One of the most common questions that we get from folks – both potential clients and people just interested in how we do things here – is “What does ‘unbundled legal services’ mean?” So, today, we thought we’d break this down a bit more.
Traditionally, a party involved in a legal action hires an attorney, and the attorney handles all aspects of the case. The attorney is communicating with the other party, third parties, and the court; negotiating on behalf of the client; drafting pleadings; appearing in court; and managing the case schedule. This is commonly referred to as “full representation.” But many people either can’t afford full representation, or just don’t want or need it. For those folks, we offer something called “unbundled legal services” (sometimes referred to as “limited legal services”).
What are unbundled / limited legal services?
Rather than representing you from start to finish, an attorney helps you to represent yourself. Services an attorney may offer in an unbundled agreement include:
Advising you of your rights, the appropriate legal action to take, potential hurdles, and likely outcomes;
Drafting documents (petitions, motions, declarations, responses, replies, proposed orders, settlement offers, etc.);
Reviewing documents that you drafted;
Reviewing proposals sent by the other party;
Filing court documents;
Negotiating with the other party;
Preparing / coaching you to represent yourself in court
What are some of the benefits of unbundled legal services?
You are representing yourself, so you are responsible for your case (some folks view this as a drawback);
You are getting legal assistance where it matters most to you;
You are saving money by not paying an attorney to handle all aspects of your case
What are some of the drawbacks of unbundled legal services?
You are representing yourself, so you are responsible for your case (some folks view this as a benefit!);
Not all cases / issues lend themselves to unbundled legal services;
You are hiring an attorney for a limited purpose – even when the attorney completes that task, it’s likely that your overall objective will not yet be achieved
A bulk of our practice is providing unbundled legal services, and we find that generally, folks do well with these kinds of agreements. Sometimes we will enter an unbundled agreement with a client for us to perform one task, and then they’ll decide they’d like us to perform another task, so we execute a new agreement for that. As long as both the party and attorney are clear on what the attorney’s role is, unbundled legal services is a great way to get legal assistance, without the astronomical costs that are often associated. However, there have been a few instances where we have refused to offer unbundled services to a client, either because we didn’t think that the party fully grasped the unbounded agreement (and thus wouldn’t be successful with that kind of arrangement), or, because the legal matter was too complex. So, before you enter into any agreement with an attorney (unbundled or otherwise) be sure to do a little self-reflection, and consider what you can and cannot handle.