Avoiding Malpractice Risks When Providing Unbundled Legal Services Online

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Before offering unbundled legal services, an attorney must explain exactly what services will be provided at what cost to the client. A virtual law practice providing these services should operate with this specific process as the foundation for all transactions.

There should be multiple online steps in which the client must read and acknowledge the terms and scope of the representation.  This permits the attorney to track the client’s progress in understanding and accepting the services being offered, and also provides a record in that client’s file as proof that the client had proper notice of the terms and scope of representation and knowingly accepted them.

Ethics and limited-scope representation

The rules of professional conduct for many state bars will permit an attorney to limit the scope of representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances of the individual case. Accordingly, the online client should have adequate opportunity to provide information on the virtual law office to assist the attorney in making the case by case determination of whether that he or she may competently provide unbundled, online representation to the client.

Benefits of providing unbundled services online

For attorneys who are able to provide unbundled legal services online, some of the benefits include increased client revenue, expanded online client base and improved flexibility in the work schedule as a result of the technology’s ability to streamline the production of legal work.

Depending on how the virtual law practice is structured and the chosen technology, document automation may be used to speed up the assembly of the final legal documents to be provided to online clients. Clients may fill out online forms and questionnaires which once edited and reviewed by the attorney may generate legal documents for purchase by the online clients.  This quick creation and delivery of legal services allows the attorney to charge more reduced rates for their services while also allowing them to work with a larger number of online clients seeking these services.

Even if document automation is not used to deliver unbundled legal services online, attorneys may enjoy the flexibility that is provided in their schedules by requiring that the online client be responsible for handling the footwork of executing or filing a document for themselves with instruction from the attorney.

In addition to the benefits that unbundling provides for attorneys, it also increases access to justice by making affordable legal services available to a larger segment of the public who are actively seeking such assistance online.  Responsibly and ethically handled by the attorney, this form of providing legal services online is a great solution for both legal professionals and the consumers they serve.

(image: Torley)

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  • So this has been bugging me for some time. Why is the use of the term “unbundled” legal services so popular? and why make the determination in the first place? It seems to me that all legal services are limited. If I approach a divorce attorney to deal with my child custody issue, she will not likely be helping me with LLC and tax issues. Her services simply are limited. In fact, to offer anything beyond specialties and fields of practice would seem to be dangerously close to ethical lines in the first place. By all ethics codes that I know, limiting the scope of service is completely fine as long as so stated. That does not however remove the fiduciary duty of an attorney to their client. I am honestly confused with why this distinction exists. If it is truly just a one time, “I need a will” “ok, here you go” transaction. I can honestly say, that if the intent is to thereafter sever your relationship, i.e. client-attorney, I am slightly bothered by the implication that a client would not retain some privilege of the creation of such a relationship. Again, if that is not the case, then why the distinction? Can you please elaborate on this idea of “unbundled”?