Lawyers often are asked to consult rather than serve in a representative role. There is a long history of lawyers consulting with other lawyers regarding areas of the law where specific expertise is needed. For example, our firm handles only family law cases. While we have some familiarity with other areas of the law, we often work with consulting attorneys whose expertise in a specific area is beyond ours. For example, while we frequently work with divorce taxation issues, we often consult with tax lawyers or accountants where complex issues are involved.
In 1971 when I started practicing law, family law lawyers did not offer consulting services with clients. The lawyer either represented a client or did not. But over time, the “unbundling” of legal services has allowed for family law lawyers to offer ongoing consulting services. Parties who want some ongoing legal advice but want to operate pro se to save attorney’s fees now can find more lawyers willing to act as consultants.
Not every case is one where an attorney will feel comfortable acting in a consulting role. To protect the client, it is sometimes necessary to decline a consulting role and insist the client seek full representation. It all depends upon the facts, and the complexity of the issues involved.
If you are thinking about using an attorney as a consultant, make certain you are fully advised of the benefits as well as the risks involved so that you can make an informed decision.