People now have greater flexibility than ever before in accessing and utilizing legal services. “Unbundling” of legal services is now allowed and the effect should be greater accessibility has created greater access to legal services by segments of the population historically unable to secure needed assistance of counsel in dealing with legal projects. The one exception to this new form of representation is criminal law. Unbundled services is a development we at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC offer in certain cases, as it means we will have much greater flexibility in customizing services to fit clients’ particular needs where money is a real issue for the client.
Simply put, unbundling means breaking down a project into its component parts. Once a legal project is broken down, it is easier to determine what a particular individual is capable of doing on their own and what they may need assistance to complete. A home remodeling project is a good way to demonstrate unbundling. Included in the typical bundled remodeling project is framing, drywall installation, wiring, floor covering installation and painting or wallpapering. After breaking the project down to its components, or “unbundling” the project, one can determine what he or she comfortably can do and with what components he/she will need help. For example, many are comfortable painting or wallpapering but might be uncomfortable with the other components of remodeling. With an unbundled approach to remodeling, the homeowner secures services only in the components he or she does not feel skilled enough to handle.
How does this process work? It is actually pretty simple. Like the remodeling example, any legal project can be broken down into component parts. For example, let us take a simple divorce. Among others, components of a simple divorce include initiating the action with a petition for divorce; engaging in discovery (the process of learning the other side’s case, how they intend to support it and securing information from the other side that helps present your case); document preparation; determination of support issues, property settlement, motion practice, and court appearances. An individual contemplating a divorce or finding themselves a party in one initiated by their spouse and wanting to explore the option of unbundled services, simply determines, ideally in consultation with a legal professional, what components of the process they are comfortable handling and the components with which they would like assistance. An agreement is then made, and the attorney does the agreed-upon work, and the client handles the rest of the matter they are comfortable with on their own.
Another option is limited representation. This is similar to unbundled services, but is more appropriate when a person only wants the attorney to handle a single hearing. For example in the divorce context, a person may only want representation at a mediation or for a status conference/temporary hearing. The client can then provide the attorney with a smaller retainer, and the attorney can handle that specific hearing. Once the hearing is concluded, and the orders issued by the Court, the attorney’s representation ends unless the client wants the attorney to continue to be involved. Limited representation is allowed in certain contexts, and may not be appropriate for all cases. However, it provides greater access to legal services to those that may be unable to afford an attorney full-time.
At Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC, we offer unbundled services and limited representation in certain contexts. Our goal throughout our existence has been to provide competent legal services at a reasonable cost. If you find yourself in need of legal help, contact us today.