Is there a legal reason attorneys seem to avoid advising or otherwise helping with small claims court cases?

UPDATED: Jul 21, 2010

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Is there a legal reason attorneys seem to avoid advising or otherwise helping with small claims court cases?

I am being sued in small claims court and no one is willing to help me. The other party is tacking on “legal fees” but I can’t get legal advise. This seems to give them an unfair advantage (having legal advice when I can’t get it). Is there a legal reason or is it fully economic?

Asked on July 21, 2010 under Business Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

It's both. Small claims court is not worth retaining an attorney--if the attorney charges what his or her time is worth, a plaintiff will have his or her recovery (even if the plaintiff wins) eaten up by legal fees, while a defendant will likely pay more for the lawyer than he or she would to settle. Alternatively, if the lawyer charges what the case will bear, he or she will lose money.

The way the ethics rules are set up, lawyers CAN'T give legal advice without incurring potential liability. That means that legally, to advise someone, they'd have to take them on as a client (not just offer some advice or assistance). That then circles back to the economic issues above.

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