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What are Unbundled Legal Services?

Muneeb | Jun 02, 2020


Finding the right lawyer can seem like a daunting task.  At Affordable Legal Help we understand that, when you are faced with a legal issue and need help, you want to find an experienced, professional attorney who can handle your specific case.  Much like finding the right doctor to treat you when you are ill, finding the right lawyer to take your case means placing your trust in the wisdom and knowledge of a professional in a difficult time.  Also, once you have found the right lawyer then there is the issue of how to pay them.  Legal advice never seems to come cheap.  In this article, we will explore the concept of unbundled legal services.

To begin with, it is useful to explore the issue of how lawyers have traditionally been paid for their services.  It usually depends on the type of case.  Very often a lawyer will charge a fixed or flat fee for a type of service, such as preparing estate planning documents.  Others will charge an hourly rate and the cost of legal services will depend on the number of hours an attorney spends working on your case.  In personal injury cases, the most common type of payment is a contingency fee.  In contingency fee cases the attorney receives and a certain percentage of whatever amount of money they recover for their client.  This means that when they recover nothing for their clients, they receive nothing.  Finally, there are retainer fees.  Attorneys receive retainer fees as advances against future legal work and agree to be available for their clients when legal issues arise.

Unbundled Legal Services- A New Concept

In comparison to the more traditional methods of payments for legal services mentioned above, the concept of unbundled legal services a fairly new one.  It was Forrest Mosten, a law professor from UCLA, who introduced the concept in 2000.  His area of specialty was family law and mediation.  This is a legal area that is also the focus of many attorneys here at Affordable Legal Help.  Mosten was motivated by his understanding of both the need for people caught up in family law issues to receive solid legal advice and the difficulty many of them have when it comes to paying for those services.  Seeing this, he looked for a new system of payment that would allow them to receive the legal advice they needed and act on it without having to pay quite as much for it.

Unbundled Legal Services-  Á la Carte Payment

The duties of a lawyer are many.  There are a lot of details to attend to in any case.  An attorney functions in many different ways.  Some clients and some cases require a legal expert for different things.  Why should a client have to pay for services that they don’t need?  That is at the heart of unbundled legal services.  It allows the client to select, ? la carte style, from a menu of legal services.  They need not hire an attorney for complete representation at a higher price but get specific help.  For example, a client may be going to court with the intention of representing themselves but be concerned about following proper court procedure.  With unbundled legal services they could hire an attorney to advise them on court procedure ahead of time.  This would help them more effectively represent themselves but cost less than paying an attorney to represent them in court.  Another example would be hiring an attorney for the limited purpose of reviewing legal documents that you wrote yourself.  It is clear that, at times, unbundling legal services can save client money while providing them with valuable legal advice.  That is why we, at Affordable Legal Help, support the use of unbundled legal services.

Process of Approval

While there are advantages to unbundled legal services, it is still a new concept.  Critics have several issues with lawyers engaging with clients on an unbundled basis.  Some criticize the idea of attorneys, who have a duty of candor to the court, working behind the scenes and advising clients who appear in court without appearing in court themselves.  Other critics believe that legal ghostwriting gives clients an unfair advantage because judges are more lenient with those appearing without counsel.  Some critics feel that unbundled legal services are generally bad because they treat the law as a commodity and cheapen it.  Because of those concerns, it has been a process to gain state approval for it across the United States.  More and more states have approved it and, in 2007, the American Bar Association officially allowed it under the ABA’s ethical rules.  Now it is up to the client and the attorney to establish the method of payment and the services on a case by case basis.  At Affordable Legal Help, we can help you find the right attorney for your case with a payment method and services that are right for you.