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Is L.A.R. a Viable Business Model for Solo/Small Firm Lawyers?

With the goal of certifying lawyers to provide limited assistance representation (LAR) to clients in the Probate and Family Court and also in Housing Court, the BBA has convened at least two LAR programs since the beginning of 2013. This month we posed the question on the minds of many attorneys: Can a Lawyer Make a Living Doing LAR for Paying Clients?

To answer that question we turned to two solo practitioners -- both of whom are veterans in providing LAR services to paying client -- Cynthia E. MacCausland and Laura Unflat. Cynthia practices mostly in Probate & Family Court, but occasionally in Housing Court; her office is in Norwood. Laura limits her practice to the Probate & Family Courts in Norfolk, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties; her office is in Wellesley.

Cynthia MacCausland Laura Unflat

Without hesitation, both attorneys responded “yes” to the question of whether LAR is a viable business model. MacCausland reports that as much as 80 per cent of her practice involves LAR, while for Unflat, the percentage varies from month to month.

According to the two lawyers, LAR practitioners typically require the fees for each “court event” to be paid up front. Unflat charges an hourly fee, and says she is usually able to predict what a particular event will cost. MacCausland offers her clients a flat fee, with a sliding scale based on their circumstances.

“LAR is a great way to run a practice that’s more efficient, and offers clients a different option than the traditional hourly retainer, and protects the attorney more than a traditional retainer relationship,” says MacCausland.
Unflat says she offers LAR to many of her divorce clients. “I am sometimes involved early, for instance in the temporary orders of a divorce case,” she says. “My goal is to avoid the time and expense of a trial. This is beneficial to both the client and the court.”

What both attorneys cite as a significant benefit of their filing a limited appearance is that they need only represent a client for a particular event. They are under no obligation to represent the client at trial, which is especially helpful when there’s an attorney/client incompatibility or the client can’t afford a trial.

Two final comments on the economics of doing paying LAR work...

“LAR doesn’t always mean low-income,” says MacCausland. “You can do LAR with wealthy clients. Everybody wants to know what it costs no matter how much money they have.”

“In some situations you’re better off economically doing LAR, because you’re getting paid for the work you do, and not spending time on collections,” says Unflat.

Click here to get certified for Limited Assistance Representation.

Solo & Small Firm Committees