After 30 years of experience in the legal system, Attorney Stephanie Cochran has opened The Legal Shop. It is a place where individuals can receive qualified legal advice, find out what their rights and responsibilities are, prepare to navigate the court system, obtain pleadings and associated forms required by the court and sometimes hear the suggestion to contact an attorney for more specialized counsel.
“Everyone should have a lawyer,” Cochran said, “but I know not everyone can afford one.”
The Legal Shop is not a legal aid office.
“My goal is to help those individuals who either do not qualify for legal aid or who cannot afford a private attorney,” she said.
Payment for services is required. But there is no retainer. No billable hours. Cochran doesn’t go to court with her clients. She does not file paperwork. She might help one person start to finish. For another, she might simply provide a service referred to as “unbundled” or “a la carte” in the industry. Examples include: consultation and case evaluation, document and form preparation, self-representation coaching, second opinions, obligation assessments, stipulation drafting and stipulation review, expungements, notary public services among other things.
The overriding reason for The Legal Shop is to help individuals who seek assistance there, “get informed, be prepared and take control,” Cochran said.
The court, including judges and court personnel, cannot give out legal advice.
“In most, if not all cases, an attorney hired by one individual cannot represent or give legal advice to both parties as they have conflicting or competing interest,” she said. “Unfortunately, in a great number of cases, there is a ‘judicial gap’ existent in the court system on a parish, state and national level.”
So far, Cochran has seen more family court-type cases at The Legal Shop than any other. The American Press asked Cochran to explain one type of case in detail, to give readers an idea of what can be accomplished through The Legal Shop.
“For example, if an individual is contemplating a divorce, I can give them advice on what to expect if a petition for divorce is filed and what needs to be done to file for divorce. If an individual desires to move forward with the filing for a divorce, I will provide them with a Petition for Divorce customized to their own situation — which can include a request pertaining to custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, the use of movables or immovables, injunctions etc. There are also required forms that have to be submitted to the Clerk of Court at the time a petition is filed and throughout the process per Local Court Rules of the 14th Judicial District Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and per state law, that they would receive as well,” she said.
Cochran started her career at a local firm, Plauche Smith & Nieset, in insurance defense. But her eye was on becoming an assistant district attorney, which she did, serving two stints under Rick Bryant and John DeRosier, mainly as a prosecuting assistant district attorney. She handled misdemeanors, city court, child support, representing state government and parish entities. She was asked to do felony work, severe child abuse work, and she did.
In 2013, Cochran became a hearing officer at family court where she worked on cases having to do with child custody and other family and domestic matters.
She could make more money practicing law, even part-time. But she doesn’t see herself sitting in a law office. She sees herself in public service.
“My sister-in-law fills in as a minister in a small town where she’s needed,” Cochran said. “I went to hear her speak and the title of her sermon was ‘Perspective.’ It was about looking at life and being grateful, appreciating what’s there. Right after I attended that service, I got an invitation to my 30-year law school reunion. Doing something like this has always been in the back of my mind. So, I decided it’s time to step out and do it.”
‘My goal is to help those individuals who either do not qualify for legal aid or who cannot afford a private attorney.’