What is “unbundled” representation?
Unbundled representation (also known as limited scope representation) means that you and your attorney agree that you will perform some of the tasks associated with your case, and the attorney will perform others. The attorney then bills you only for the parts of the case the attorney handled.
What types of services might an attorney provide?
Below are some examples of tasks you may want to hire an attorney to perform:
- Have an attorney available to provide legal information and legal advice about your case when needed
- Have an attorney review legal correspondence and court documents
- Have an attorney represent you on only certain issues in your case (such as child support and/or custody) while you do the rest yourself
- Have an attorney prepare forms and other court documents but file them yourself and represent yourself at the hearings
- Have an attorney help you with the factual investigation of your case which might include contacting witnesses and searching public records
- Have an attorney represent you only at court appearances to help you present the evidence you have gathered to the court
- Have an attorney help you with the more complicated parts of your case, such as discovery, interrogatories, depositions, document production and legal research/analysis while you complete the simpler tasks
- Have an attorney coach you on how to represent yourself at the court hearings and help in the preparation of evidence that you will present in court
- Have an attorney provide you with advice about the availability of alternative means to resolving the dispute such as mediation or arbitration
- Have an attorney available for consultation and trouble-shooting during mediation or arbitration
- Have an attorney coach you prior to negotiations, arbitrations or mediation while you attend the meeting yourself
What are the benefits of Unbundled Representation?
By paying an attorney to do only those parts of your case that you cannot do yourself, you can save money on legal fees.
Attorneys can use their time more efficiently by focusing only on things you cannot effectively do yourself and leaving other more time-consuming tasks to you.
Having an attorney help with parts of your case can save you a great deal of time and energy because the attorney can educate you about the process and your specific issues. They can also help you find self-help books and other resources so you can handle the parts of the case when you are on your own.
An attorney, with their legal training, can see things about your case that you cannot. An attorney can help you focus on the legal issues and on what the court can do for you, so you won’t be distracted by other issues and emotions.
An attorney can identify potential problems or hidden complications early on, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.
What to consider when deciding if unbundled representation is right for you.
While there are many benefits to unbundled representation, there are times when it might not be the best choice for you. You may want to hire an attorney for full representation in circumstances where:
- Your case has a lot of technical issues or is very time sensitive
- You do not have the time to educate yourself or effectively handle many of the tasks that you need to do
- There is a lot at stake in your case (such a losing your home, losing parenting rights to your children, or substantial financial loss)
If you choose to hire an attorney for full representation, remember that communication and teamwork is the key. You must make sure to honestly discuss your legal matter with the attorney in detail and ask questions about issues that are not clear to you.
How to work with a Unbundled Attorney
You and the attorney should have an in-depth discussion about all the aspects of your case and agree on your respective responsibilities. Make sure you have a signed agreement that clearly states what the attorney will and will not do for you.
Some of the issues you need to work out with the attorney are:
- Who will decide on strategy?
- Who will gather what information?
- Who will prepare the information for the court?
- Who will draft documents for the court?
- Who will appear at court proceedings and settlement conferences?
- Who will negotiate with the other side?
Your contract should also clearly state the fees for each service and how you will be charged. Remember, the clearer your agreement, the less likely you are to have a misunderstanding with your attorney.
What if I need additional services from the attorney at a later date?
New issues often arise within a case and you may find you need more assistance from the attorney than originally expected. You may always go back to the attorney and ask for more help. Your attorney will already be familiar with you and your case because of his or her prior involvement. Just make sure that you and your attorney clearly define what additional tasks the attorney is being hired to complete, and then sign a new contract.