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Want To Save on Attorney's Fees? Try Unbundled Legal Services

Note to attorneys: Check your jurisdiction's ethics rules before engaging in unbundled legal services.

The past several years have seen an increase in the number of attorneys offering "unbundled" legal services to their clients.  (The link in the previous sentence will take you to an excellent overview of unbundled legal services and I strongly advise you to read it for a better understanding.)  In short, unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope representation and discrete task representation, is a method of legal representation in the United States in which an attorney and client agree to limit the scope of the attorney’s involvement in a lawsuit or other legal action, leaving responsibility for those other aspects of the case to the client in order to save the client money.

There are pros and cons to this approach.  The pros for the client are saving money on attorney's fees and possibly getting the case/issue resolved at a faster pace.  The cons are that the general public hire lawyers for a reason - there are many pitfalls for those untrained in the law.  If a matter is complicated then its usually best to bite the bullet and hire a lawyer to fully represent you.

The biggest issue I see is that clients will continue to contact the lawyer with "I just have one more tiny question" phone calls, emails, etc.  The attorney is likely to want to help, but is now in the situation of giving free legal advice - because the vast majority of unbundled fee arrangements are flat fees.  The client might get turned off if their phone call is ignored or otherwise not dealt with in a fashion that he/she sees fit.

The key would be for the attorney to make it very clear to the client (preferably in a written fee agreement) exactly what services are being provided and that any future services, including advice over the phone, will be billed to the client.  Then everyone is on the same page at the outset.

Do you have several legal questions and you don't know where to turn?  Call an attorney that handles the type of legal issues that you have and see if you can set up a 30-minute appointment for a flat fee to get your questions answered.  Many attorneys will charge $75 or $100 for such a visit (in Arkansas mind you).  A small price to pay to give you peace of mind about your legal issues, develop a plan of action, and/or to determine that you do or do not have a case.  The lawyer will then be able to assist you with your next step or send you to an attorney that can.  Or, it might turn out that its something you can handle on your own.

Does your lawyer provide unbundled services?  Give him/her a call and see.  It might be a good arrangement for both of you.