Want to Save Money But Still Get Help from an Attorney?—the World of “Unbundled Services”
Many people facing divorce are scared of the unknown: how will my property be divided? How much time will I have with my children? What happens at a trial if my spouse and I can’t reach a settlement? Is my spouse (or his/her lawyer) being fair with me? I have an agreement, but how do I draft it to make sure it won’t cause problems for me in the future?
Other individuals know they have a difficult case or difficult parenting time issues, but cannot afford to pay an attorney for all aspects of a case. It is not uncommon for a case that goes to trial to cost thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars by the time it is finished.
Many cases in Colorado are proceeding without the assistance of attorneys. Justice Hobbs, Jr. of the Colorado Supreme Court notes in his Judicial Support for Pro Bono Legal Service paper that: “75% to 85% of domestic civil cases filed in Colorado trial courts involve at least one pro se party, many of whom are of limited means…” It is quite conceivable, however, that many of those people without attorneys would benefit from professional legal services, even if on a limited basis.
There are some agencies (including Colorado Legal Services and Metro Volunteer Lawyers) that provide free legal services, but it is difficult to receive this sort of help. Generally, you can only receive free legal services if you meet the income requirements and you have an extremely difficult case (ie allegations of physical or sexual abuse, etc).
As a result, the Colorado Supreme Court recognized the need for limited scope representation in Colorado, and amended C.R.C.P. 11(b) and C.R.C.P. 311(b) in 1999 to permit attorneys to provide “unbundled services.”
What are Unbundled Services?
Lawyers that file a general entry of appearance are providing a client with all services necessary in the representation of his or her case through the conclusion of the matter. Each service or task that the attorney provides can be thought of as a stick in a “bundle.” When an attorney provides “unbundled” services, the attorney is only assisting the client in a few of the tasks necessary to help with his or her case and the client is responsible for the remaining tasks (or sticks in the “bundle). Essentially, the attorney is providing partial representation to the client based on his or her needs.
Examples of Unbundled Services for Family Law Cases
- Legal advice by in person visits, e-mail, or telephone calls
- Evaluation of a client’s case and advising a client of his or her rights periodically
- Guidance for preparing documents
- Drafting documents for a client
- Factual investigations: contacting witnesses, background searches, in-depth interviews of client
- Legal research and analysis
- Assisting with discovery: interrogatories, depositions and/or requests for document production
- Planning for negotiations, including simulated role playing with client
- Attending settlement conferences and/or mediation
- Planning for court appearances made by client, including stimulated role playing with client
- Counseling client for a review or appeal
Unbundled Services are Not…
Generally, an attorney will not represent a person in Court if he or she is providing unbundled services. In order to competently appear in Court for a Client, an attorney has to be prepared in all aspects of the case, including communication with the client, preparing the proper documents to get ready for a hearing, preparing for witnesses to appear and determining what witnesses are best, legal research of case issues, and doing anything else that is required to get ready for Court. Accordingly, limited scope representation by an attorney is generally not suited for court appearances.
It is also important to remember, if you choose to have an attorney represent you in a limited nature, you are ultimately responsible for your case and the outcome. Without entering a general appearance, an attorney may not have all the facts to adequately or appropriately help you, even with the discrete task you have asked of him or her.
You need to really ask yourself whether you are capable of representing yourself for the majority of your case, or whether it might be better to have an attorney represent you generally. If you are organized, prepared, and don’t have extremely complex issues in your case, you might be a great candidate to receive unbundled legal services.
Costs of Unbundled Services
The Hulse Law Firm provides unbundled services for a Client at either a flat rate or an hourly rate, depending on the task that is requested by the Client. If an hourly rate is necessary, a low retainer is generally requested.
As stated in this article, the cost of unbundled services is almost always less than general representation by an attorney. I recommend that you call several attorneys and determine if they are able to provide you with unbundled services and what their rates would be for such services. If you want to discuss if your case would be suitable for limited representation, the Hulse Law Firm provides free 30 minute consultations. Please call me to set up a consultation at (720) 480-2247.