”), Collaborative Law (“CL”), Transformative Mediation (“TM”), Restorative Justice (“RJ”), Problem Solving Courts or Processes (“PSCs”).”].

Another primary resource is practitioner lawyer Kim Wright’s site which aggregates information about what she calls “cutting edge” law, (“sometimes called comprehensive law, renaissance law transformational law, visionary law, conscious lawyering, holistic law or holistic justice, creative lawyering, and relationship-based lawyering”).

The best known of these is probably collaborative law, which is not really new (it is 30 years old) and pretty much limited to family law. It is perhaps better called collaborative practice and University of Missouri School of Law Professor John Landehas studied it extensively. His studies document that while many highly educated, high income Caucasians are highly satisfied with it, a distinct minority are dissatisfied. The primary reasons for dissatisfaction seem two-fold: (1) its high expense (ultimate costs may be lower than those in a fully litigated case but may also be significantly higher than costs using lawyers who are willing to work cooperatively but who are not bound by the formal collaborative practice requirements which can add substantially to its costs), and (2) the disqualification requirement that can leave clients feeling trapped into settlement because of the costs they would face to hire new attorneys and start over. Professor Lande finds that many collaborative practice professionals do not fully disclose to their clients the risks of the disqualification requirement [see, for example, his article available at his site, The Top Ten Reasons Collaborative Practitioners Give for Not Acknowledging Risks of Collaborative Practice (Particularly the Disqualification Agreement)John Lande. © John Lande 2009 (11-09)]. The result can be both a shallow peace, and one that resulted from the client’s initial lack of informed consent.

For all forms of legal services, and all practitioners, I come back to this: how well do they do it? Do they do it well enough for your needs? Can you tell the difference? As Winston Churchill is reported to have said: However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

Next week’s column, the last in this series, will overview some radical changes occurring within the entire legal profession due to the information and technology revolutions that are likely to affect the nature and quality of legal services you will be able to find to help you with the hard stuff.

Here’s the link to #1, Legal Process is All about Negotiation

Here’s the link to #2, Lawyers are Human, Too

Here’s the link to #3, Lawyers Can Be Quite Versatile

Here’s the link to #4, Best of all Prevent

Here’s the link to #5, Resolve if Possible

Here’s the link to #6, Contain if Necessary

Here’s the link to #7, The Goldilocks Principle

Here’s the link to #8, Getting Commitment, not just Agreement

Editor’s note: Look for “Help with the Hard Stuff” every second and fourth Thursday of the month in the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Gini Nelson, JD, MA has been practicing law since 1983. She’s a member of the State Bar of New Mexico’s Law Practice Management Committee, and the State of New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court’s Access to Justice Committee. Views expressed in the column are hers and not necessarily those of these Committees. This column is providing public information through the auspices of the Los Alamos Daily Post at www.ladailypost.comand is not providing legal advice. Nothing in this column is intended to be an advertisement or solicitation of business. Ms. Nelson’s law office website is at If you have questions that might be of general interest if answered in this column, please send them to ©2013 Gini Nelson Law Office

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