Unbundling

The American Bar Association hosts an extensive Unbundling Resource Center. As part of that effort, they prepared this excellent Fact Sheet on Unbundling, also called Discrete Task Representation, or Limited Scopes Services. The Fact Sheet is reprinted below:

What is Unbundling?

Unbundling refers to the practice of breaking legal representation into separate and distinct tasks. Think of unbundling as an a la carte option for legal services, where, instead of handling an entire case from start to finish, a lawyer may handle only certain parts. For instance, a lawyer may provide legal advice and prepare pleadings, while a client handles all other tasks in the case, including filing court documents and appearing at hearings. Unbundling is also known as “limited scope representation,” “limited scope legal assistance,” “limited assistance representation” and “discrete task representation.” The terms are often used interchangeably, but all refer to the same practice. It is sometimes called “limited representation,” but this term misses the point: it is the scope of the representation that is limited, not the legal assistance.

Who benefits from unbundling?

Unbundling has the potential to benefit lawyers, their clients and the courts. Through unbundling, lawyers have the opportunity to obtain clients who would otherwise represent themselves; lawyers reach an untapped market and generate additional income. Unbundled legal services increase collectibles and reduce the risk of malpractice. Clients benefit from the legal expertise of lawyers, while paying only for those services that they most need. Courts also stand to benefit from unbundling: unbundling clients are often better prepared for court, saving staff time and resources compared to those who self represent with no assistance from a lawyer.

Is unbundling ethical?

ABA Model Rule 1.2(c) governs unbundling. It states, “A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.” To date, 41 states have adopted the Model Rule or a substantively similar rule. Nearly twenty states have adopted rules that provide additional guidance on unbundling, addressing issues related to ghostwriting, communications with opposing parties and their counsel, limited appearances and service. The ABA's Unbundling Resource Center provides a list of which states have adopted Model Rule 1.2(c), or have rules that provide additional guidance. Unbundled services are not a short-cut or second-class services. Lawyers who unbundle must provide competent representation, and must follow all other ethical and procedural rules in their jurisdiction.

When is unbundling appropriate?

Unbundling is not appropriate for every case or every client. The lawyer must determine if the representation is reasonable under the circumstances, and must ensure that the client fully understands the limits of the representation.

How can Bar Associations help?

Bar associations are essential to create a local culture of high-quality and accessible unbundled services. While most Bar Associations focus on providing ethics opinions or CLEs, few actually take steps to help integrate unbundling into the service delivery continuum of their state. As far as we know, only one state, Alaska, has created an unbundled section that serves the dual purpose of 1) ensuring ongoing ethical education, and 2) supporting member practices by creating a list that can be distributed by the court’s self-help center.

More Information

To find out more about unbundling, visit the following resources: ABA Pro Se/Unbundling Resource Center, free Training Materials and Risk Management Materials. See also SRLN Brief on Integrating Unbundled into Self-Help Services.

 

State Bar of Michigan Logo

Resource: Michigan Bar's Limited Scope Tool Kit (Michigan State Bar 2020)

The State Bar of Michigan's Practice Management Resource Center has a dedicated Limited Scope page that provides comprehensive guidance mat
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Logo

Resource: Florida Law Assistance at Reduced Expense (FLARE 2018)

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's (JALA) Florida Law Assistance at Reduced Expense (FLARE) program provides moderate income families with legal help at a reduced expense.
Chicago Bar Foundation Logo

Resource: Chicago Bar Foundation Justice Entrepreneurs Project (CBF 2013)

Launched in 2013, the Chicago Bar Foundation's Justice Entrepreneurs Project supports innovative and socially conscious lawyers building practcies offering predictable pricing and limited scope se
Chicago Bar Association Logo

Resource: Chicago Bar Association's Limited Scope Panels (CBA 2017)

The Chicago Bar Association's (CBA) Limited Scope Referral Panels are lists of experienced private attorneys offering limited scope representation among their service offerings.
ABA GPSolo logo

Article: Limited Scope. (Almost) Boundless Opportunity (ABA 2019)

In the article, Limited Scope.
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System Logo

Report: Better Access Through Unbundling Post-Conference Report (IAALS 2018)

On October 26 - 27, 2017, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), in partnership with the American Bar Association (ABA) hosted the
SRLN Logo

Resource: Sample Unbundled Attorney Engagement Agreements (Multi-State 2020)

Below is a collection of sample forms for unbundled attorney engagement agreements and materials related to unbundling legal services.
Legal Services Corporation Innovations in Technology 2019 Logo

Session: Limited Scope Services: A Core Part of 100% Access (LSC ITCon2019)

The following session was held at the Legal Services Corporation's Innovations in Technology Conference 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Chicago Bar Foundation Logo

Resource: Chicago Bar Foundation Limited Scope Toolkit (CBF 2018)

The Chicago Bar Foundation published a comprehensive toolkit on unbundling to assist attorneys who are licensed in Illinois and seeking to offer l
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System Logo

Website: IAALS Unbundling Legal Services Initiatives (IAALS 2018)

Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) publishes guides and toolkits for consumers, non-legal professionals, lawyers, and court leadership.