After over 35 years of practice, I have increasingly realized there is a desperate need for low cost, economical alternatives for middle class clients besides choosing between the standard, “full scope” representation and going completely without counsel. I believe that in appropriate cases one such alternative cost saving approach is a carefully thought out “limited scope” representation.
My practice involves two forms of client representation. The standard form is regular, or “full scope” representation, whereby, in exchange for an up-front payment of a sizable retainer (anywhere from $1500 to $10,000, depending on the nature and complexity of the case) I accept complete responsibility for the case for so long as I am “attorney of record”. I cannot withdraw from representation without the client’s consent or a court order upon a showing of good cause to do so.
Limited scope, on the other hand, allows the attorney and client to structure the professional relationship so that the attorney is only responsible for certain agreed upon tasks, with the client.
My philosophy as a Divorce Lawyer*
(*The more common usage these days is the “kinder, gentler” family law attorney, but face it. I’m a divorce lawyer; what matters is the kind of divorce lawyer I am, and I believe in being completely straight and honest with my clients. That is the fundamental part of being a “good” one)
Recently, during a Settlement Conference in chambers, one of the better Judges, bemoaning the difficulties created for the courts by the number of cases these days involving pro pers (short hand for the latin in propria persona or self-representing parties), wondered aloud why people didn’t want to use lawyers. Based on my 35+ years of practicing family law (and 33 years as a trained mediator) I would say there are two different but related reasons. First and foremost is the ever increasing cost of retaining an attorney. When I started practicing out of law school in 1978 hourly rates ran from $150/hr (my rate as a newly admitted attorney) and $300+/hour for the most experienced counsel. Now my rate of $275/hour is near the bottom and the rates top out at greater than $500/hour.
More About Jon Rathjen
Born and raised in Elizabeth, N.J.
A.B. Degree from Brown University 1973
J.D. Degree from U.C. Berkeley (Boalt Hall Law School) 1977
Admitted to practice in California State Courts 1978; Federal Court (N.D.Cal.) 1981
Member California Bar Association; Contra Costa County Bar Association (C.C.C.B.A.)
C.C.C.B.A. Family Law Section
Charter member C.C.C.B.A. Mediation Sub-section
Charter member Contra Costa "FLARE" (family law alternative dispute) panel
Charter member Contra Costa County Moderate Means panel