"Unbundling" legal services by separating various elements and reaching an agreement between a client and lawyer about what elements the lawyer will provide is not new -- some probate and business lawyers in particular have incorporated the concept into their services for decades -- but the practice has gained new attention as courts and lawyers begin to confront the rise of pro se litigants. Several work groups of the State Bar's 21st Century Practice Task Force are considering recommendations on unbundling, making this newly released report on unbundled legal services in the United Kingdom especially timely. Its key findings:
- Reduced cost and the opportunity to exercise greater control over the case were the primary reasons why those consumers interviewed chose to unbundle;
- There appears to be a process of self-selection with unbundling used by consumers who were reasonably confident and felt capable of taking on certain tasks alone;
- Unbundling tended to be identified as an option during the initial client interview rather than being actively marketed to consumers – this may limit the extent to which unbundling draws into the market those completely excluded due to cost;
- No regulatory barriers to unbundling were identified, but some concerns were raised around assessing consumers’ capability, giving advice based on limited information and ensuring there is clarity on agreements about the scope of work; and
- Members of the judiciary felt that if full representation could not be obtained then – as a starting point, some legal advice and assistance ought to be beneficial. They also echoed some potential difficulties with unbundling identified by providers and felt it important that advice and assistance is given by regulated advisers.
The point on ensuring clarity on agreements about the scope of work is attracting particular attention.