Unbundled Legal Services
What are unbundled legal services? Typically an attorney will provide full representation and handle every aspect of their client’s case. If court proceedings become necessary, the attorney providing full representation goes to court with the client. With unbundled services, an attorney will assist only with work that is requested by the client. For example, a client may be representing themselves and just need legal advice as to preparing their settlement proposal. Or they may need help to find forms and have questions about how to complete them. Or they may want an attorney to prepare a legal document for them, but will file it with the court and serve it on the other party on their own. As the case proceeds, they may want additional advice, for example, to know what to expect in mediation or at a court proceeding. Unbundled services are not for everyone. But if you are representing yourself, have limited ability to afford an attorney, are not afraid to speak up in court and are good with understanding legal documents, unbundled services may be just what you are looking for.
Let’s face it, divorce attorneys are not cheap. In fact, a highly contested case can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Sometimes people spend huge sums of money on attorney fees, only at the end to reach a well-reasoned settlement that could have been agreed upon earlier, before spending so much money. Sometimes they wind up in a two or three day trial that adds ever more attorney fees. In some cases that may be justified, however, many times, people look back and see that after spending their combined income for two attorneys, they may be out $40,000 to $50,000 or even more. After finding out what the court will order after a trial, they may realize they could have compromised and reached agreements with a similar result. They realize they have spent money they could have used as a down payment
on a home or to pay for the children’s college education. If a party in a divorce case is being unreasonable and cannot reach a settlement, a drawn out trial may be unavoidable.
Unbundled services are best for those who may have a fairly simple divorce and typically are able to reach an agreement.
Here are some kinds of cases that may not be appropriate for unbundled services:
1. Where there are allegations of child abuse or neglect.
2. Situations where there has been domestic violence and safety concerns.
3. The parties cannot agree upon what is right for their children as far as custody and a parenting plan.
4. The parties have a complex financial situation such as they own businesses and cannot agree upon the value of a business or who will keep the business after the divorce.
5. The parties do not agree on whether or not alimony should be paid and cannot find a suitable compromise.
6. The parties cannot agree upon selling a home or who will keep it after the divorce, or how much time should be allowed to refinance the home to get the other party’s name off of the loan.
Sometimes complex cases can be handled with unbundled services, but it would still make sense for both parties to have representation to ensure that everything is accounted for and written up properly to ensure that nothing is missed when writing up the final settlement. Cases involving complex financial circumstances are more time consuming and financial
documents will likely need to be exchanged. Attorneys can assist with this.
If someone believes that a case can be settled, they can start out with an attorney offering unbundled services, file the case on their own, then attend mediation to see if agreements can be reached. They can get help and advice from an attorney who offers unbundled services to give them the assistance they need and answer their questions. If after attempting settlement, they cannot reach agreements, they may then decide to hire an attorney for full representation, for example if a court trial needs to be scheduled.
Unbundled legal services can save a lot of money when full representation may not be needed, but it is not right for everyone. For those that do not need full representation and whose case is fairly uncomplicated, it may be a great way to proceed, getting only the help you need, when you need it.