This is slightly off-topic, but our interest was piqued by a recent post from the Business Litigation Blog. Referencing another recent post in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the good folks at Rogers & Tartaro noted the increasing trend in pro se (do-it-yourself) legal filings that are, in the WSJ's felicitous phrase, "mucking things up" in the courts. We'll skip the opportunity to comment on the social cost-benefit analysis of litigants who represent themselves. What we will do is note the large number of calls that our office receives from litigants asking us to take on matters already in litigation. They usually go something like this: "I have an existing case in [fill in the blank] court with my employer/business partner/neighbor/creditor [choose 1]. Discovery is complete/incomplete/approaching the deadline [choose up to 2]. It's a great/fantastic/life-altering case [choose 1] that will make you tons of/loads of/retirement-level [choose 1] money for almost no work.
What this translates to is: "Help!!! I've started something that is way beyond me and I need help to salvage my good name, much less any money. It's a marginal case that is about to be thrown out on summary judgment. And just how good a chance does the defendant have of winning that counterclaim thing?"
All of this is inevitably followed by "can you do this on a contingency?" (To which there is inevitably an easy, two-letter answer.)
The good folks at Rogers & Tartaro suggest that if you're considering going it alone in court, the best thing that you can do is invest a few hundred dollars in advance to let an attorney tell you the facts of life, or get you pointed in the right direction if you're determined to proceed. That's a good suggestion. While every once in a while a meritorious case gets started and then picked up by an attorney with favorable results, usually fatal damage has been done to the case long before the call for help goes out.
One of the benefits that lawyers confer upon the legal system is to weed out frivolous or marginal claims before they get to the courthouse.