Unbundled Legal Services Law and Legal Definition

Unbundled Legal Services is a new concept in the legal industry. This concept makes it acceptable for an attorney to represent a client for one small part of their case, without violating ethical rules. It offers clients a middle ground between dispensing with lawyers altogether or signing on for the full service package. The client is in charge of determining which services are to be performed by the client, which services are to be performed by the lawyer, and the extent or depth to which the lawyer will perform the services. Many states have started to adopt rules recognizing the existence of unbundled services. This is based on the concept that some legal advice was better than no legal advice. One of the cardinal principles of unbundling is "Use your lawyer only for what only your lawyer can do."

In short, unbundled services include any arrangement that does not encompass the lawyer being in charge of every aspect of the case. Unbundled services can be anything from reviewing or drafting a settlement agreement, reviewing evidence for trial, providing the latest case law on a topic, and even representation on select issues. The most promising application is for family law services such as divorce, child custody, support, and property distribution. The biggest selling point for unbundling is that it costs less. When the parties do most of the work themselves and hire an attorney only for what they need, they save money. Apart from this unbundling allows the client to stay in control. They can decide what issues to negotiate and when to discuss what.

Proponents of this model argue that it is an appropriate method of legal triage which ensures that the clients receive legal services in the context of scarcity. However, skeptics worry that unbundled legal services undermine goals of equal access to justice when clients may need more assistance than an unbundled legal services program can or will provide.