Less is More: Unbundling Legal Services to Serve the Greater Good

gavel, scale, and law books

There is a move a foot to compel the legal profession to offer unbundled legal services so that more individuals and small businesses may access affordable representation. Many low and moderate income individuals and small businesses avoid hiring lawyers and because of the exorbitant cost of legal services; however, the legal profession is taking note and some lawyers are participating in a potential solution to this problem—the practice of unbundling, which could  expand the reach of the legal profession.  The practice of unbundling legal services entails a lawyer becoming involved in a client’s case in a limited way, oftentimes by assisting in the filing of a motion or preparing a document.  By engaging in a limited-scope representation, lawyers are able to develop a larger client base, while at the same clients are able to save money and still receive professional assistance with their case.

The ABA adopted a resolution in February encouraging lawyers “to consider limiting the scope of their representation, including the unbundling of legal services as a means of increasing access to legal services.”  However, the ABA cautioned lawyers to always be mindful of their professional obligations, which are not altered simply by limiting the scope of representation.  Model Rule 1.2(c) requires that it be “reasonable under the circumstances” for a lawyer to limit the scope of representation and that the client gives “informed consent.”  In choosing to offer unbundled legal services, lawyers must ensure that their clients understand exactly what they will be receiving with the unbundled service.  Lawyers who decide to engage in limited-scope representations might want to consider creating a particular practice or procedure to follow in determining whether a client’s case is appropriate for unbundling to avoid any ethical pitfalls.

To read more about unbundled legal services click here.

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