What is limited assistance representation (also called unbundled services)?

 In boston lawyers, Education, law practice, limited assistance representation, Uncategorized

What is limited assistance representation (also called unbundled services)?

Unbundled legal services are called by many other names including limited assistance representation or limited scope representation, and a la carte lawyering/services, to name a few. I will be using those terms interchangeably throughout this post.

1. What is unbundling or limited scope representation? At it’s very basic application, unbundled services essentially allow the client to pay only for the services he actually needs, or doesn’t want to do himself. This allows clients to save money and not worry about extra hours adding up while at the same time allowing attorneys to work more efficiently. You and your attorney will enter into a detailed agreement (contract) that will define the allocation of tasks, and the scope of what your attorney’s representation will be. So a client can be pro se (represent himself) but have some coaching or assistance in other limited aspects of a case.

2. How does the attorney know what services to unbundle? Your attorney will work with you to determine the best way to handle the case. After discussing all aspects of your case, your attorney may recommend that certain portions are best handled by an attorney, while other portions can be handled by you, the client. Some cases may not be suited for unbundling, and it is your attorney’s job to recognize this and inform you accordingly. For example, most child custody issues are too complex and should be handled by a skilled attorney whenever possible.

Even if an attorney is only taking on certain parts of your case, you still need to tell her about all aspects of the case so she can inform you of any obvious risks in unbundling certain portions of the case. You attorney has the duty to advise you on related matters, even if you didn’t ask her to.

3. How will I know what to do? What if I forget what I am responsible for? Your attorney should always go through what you can typically expect procedurally and provide you with a checklist (and sometimes more detailed explanations if necessary) of what each of you will be responsible for.

4. Is limited assistance representation cheaper than hiring an attorney on an hourly basis or with a retainer? Generally speaking, limited representation does not necessarily mean discounted or cheaper legal services (unless your lawyer says he is giving you a discount for some other reason). Most lawyers may still charge their hourly rates for their services (or they may charge a flat fee, which is discussed in number five), however since you are only retaining them for a limited portion of a case, at the end of the case, you could end up spending less money than you would have if you hired an attorney for full representation.

5. What is a flat or fixed fee? Is that the same thing as an unbundled service?  A flat fee is a set amount that some attorneys (including myself!) may charge for a service, instead of using the traditional hourly billing method.

One of the benefits of limited assistance representation is you and your attorney can work together to create fixed fees at each stage of unbundling. As each milestone is completed, the lawyer and client regroup to discuss the arrangement and amount for the next part.

Some attorneys also use a hybrid billing method, where the lawyer might take a flat fee for completing all services leading up to trial, and then take a retainer for any hours billed after that point. Sometimes, you don’t even get to trial, and in Massachusetts, your lawyer is required to return to you any portion of the retainer that was unused

In conclusion: Unbundling services can be a great alternative in the right circumstances because it helps provide better access to legal services to people who may otherwise not be able to afford the legal help they need.

Not all law firms provide unbundled services. Ask your law firm for more information, or email us today for a free 30 minute consultation.

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