When You Can’t or Won’t hire a lawyer? A $500 Option.


1. First; let’s define the kind of case. If it is a fault-based personal injury claim, such as serious injuries resulting from a rear end collision, the kindest think I can say to a person who tries to document and settle that case without counsel is “foolish”. Forget your pre-conceptions and just give me a call. You will learn a lot, at no financial risk.

2. In those cases, the lawyer works for no fee until the money is collected. Most charge 25%-33 1/3% of any sum(s) recovered, but our firm takes just 20% if fault is not seriously contested. You simply don’t know how do document, argue, or settle your claim. DON’T do it.

3. And, if you have a case involving $10,000 or more, being tried in circuit court, you CAN’T do it because you:

a. Don’t know the Trial Court Rules:

b. Don’t know the Rules of Evidence;

c. Don’t know The Rules of Civil Procedure, 

d. Don’t know the Rules of Appellate Procedure;

e. Don’t know the Statutory Law, and,

e. Don’t know the Case Law.

4. I have devised a $500 option for family and civil suit parties.

a. The personal injury claimant is the easiest. I will talk to them for an hour or so for free. If it is a case I am willing to take, the claimant virtually always hires me. Quite simply, I know what I am doing, have lots of experience, have answers to their questions, and have a good facility and great staff. Problem solved.

b. But, people who can’t afford, or refuse to hire, a lawyer  now have one more option.

5. I have developed a method to provide maximum assistance, as a consultant not record counsel, for the flat sum of $500.

6. What? “I’ve heard divorces cost between $3000-$10,000?!”

7. You are right. Some lawyers have built reputations partly by charging a large retainer, $5000 or more. This puzzles me, but people figure, “You get what you pay for.” Do they really think such lawyers will move aggressively for an early negotiated settlement? That has not been my experience.

8. A typical retainer for a person who was married for ten years, has a 401K, house with mortgage, cars, job, and children is $2850. I will usually keep at least $1050, but will do $3050 work of work and service before charging more, and, if we go over that sum, I reduce my hourly rate from $200 to $175. That way we “share the pain” of a contested divorce.

9. Most divorces are not contested; because:

a. I negotiate aggressively, using mediation often; and because,

b. My opponent in trial is dealing with someone who has tried hundreds of cases, and that’s not cheap or fun! Most people want to avoid that.

10. However, if you have a family business, multiple assets, substance abuse, violence, or alimony issues, lawyers’ fees and costs can grow exponentially.

11. For $500, I will give you access to all the rules referenced above,  provide our proprietary forms, and provide the forms required by the Court.

12. We will copy for you applicable statutes and WV case-law. You must know the rules of the game if you expect to play.

13. You can fill out your forms in our office, and we will look them over.

14. If you and your spouse have substantially worked out your differences, for another $500 or so, total @ $1000, we can also prepare a property settlement agreement (PSA),permanent parenting plan (PPA), and Final Decree. This happens in my office 2-3 times a year, but when it happens, people can be divorced in 30 days or less!

15. But, please understand, a “consultant” is not going into court with you. If the judge does not approve your agreement(s), you may be “back to square one”. We try to draft agreements acceptable to the court, but we can’t guarantee the Court will understand  your explanation or approve your agreement(s). And, while the Family Court is used to having self-represented litigants, the circuit court definitely is not.

16. My “consultation” includes a free PDF file of my “Blog Book” and other documents stored on a thumb drive.  It is our compilation of most of my blog articles, “Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer” and “WV Lawyer, Tips and Techniques”. It contains over 500 pages containing things I have learned in over 40 years.

17. These consultations are not based on an hourly rate, but we do not charge beyond that without an additional “fee agreement” and unless the total effort exceeds our normal hourly rate. Such a “consultation” is the result of years of experience, and hundreds of hours of preparation. What we provide is limited, but considerable.

18. We have two articles on “How to Organize The Facts In Your Case.” and forms to use in gathering the information.

19. Truth in advertising: many of the people who hire me as a consultant realize they cannot risk being without a lawyer, so they decide to hire me as their record counsel.

20. And,  some people, for $500-$1050, end up with expedited, fair, comprehensive, agreements and final orders.

21. Even the person who moves forward, in trepidation, without a lawyer receives “the rules of the game”, an assessment of the risks, and solid, basic advice on how to move their case forward and get along with the judge. No guarantees, but better than nearly complete ignorance.

22. So, if you know someone who can’t afford to hire a lawyer, has become discouraged by quoted retainers, or is too stubborn to hire counsel, he/she can get a full consultation for a small fraction of the cost of a contested trial.

This method is not perfect, but I believe it is consistent with CLE presentations I have attended where lawyers are encouraged to figure a way to represent indigent and low-income people and to “think outside of the box” in providing legal services.

If you think this may be the best route for you

or someone you care about,

give us a call,

at the number on this website or at 304 472-7477.

See you soon. jbh

This post was written by Burton Hunter


  • Karen Blair says:

    Dear Mr. Hunter,
    I absolutely love this blog! What you have done is offered several different levels of assistance and the costs associated with each level. This is very refreshing because there are no hidden fees and everything is right out there in the open. A potential client will know exactly what to expect and how much it will cost them; and more importantly why. I wish more professionals shared your sense of transparency. Your deserve an ‘atta boy’ pat on the back for taking the initiative to be forthright and honest, which is something many of your colleagues are afraid to do. So from all past, current, and potential clients we ‘THANK YOU’
    Respectively yours,

    • Dear Kay;
      Thanks for your kind comments. Anyone who checks my bio will see I’ve been at this a long while. It has always been my instinct wo pause and provide what help I can to anyone who needs it.
      I have never had something bad happen because I took a bit of extra time. As my experience grew, I found I have a lot to say.
      I know some of my colleagues will question why give away something I worked so hard to gain. The simple answer is it feels good, enhances the enjoyment of this job, and leads to my connecting with people who figure out they really cannot do this themselves, and at least come in for the full consultation mentioned in this article. And, the fact that I will take certain contingency fee cases, such as uncontested fault where I work primarily on developing evidence of the claim and settle without suit, is only 20% is something that helps me gain clients. you and I have communicated, and I know you and a member of your family have used my methods and guidance to great effect .In those cases, where I cannot be the record counsel, I am thrilled that my guidance allows the litigant to go into “battle” with some armor and some weapons. I believe our profession has a long way to go in providing “access to justice”.

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