Why offer it?

  1. Why is there increased interest in providing unbundled legal services?
  2. How will unbundling help to increase access to legal services for litigants who choose to represent themselves?
  3. Does providing unbundled legal services benefit my family law practice?
  4. Is there support for unbundled legal services among bar associations?

Why is there increased interest in providing unbundled legal services?

Interest in unbundling legal services is growing primarily due to increasing public demand for cost-effective legal services, an expanding pool of underemployed attorneys, an increasing client desire for greater involvement in and control over their legal matters, and an increasing number of self-represented litigants in family law matters.

Resources:

John T. Broderick, Jr. & Ronald M. George, A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers, New York Times, Jan. 1, 2010.

  • In this article, Broderick and George argue that efforts must be made to close the justice gap. Unbundled legal services is one promising solution. The chief justices argue that limited scope representation will allow attorneys to service people who may otherwise have never sought out legal assistance. 

J. Timothy Eaton & David Holtermann, Expanding Access to Justice: Limited Scope Representation is Here, 24 CBA Rec. 36 (April 2010).

  • Eaton and Holtermann explore limited scope representation and the extent to which states have begun accepting this innovation. They also explore the revision to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct that clarifies the Illinois attorney’s ability to provide limited representation, noting a shortcoming to the revision in that it does not define how lawyers should provide such representation in the context of litigation.

How will unbundling help to increase access to legal services for litigants who choose to represent themselves?

Unbundling will help increase access to justice for self-represented litigants by providing legal services to those who may not otherwise have access to them. Most self-represented litigants have low to moderate income and either do not qualify for legal aid or live in areas where legal aid resources are very limited and cannot meet their needs. They may have concerns that once they engage an attorney, legal fees will become prohibitive or they could lose control over their case. Some self-represented litigants may want an attorney, but only to provide advice, to coach them, or to assist them with their paperwork. Limited scope representation helps clients prepare documents legibly, completely, and accurately and helps them prepare their cases with a better understanding of the law and court procedures. It also gives them representation for portions of their cases, such as a court hearing.

Resources:

ABA Standing Comm. on the Delivery of Legal Serv., An Analysis of Rules that Enable Lawyers to Serve Self-Represented Litigants (2014).

  • This White Paper by the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services details the shifting paradigm—where litigants in today’s courts are more often without representation—that is giving rise to alternative legal service delivery models.

Kristin M. Blankley, Adding by Subtracting: How Limited Scope Agreements for Dispute Resolution Representation Can Increase Access to Attorney Services, 28 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. (2013).

  • Blankley argues that by broadening the types of services lawyers provide to emphasize interviewing, case valuation, counseling, and settlement options, rather than litigation-related services, lawyers can better help clients attain their real goals and interests.

Does providing unbundled legal services benefit my family law practice?

Attorneys recommend unbundled legal services because it is cost-effective for clients, keeps attorneys out of court, and reduces instances of irreversible client mistakes based on ignorance of the law.

Anecdotal information from lawyers who have extensively practiced limited scope representation suggests that it gives them a significant increase in job satisfaction by helping to reduce conflict for clients and allowing customization of their practice to meet each client’s specific needs. Attorneys report gaining a better sense of control over their lives and freeing themselves from unnecessary trials and deadlines imposed by courts and opposing counsel. Clients express appreciation and gratitude for the delivery of cost-effective legal assistance, inspiring attorneys to continue offering these types of services. The limited representation model appears to have opened up an untapped market of clients, as well as offering increased financial satisfaction to attorneys practicing limited scope representation resulting from a clientele that, by paying up front, pays in full and on time.

Resources:

Forrest S. Mosten, Unbundled Legal Services Today—and Predictions for the Future, 35 Fam. Advocate 14 (2012).

  • Mosten explores the various ways in which unbundling meets the needs of family lawyers, including reducing the risks of malpractice claims and bar complaints. This article also includes predictions on the expansive landscape of unbundled legal services in the future.

Forrest S. Mosten, Unbundling Legal Services: A Guide to Delivering Legal Services a la carte (2000).

  • Mosten’s article describes the benefits attorneys can obtain from offering limited scope representation, including the surprising number of clients who initially seek only coaching services but later convert to full representation.

Alejandra Navarro, Law à la carte: Unbundled services increase access to justice and courtroom efficiency, 18 Quinnipiac Law 12 (2012).

  • This article details some of the common concerns that have been voiced about unbundled legal services and the extent to which these concerns have played out in jurisdictions experimenting with this service delivery model.

Ipsos MORI, Qualitative research exploring experiences and perceptions of unbundled legal services (2015).

  • This report, prepared for the England and Wales Legal Services Board and Legal Services Consumer Panel, explores consumer and provider experiences where legal services delivery had been formally organized as unbundled legal services.

Is there support for unbundled legal services among bar associations?

The organized bar has become increasingly supportive of unbundled legal services, as members have come to realize that it simply is good business for everyone: clients get at least some legal services, lawyers get more business, and courts get assistance in moving their cases forward.

Increasing assistance from courts in several jurisdictions also has supported the use of limited scope representation. Formal recognition by many jurisdictions—in the form of court-imposed notice to the client of the attorney and the client’s obligations in the case, court rules specifying limited scope attorney withdrawal and/or completion of the attorney’s professional obligations, and approval of court forms designed to facilitate limited scope representation—have given limited scope representation a much higher profile.

Resources:

ABA Resolution 108, February 11, 2013, American Bar Association – House of Delegates, 2013 Midyear Meeting, Dallas, Texas.

  • ABA Resolution 108 encourages practitioners to consider limiting the scope of representation when appropriate. The Resolution supports national and state efforts to develop rules and regulations clarifying attorneys’ responsibilities and obligations as they relate to providing these services.

Stephanie I. Kimbro, Lawyers Mut. Liab. Ins. Co. of N.C., Unbundled Legal Services: Risk Management Handouts of Lawyers Mutual (2010).

  • In this handout, Kimbro discusses the benefits of and best practices for integrating unbundled legal services into a legal practice. Resources in the handout include a flow chart for attorneys and sample engagement letters. 

Andrea R. Barter, Limited assistance representation pilot program receives high marks, expands, 15 Law. J. 16 (2008).

  • This article reports on the success of the Hampden and Suffolk Probate and Family Courts limited assistance representation pilot program.

Connecticut Bar Task Force on Limited Scope Representation, Report of the CBA Task Force on Limited Scope Representation (rev. Oct. 8, 2012).

  • This Report sets forth the findings of the Connecticut Bar Association Task Force, in favor of limited scope representation. The CBA Task Force details the challenges giving rise to this innovative service delivery model and explores how acceptance of this practice would benefit the courts, legal consumers, and the bar.