Unbundling Legal Services: New Resources for Families, Professionals, Lawyers, and Courts

The number of people representing themselves in court is on the rise, especially in family court. Some people feel they can handle the legal process on their own, or don't trust a lawyer to make things better. And for many, the cost of hiring a lawyer can simply be prohibitive.

In response to these changing realities, lawyers are increasingly exploring alternative means of delivering their services, so people who need access to legal advice and services are not left behind. One of these alternative methods is unbundled legal services, in which lawyers provide services to clients on a task-by-task basis, rather than handling the whole case from start to finish.

To help in the effort to increase the availability and use of unbundled legal services, IAALS' Honoring Families Initiative, in partnership with the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), has developed a series of guides and toolkits that provide families, lawyers, non-legal professionals, and courts the information and resources they need to ensure that everyone can take advantage of unbundled legal services.

"People who don’t have a lawyer to represent them can often feel adrift in our complex and nuanced legal system," said Chief Judge Janice Davidson (Ret.) of the Colorado Court of Appeals, who helped compile the resources. "By allowing these court users to get help from a lawyer on certain tasks in their case, such as writing a document needed for court or making a court appearance, everyone benefits; a family can save time and resources, lawyers can represent a wider array of clients, and courts can concentrate on providing critical services."

Unbundling Legal Services: Options for Courts, Clients & Counsel contains:

  1. A guide for consumers and parents seeking affordable legal assistance in family divorce and separation cases.
  2. A guide for non-legal professionals on the benefits of this type of legal representation and alternative processes that families can take.
  3. A guide for lawyers on what unbundling their legal services means, why they should offer it, if they can offer it in their location, and how to implement it in their practice.
  4. A toolkit for court leadership that includes ways to encourage, incentivize, and promote courts and legal professionals in their jurisdiction to provide unbundled legal services to clients.

"Unbundled legal services are a vital element in creating more diversity in access to justice," said Judge Peter Boshier, President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. "Their great advantage is that those seeking legal assistance can better control the extent of the service, the cost, and direct it to where they feel their greatest need is. These resources will be extremely helpful to inform users and providers about the opportunities unbundled legal services provide. This project has great merit.”

These valuable resources are available for download from both IAALS and AFCC.