University of Denver

Better Access through Unbundling: IAALS and ABA Host Conference on Implementation

Associate Professor and Director, Family and Child Legal Advocacy Clinic, University of Wyoming College of Law

The legal industry is changing. In some courts, upwards of 80% of civil and family cases involve litigants who are navigating the court system without any form of legal assistance. Research has confirmed that the primary reason so many do not have the benefit of a lawyer is because of cost. The inability to afford an attorney is no longer an issue confined to low-income Americans. Increasingly, middle-class litigants are finding themselves priced out of legal services as well. In addition, even litigants who can afford an attorney may choose to opt for self-representation in order to maintain a certain level of control over their legal matters or to keep the costs of such services down.

However, many self-represented litigants report an interest in having legal counsel, at least for part of their legal matter.

The numbers of self-represented litigants, also referred to as pro se litigants, is putting a strain on court and judicial resources. Too often self-represented litigants lack the necessary knowledge and skills to adequately proceed in a system that was designed by lawyers for lawyers. Courts and legal professionals are challenged to find ways to promote access to justice while also ensuring the legal system maintains efficiency, affordability, and effectiveness.

One promising solution is for attorneys and clients to divide the legal tasks between themselves in order to control the costs of legal assistance. This type of legal service is also called unbundling or limited scope representation. This model allows attorneys to assist clients with discrete tasks in their case, providing valuable legal assistance while preserving valuable litigant resources. While limited scope representation is not appropriate for all cases or clients, many in the legal profession are finding it to be a valuable way to tap into a clientele that would otherwise join the ranks of the self-represented litigants currently overwhelming civil court dockets.

On October 26 and 27, IAALS and the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services are partnering and hosting a conference to advance efforts toward national, widespread implementation of unbundled legal services. The conference will engage attendees from diverse states who are committed to developing actionable strategic plans for implementing, encouraging, and increasing the provision of unbundled legal services in their jurisdiction.

We invite all interested parties to register now for the opportunity to participate in this exciting and innovative event. Space is limited.

Mentioned Content 
What if in two days we could bring together leaders across North America to create paths that help close the justice gap through unbundled legal services? This conference brought together those dedicated to improving access to justice in order to have highly interactive exchanges that will lay the foundation for the...Read More