Typically, lawyers represent clients for a whole case. However, there is a way to get legal help just for part of a case. This is called “Limited Assistance Representation” or “LAR.” With LAR, you and a lawyer agree what parts of a case you will handle and what parts the lawyer will handle. In other words, you limit what the lawyer does. That’s why it is called “Limited Assistance Representation.”
You can use LAR for any part of a case, including helping you with legal documents, arguing for you in a court event, or negotiating a settlement.
LAR can save you money in legal fees. With LAR it also may be easier to get a volunteer or pro bono lawyer. Why? Because LAR allows a lawyer to help you without committing to represent you for the whole case.
Limited Assistance Representation forms: Appearance and Withdrawal
Can I get a lawyer to represent me just for a part of my case?
Yes. Limited Assistance Representation or LAR is one way to get legal help for part of your case. LAR is available only in non-criminal cases. For information about other ways to get legal help, please see Finding a lawyer.
What is Limited Assistance Representation (LAR)?
In LAR, you and a certified LAR lawyer agree that the lawyer will only do a certain list of things for you. You have responsibility for the other parts of your case. Trial Court Rule XVI sets out how LAR works, including how lawyers get certified to provide LAR.
What are some examples of help I can get with a certified LAR lawyer?
Certified LAR lawyers may:
- Advise you if LAR is right for you.
- Explain what parts of the case you may be able to do by yourself and which parts would be better for a lawyer to handle.
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and figure out the steps you should take.
- Review legal documents, explain them to you and advise you how to respond.
- Coach you on how to represent yourself in court.
- Represent you at a negotiation, mediation, hearing or trial.
- Help you put evidence together.
- Do legal research and explain it to you.
- Prepare court documents for you to file yourself — for example, complaints, answers, discovery and motions. This is sometimes called ghostwriting.
Is LAR available in all cases and all courts?
LAR is available in any non-criminal cases in:
- Superior Court
- Probate and Family Court
- Housing Court
- District Court
- Boston Municipal Court
- Land Court
It isn't available in Juvenile Court.
When can I use LAR?
You can use LAR at any stage of your non-criminal case. For example, you can use LAR to help you file a case in court, or you can use LAR with any parts of a case that is already filed in court.
How do I find a certified LAR lawyer?
Here are lists of some certified lawyers:
- Probate and Family Court Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) Attorneys
- List of Attorneys Participating in LAR (Boston Municipal Court)
- Housing Court Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) attorneys
How will I know what I have to do and what the lawyer has to do?
You and the lawyer must agree to what specific part or parts of the case the lawyer will do. Then the lawyer puts your agreement into writing. The lawyer must review the agreement with you to make sure you understand it. You both sign the agreement. Make sure you get a copy of the agreement.
Before you sign the agreement, make sure you and the lawyer are clear about how to move forward, and who will be doing what. For example, ask the lawyer:
- What should you do, and what should your lawyer do?
- Will there be a fee or will the legal help be free?
- What is the lawyer’s fee?
- If the lawyer is going to charge fees, what is the best way to save money?
- Which court proceedings, if any, will the lawyer go to with you?
- Who will negotiate with the other side to try to settle out of court?
- Who will draft documents for the court?
Will I have to pay for LAR?
It depends. Some lawyers will charge for LAR. Other lawyers may represent you at no charge, for example, lawyers from legal aid organizations, Lawyer for the Day programs, and pro bono (volunteer lawyer) programs.
When you’re speaking with lawyers about your case, ask about fees. Make sure all fee information is included in your written agreement with the lawyer.
Does my agreement with the lawyer have to be in writing?
Yes. The LAR Rule requires a written agreement. The lawyer must review the agreement with you to make sure you understand it. Then you both sign the agreement. Make sure you get a copy of your agreement.
Does the Code of Legal Ethics apply to LAR?
Yes. Lawyers must follow all ethical rules and standards of professional responsibility. The requirements of zealous advocacy, confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest, etc. all apply to LAR. You may file complaints about a lawyer through the Massachusetts Office of Bar Counsel.
What if I need more help but I’ve already signed an agreement?
You and your lawyer must write and sign a new agreement. If you and the lawyer agree that the lawyer will represent you for the remainder of the case, the lawyer must file what is called a “general appearance,” not an LAR Appearance.
What help can I get for the parts of the case that I don’t have a lawyer for?
The Courts Self-Help center on Mass.Gov has information that can help you. In this section of the website, you’ll find:
- Information about how the courts work
- A glossary that explains legal terms
- Information on how to find a lawyer
- Information about how to prepare for court and how to represent yourself. There is information about all of the courts and the most common civil cases in those courts.
- Information about how different to file for different processes, such as abuse and harassment orders, guardianship, and divorce.