What’s Legal Coaching?

When you fully retain a lawyer, the lawyer takes responsibility for your legal matter. They do most of the work for you and consult with you only as necessary to get information to run your legal case and provide you with advice on decisions you should make.

A legal coach is a lawyer who provides consultation and support services to clients who are representing themselves in their legal matters. A legal coach can give you advice and recommendations, but you are responsible for your own legal matter: corresponding with others, filing court documents, and appearing in court.

However, unlike most self-represented litigants, you have access to an experienced family lawyer who can guide you on how correspond with other lawyers, how to prepare documents, how to navigate the court system, how to appear in court and speak on your own behalf, and how to negotiate settlements. The legal coach can also give you advice about how family legal principles apply to your situation to help ensure any negotiated settlement is fair and reasonable.

Why choose legal coaching over full legal representation?

In family law, there are many reasons why you may choose to represent yourself.

You may decide that your separation will be more amicable (and therefore more quickly resolved) if you communicate directly with your spouse. You may find being in control of your own case empowering in a time of upheaval.

However, the most common reason family litigants represent themselves is money. Separation and divorce is one of the most devastating events that can occur to your finances. When you separate from your spouse, it is not the time to lose your head about your finances. It is a moment for taking stock of what you have and restructuring how things will work.

Retaining a lawyer typically requires an initial retainer in the thousands of dollars, which will need to be regularly replenished. Many people are not in a position to do this without making significant sacrifices to their future and their standard of living. Many people also do not realize when they first retain a lawyer how much it could end up costing if there is not a quick settlement.

In fact, a recent study found that more than half of self-represented litigants in court cases were, at some point, fully represented by a lawyer. The majority of those people had to begin representing themselves for financial reasons.

Because with legal coaching you are doing the bulk of the work, your legal fees are significantly reduced. For people with limited amounts of money to spend on their separation, this can mean having the assistance of a lawyer from beginning to end, rather than being forced to go it alone after running out of money.

Most lawyers bill by the hour, you are not in control of how much your legal services will cost: your lawyer, the other lawyer or party, and the court all play a role in how much time your lawyer spends on your matter. With a legal coach, you choose which services you will use and how often you will use them. This puts you in complete control of how much your legal services will cost.

How should I use a legal coach?

It is best to begin consulting a legal coach as soon as possible after separation at to ensure consistency of information, advice, and strategy. Your legal coach will be able to give you a broad overview your rights and responsibilities, give you some trusted and reliable family legal resources to consult, and advise you on which documents you will need to collect and keep in order to resolve your family case.

Go to the legal coach with a monthly budget or total budget in mind. Your legal coach can assist you in determining how to get the best value for your money. The point of the budget is to determine how to spread out the coaching services in order to make sure your money lasts until the end of your family matter and does not run out early. The good thing about legal coaching is that you are completely in control of your legal costs.

Throughout the whole process, however, you retain the control and responsibility for your matter. It is up to you to decide what advice and suggestions you wish to implement. You keep strict control on how much you’re willing or able to pay your legal coach because you decide how much and how often you’re going to use them.

Consulting a lawyer to advise you on your rights and obligations at law will help you make better decisions as you resolve your matter.

Perhaps the most important service a legal coach can provide is making sure an agreement is appropriately documented. Many informal resolutions to family law matters between former spouses can leave one or both spouses open to a significant legal liability weeks, months or years later. Making sure your resolution is properly documented ensures that there are no misunderstandings about what the agreement is and provides something you can both consult in the future if a disagreement arises.

What pitfalls might come from using a legal coach over having full representation from a lawyer?

British Columbia’s family law legislation and the court rules are intended to be straightforward and easy to understand, but family law matters are still complicated and challenging. A legal coach will help you be more effective and confident, but cannot fully replace the skills and knowledge gained by lawyers through law school and professional experience.

You are responsible for corresponding with your former spouse, the courts and any other third party necessary to move your legal matter ahead. This can be an added stress at an emotional and turbulent time. If you hide out and are not reasonably responsive to correspondence, it could negatively affect the outcome of your case.

Your legal coach relies on you to share all of the relevant facts to your case. If you miss something important, it could negatively affect your legal coach’s advice to you.

It’s important to know that whether you fully retain a lawyer or simply retain a lawyer as a legal coach, the lawyer is bound to keep any information you disclose to them confidential.

Your legal matter will take a significant amount of time to manage and it is often unavoidable that you will need to be available during normal business hours (to attend the court registry to file a document, for example). One of the reasons retaining lawyers is so expensive is that legal cases are very time consuming. The more work you do on your end, the less you will end up paying your legal coach.