Unbundled services and limited-scope representation are similar terms for breaking up legal representation into bite-sized chunks. A client might hire a lawyer to draft a complaint, but sign it, serve it, and file it themselves. Or they might hire a lawyer to prepare them for negotiation or a hearing. A client might hire you to explain a contract or help them draft discovery responses. Or argue a motion for them, but not the rest of the case.
There are many examples. The bottom line is that unbundled services can be a way to create a win-win for attorney and client. The client pays less, gets less—but just what they need—and everyone is happy.
There are obviously some risks to manage when unbundling, but they can be managed.
This weekend, consider the various services you perform for clients and identify at least one service you could do without signing a full-representation agreement.
- What would you charge, and how? You don’t need to charge a flat fee for every unbundled service, but it often makes sense.
- How would you advertise the unbundled service on your website? In fact, could you competently deliver the service to clients without meeting them in your office?
- Could you automate any part of the work to allow you to serve more clients in less time?
- How would you describe the limited scope of the representation in your retainer agreement so that the limitations are clear?
- What could you provide the client so they could competently handle the next steps on their own, or know what to expect after you are finished?
- If it involves a court appearance, look into any guidelines the court may have for limited-scope representation (you might have to file a notice of limited appearance, for example).
- Are there any security risks you need to consider?
- How would you identify clients for whom the unbundled service is a good fit? Or considered the other way, how would you know when a client’s legal problem is a bad fit for your unbundled service?
If you cannot come up with a single unbundled service, you aren’t trying hard enough. Almost any legal service can be unbundled. Of course, that doesn’t mean every legal service should be unbundled. But you won’t know until you try it out as a thought experiment.