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The information below provides tailored strategic plans for increasing the visibility, adoption, and use of the unbundled delivery model in jurisdictions that are in vastly different stages of implementing unbundled legal services.
- Crawling Stage: Jurisdictions having just begun the conversation on unbundling should first work on changing their rules and regulations, framing the need for unbundling, understanding constituent and community needs, and recruiting champions.
- Walking Stage: Jurisdictions with the regulatory infrastructure and stakeholder support system already in place can work on attorney education and training, broader recruiting programs, and business model messaging.
- Running Stage: Jurisdictions where unbundling is already an established fixture can work on referral pipelines, outreach to community organizations, robust public education, and refining and expanding messaging.
Strategic Planning for States in the Crawling Stage
In states just beginning or otherwise in the early stages of embracing the practice, there are a number of foundational elements that should be in place to support the success of the unbundling model:
- Changing Rules & Regulations: A precursor to any strategic plan for promoting unbundling is implementing the appropriate regulatory infrastructure to support the practice. Rules of professional conduct, rules of civil procedure, and other policies should be amended to explicitly authorize the limited scope representation model and the attendant legal services and activities.
- Framing the Need: The underlying principles supporting unbundling and other alternatives to the traditional legal services delivery model are rooted in access to justice. Framing the importance of and urgency behind unbundled services in this context provides a meaningful motivation for rule makers and regulators to get behind the model.
- Understanding Constituent & Community Needs: Each jurisdiction is unique in the legal issues and needs prevalent among community members. Understanding the demographics of one’s community and how access to justice issues manifest among community members can help unbundled practitioners better define services.
Strategic Planning for States in the Walking Stage
States with the regulatory infrastructure and stakeholder support system in place still frequently encounter challenges with attorney implementation and adoption of the unbundled model. Supply-side solutions to increase the number of attorneys who offer unbundled legal services include the following:
- Attorney Education & Training: In many jurisdictions, running an unbundled practice is not something lawyers will have covered in law school. The impetus is therefore on state and local bar associations to develop CLE programming on unbundling for practitioners that both educates them on how to implement the practice and also allays concerns over offering these services.
- Broader Recruiting Programs: Early attorney adopters will proactively seek and take advantage of CLE programs on unbundling; these early adopters will also be creative and active in serving the legal needs of their communities. But CLEs serve another function beyond training those who have already bought in and that is messaging to skeptics and late adopters about the promise of an unbundled practice.
- Business Model Messaging: In addition to providing training tools to attorneys interested in implementing unbundling into their law practice, it is important to message to attorneys that this is a viable business model. CLE programs can satisfy this function, as can informal or formal mentorship programs that leverage the experience and expertise (and energy) of established, respected unbundled practitioners.
Strategic Planning for States in the Running Stage
Jurisdictions where unbundling is becoming or already is an established fixture in legal communities still experience implementation challenges, particularly with respect to generating public attention and client demand. These demand-side issues often manifest themselves in the difficulty attorneys face finding clients and the difficulty potential clients face learning about and understanding the model. No matter how available or affordable a legal solution might be, public education about non-traditional service models can be an uphill battle—especially given the widespread familiarity with traditional models and the often-voiced criticism of those models’ cost.
Many strategic plans from running-stage states include extensive strategies for connecting with the public that heavily leverage technology tools and collaboration with justice system and community partners:
- Referral Pipelines: Bar association-developed and appropriately vetted lists of unbundled attorneys can reach clients in greater numbers when distributed through the courts. Similarly, referral pipelines from legal aid organizations, court-based educational programs, and public law libraries can help these providers direct in-need clients to affordable legal solutions.
- Outreach to Community Organizations: There was a clear appreciation among conference participants identifying with states in the running stage that the burden is on attorneys to meet clients where they are. Practitioners in these states reported expanding their reach beyond obvious client sources, connecting with religious institutions, libraries, rural communities, etc.
- Robust Public Education: Educating the public about changes in the delivery of legal services is a foundational prerequisite to attracting client attention and business. Advertising is a growing tool for unbundled practitioners and leveraging publicity around celebrity legal events and other relevant news stories, to the extent these opportunities exist, might potentially bring what are otherwise internal industry conversations into the mainstream.
- Refining & Expanding Messaging: Talking to the public about unbundled legal services is a much different exercise than talking to the legal community about the model. Messaging to the public about the importance of affordable legal services and the availability of new service delivery models should focus on how these issues directly impact people’s lives.
Strategic plans for running states also leverage court partnerships to change the way unbundled attorneys and their clients interface with court processes:
- Develop streamlined court processes that create both efficiencies for self-represented litigants and opportunities for unbundled practitioners to participate in the process.
- Give judges more flexibility to pause proceedings so self-represented litigants can consult with an unbundled attorney (and resume the process in a timely manner thereafter).
- Change hearing setting models to frontload cases with self-represented litigants, providing attorneys with an opportunity to potentially connect with potential clients on discrete issues.
Finally, in jurisdictions where unbundling is becoming or is already commonplace among attorneys, discussions are had around how to redefine legal services and approaches to service delivery. When the various components of a full-service representation model are broken down into their discrete parts, new ways of messaging about these tasks emerge—both in terms of defining the scope of the service and in justifying the value to clients:
- Giving advice is central to any attorney’s service model. For unbundled practitioners, there is an explicit agreement regarding the advice that is given. This strengthens attorney-client communications and creates a level of acknowledgement that is often understated (or lost entirely) in full-service representation arrangements. As a result, this explicit communication may provide clients with a more tangible understanding of the service for which they are paying.
- Coaching—where a lawyer provides behind-the-scenes guidance to a client—is another function implicitly built into many full-service representation models. The University of Windsor Faculty of Law is redesigning some of these coach-like functions (and pairing them with important non-legal skills) into a separate client service. Law students in the first-of-its-kind program in North America are being trained in this new role through a Self-Represented Litigants Conflict Coaching class.
- The value of certain soft skills in legal services delivery is sometimes overlooked. But in high emotion case types like divorce, for example, a thoughtful attorney can minimize some of the emotional stress associated with the process. Not traditionally advertised alongside attorney services and credentials, an unbundled practitioner might frame this role as a service in and of itself.
- Preventive legal wellness services and legal checkup programs are growing in popularity, creating forward-looking opportunities for assisting clients, as opposed to limiting services to those that are reactive in nature.