Unbundle — And Save A Bundle!

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January 10, 2014 by sandyonyourside

Wouldn’t it be great if you could hire a lawyer to work on just some parts of your case while you handled the rest yourself?  Well now you can.  According to the American Bar Association, over forty states have adopted a new kind of lawyering called “unbundling” (other names are “discrete task representation,” “limited assistance representation,” and “limited scope representation”).  With unbundling, you choose your legal services “a la carte.”

For example, say you’re getting divorced.  You’re pretty sure you and your soon-to-be ex can work out arrangements about visitation and custody ion you’re own; your comfortable calculating child support based on your state’s guidelines; but you expect a lot of disagreement about what to do with the house, and you know that dividing pensions is a highly technical matter that needs to be handled by a specialist.

Under the old rules of legal practice, you couldnt hire a lawyer to handle just the difficult parts of your divorce; he or she was required by ethical rules to cover every aspect of your divorce, from soup to nuts.  And that’s at least one of the reasons the lawyer demanded a huge retainer upfront.

With unbundling, you and the lawyer agree in writing that the lawyer will work on just the house and the pension issues while you do everything else.  The lawyer charges you only a fraction of what you’d pay for full representation, so you save a bundle.  And if another issue pops up in your divorce that you can’t handle, then you and the lawyer can enter into a new agreement, and you pay another fee, but still less than what you’d pay for full service.

Want proof?  In this article, an attorney reports that, while she charges between $10,000-$50,000 for a full-service divorce, unbundled representation in divorce can cost as little as $750-$1,500.  (Save the rest for a vacation or the kids’ college.)

All kinds of legal services can be unbundled.  Depending on the unbundling rules in your state, you can hire a lawyer for only a part of your case (discovery, settlement), or a particular issue (property division), or to draft or “ghostwrite” you legal papers, or to represent you in court for a particular day or a particular hearing, or to stand by behind the scenes to coach you and advise you about strategy.

And all types of civil cases may be appropriate for unbundling, including divorce and paternity issues, business negotiations and settlements, contracts, evictions, guardianships, leases, real estate deals, and employment matters.

But of course, unbundling isn’t right for every legal issue, or for every person.  Use the same guidelines I set out in this previous post to determine whether unbundling is right for your situation.

Unbundling –just one more tip to help you Take Control of Your Case.


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This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Also, it does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author, Sandy Lundy, and any reader or correspondent.

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