How-To Tutorials for Unrepresented Litigants

I’m making a list, you’re checking it twice. We’re going to get you through the divorce process without having to hire an attorney. That’s nice!

I am a family law attorney who represents people in Chicago and the surrounding counties going through divorces and child custody lawsuits. When an attorney is hired by a Petitioner (or Plaintiff) or Respondent (or Defendant), that attorney normally only represents one side in the lawsuit. Not both sides.

Yet I’ve encountered many cases, especially in divorcing couples, where the party I represented WANTED me to work for her (or him) AND the opposing party. Maybe they thought hiring one lawyer means they pay one attorney to do everything, for everyone, in the lawsuit. 

This can be very problematic to say the least.

I had a pro se/unrepresented opposing party shout at me (while in the courthouse, no less) to “do all the f***in paperwork”. His wife, my client, supported this and she, too, ranted to the Judge that she only hired me to “do paperwork”. 

The legal divorce process is more than just “doing paperwork”, so it was obvious that both parties had no idea what an attorney does, or that some attorneys, MOST attorneys, will not represent both sides in a lawsuit.

I used this recent hailstorm as motivation for developing something to help me, opposing parties, other attorneys, etc.

First, let’s look at the problems:

Problem 1: The divorce process is not clear.

Going through a divorce and working with the Courts, judges, and clerks can be a daunting process. One person I represented asked where the checklist was for her to file for divorce by herself in Cook County, Illinois. There wasn’t one.

Problem 2: The e-filing process is not easy to understand.

Although e-filing has eliminated the need to travel to the courthouse and physically give someone legal documents, the e-filing process is not easy to understand.

We live in an age where we expect to be able to instantly learn and understand how to navigate around websites. Shopping online, watching videos, reading online news content… we expect to be able to quickly know how to use their sites. When a person is unable to understand how to navigate through a site, they will abandon it.

Yet people who e-file MUST use the sites. Because in Illinois, all legal documents must now be e-filed.

When you combine problem 1 and problem 2, you normally get frustrated and angry pro se litigants. Sure there are websites that contain pdf forms that these litigants can download, but there is a lack of good, clear educational content on:

A. How to understand what these forms mean

B. How to fill them out

c. How to e-file them

I was a professor who taught students software, and I now am an attorney who has helped many people get divorced in Illinois. So I made some videos for pro se litigants going through divorces in the Illinois courts.

The first few videos are free and are on YouTube:

1. What is an Appearance and How to Fill it Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_eWIbsmYJI

2. How to e-file an Appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQHjmWNnWxM

The next set of videos is bundled into an online course. I’ve created a series of videos for someone who wants to file for divorce in Cook County, IL. The course is (creatively) entitled “How to File for Divorce in Cook County, IL” and is priced at $64.99. It’s located here. If you click that Udemy link, you can preview a lesson and see how I’ve broken the course down. I’ll walk you through how to fill out all the forms you need to start a divorce lawsuit in Cook County, IL. I’ll also provide you with the forms, and show you how to e-file them.

Finally, if you have legal questions and Google your legal question, you will get flooded with results. And so much of those results will not pertain to you AT ALL. Divorce and family law is different in every state. But Googling results does not necessarily tell you that. People get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information online. I’ve learned that lawyers often have really good blogs with helpful content, but our blogs do not end up on page 1 of a Google search. So if you’re reading this, certainly check out the rest of my blog. But head over to another Chicago divorce attorney’s blog that I think is super informative, https://rdklegal.com/blog/. Attorney Russell Knight churns out content quite frequently. And I’m all for boosting another attorney’s work that can help demystify the legal process.

Can law firms operate without having a law office?

When I was an attorney at various family law firms, I rarely met with my clients in my office. There just wasn’t a need for a client to travel to my office in order for me to work with them. I called them. We emailed a lot. We met at court before and after any court appearances.

When I formed my own solo practice, I wondered, “Why do family law firms still have physical offices when most of what we do with clients can be done remotely?”

Maybe law firms have formal physical law offices because that is as it has always been. The stereotypical image of a lawyer is someone standing in front of a row of law books, crossing their arms in front of them and looking serious. And what is true is that the legal profession does not accept change very quickly.

But you know who pays for law offices? Those beautiful offices with leather chairs and mahogany furniture? Ultimately, the client does.

law library
Who ends up paying for a law office? The client does.

If it’s not necessary for a law firm to have a law office, and if the cost of having a law office is something the clients end up paying for, let’s get with the times and operate in a more streamlined way.

Lawyers are providing a service to their clients. Who else provides services? Plumbers, electricians, teachers. You get the idea. Unless you need to buy a product from these service professionals, they do not need public offices.

However, if you want to meet with them, you can. You can meet with an attorney in an agreed-upon location. And how much more convenient is it to meet with your attorney in an area closer to you? 

Driving in an urban area can be hard to do, costly, and there may be a large distance between you and the law office. Or maybe there is a short distance but the travel time is still big (especially during rush hour commutes).

My law firm is called Kubik Legal. It is a family law firm so many of our clients have younger children. We know that you have familial obligations and have taken this into consideration regarding how we work with our clients.

Because we don’t have an office, we don’t have office hours! So we’ll work with your time schedule when we represent you. Whenever we can, we’ll work in a way that you prefer to communicate.

When you work with a lawyer, you will develop a professional relationship with them. So much of what we do involves communication. And in today’s technology-driven world, we can communicate in different ways. The idea that a legal client has to always drive into a law office in order to meet with their lawyer is outdated. Plus, it’s probably going to cost a legal client more when they work with a law firm who operates in this way. Consider working with Kubik Legal. We are an efficient and effective law firm.

Introducing Kubik Legal

Kubik Legal Logo and Information

This month I decided to become a solo practitioner practicing family law in Cook County, Will County, Kankakee County and Grundy County, Illinois. Introducing Kubik Legal! https://kubiklegal.com

It’s time that I’m my own boss. Also, I know I can do this. I can excel at having my own law firm.

Many people stay in one profession their entire lives. I have jumped career tracks more than once.

But each jump, each experience, is going to play a role in how I operate my law firm. In how I work with clients. In how I practice law.

I’ve worked at law firms that barely use technology, to those that over-use technology. There is a better way, and my approach is to use technology in a way that makes my practice beneficial for both the client and for me.

The legal world is slow to change. The technology world changes rapidly. People use technology in their everyday lives and have the expectation that this lifestyle caries over when working with lawyers. Sadly, it does not.

old flip phone

Most family lawyers practice in a way that has been the same for years. I was shocked to witness this. Can you imagine using a cell phone that hasn’t changed in 20 years? (Even flip phones have evolved within this time frame.) Even if you say that the legal process has not changed, the tools we use to communicate have. And lawyers are most certainly in the field of communication!

Yet many lawyers won’t grow, or adapt. I believe this is a disservice to clients. It’s also a way to NOT focus on their needs, or what they want to achieve by hiring you.

I look forward to taking a different path with my own law firm. For more information on Kubik Legal, click here.