Unbundling services, also known as providing limited scope representation, is a new trend in the legal field, spurred on by the willingness of the general population to still pay for certain services while also unable to afford a “soup-to-nuts” plan. While some lawyers have been jumping at providing unbundled services like airlines searching for new extra “perks” to charge for, many lawyers seem to find the idea of offering limited scope representation repugnant. Even if you fall into the latter group, you should at least give it some serious thought before completely turning your nose up at the idea.
What Does It Mean To Unbundle Services?
In the broadest sense, to unbundle your services means to simply offer specific services separately. This is in sharp contrast to what is still considered to be the traditional offering of legal services, which is full scope representation. Traditionally, a lawyer would assist a client from an initial consultation all the way through the legal matter being finally resolved at trial or a settlement conference. With unbundled services, a lawyer only performs specific tasks during specific steps of a legal process, such as only writing a demand letter or simply providing representation during a settlement negotiation.
Why Should I Unbundle My Services?
It may be scary to think about unbundling your services. After all, it is a completely new way of doing things and may involve a new way of billing your clients. However, there are very good reasons why you should consider unbundling the legal services that you offer.
- Attract more clients. In light of the economic downturn and the increase of legal self-help websites such as Legalzoom, most people are choosing to save money by engaging in “do it yourself” legal work. This is primarily because they feel that they cannot afford full representation, and they may not want full representation. By offering unbundled services, people are more inclined to hire you for the specific task they want to have accomplished, knowing that they will not be wasting money on services that they feel that they do not need. Also, just as with more tradition arrangements, a client may end up hiring you for more than what they initially wanted. A simple representation at a mediation session may turn into representing the client in a trial if the mediation fails.
- Earn more money. If you offer certain unbundled services at a fixed rate based on a general time estimate, you may find that you occasionally perform the task at a slightly faster rate than usual for the same amount of money. Also, by only performing certain tasks for a client, you can avoid wasting time on unbillable tasks that often pop up during full-scope representation.
- Avoid unpleasant tasks. You may absolutely love the area of law that you practice in, but there may also be certain tasks in that area of law that you would rather not perform. By unbundling your services, you can avoid performing certain less pleasant tasks in your practice area without having to give up practicing in that field.
Tips for Unbundling Your Services
If you do decide to unbundle your services, here are some basic tips to help you get started:
- Check with your state’s rules of professional conduct to see what services you can and cannot unbundle, as certain states only allow you to unbundle services that are related to non-criminal matters. You should also take some time to familiarize yourself with any rules related to withdrawing yourself as legal counsel in a limited scope representation scenario.
- Figure out which services that you perform on a regular basis that you feel you can offer as a stand-alone service. Some lawyers may feel comfortable offering most of their services as unbundled services, while others may choose to offer a few of their services as singular services.
- Calculate how much time a single task, such as drafting a response letter or writing interrogatories, generally takes you and how much you would usually charge for that amount of time. This allows you to provide an accurate estimate on the cost of that task as an unbundled service.
- Draft a standard limited scope of representation agreement for each of the services that you intend to offer as an unbundled service. This can be tweaked for each client depending on the complexity of their situation, but it should give you a good idea of how to explain to your client just what each service entails.
- Limit your initial consultation to just what the client wants to hire you for. There is no need to spend time discussing other parts of the client’s case unless they want to hire you to handle other tasks for them as well. This also helps to avoid any confusion as to the extent of representation that you are providing.
Good luck in your venture into this brave new world of limited scope representation.
Authored by Kristen Johnson, LegalMatch Editor