14 May 2019
Family Law and ‘Unbundled’ Legal Services
Individuals who are going through separation and divorce without a lawyer often feel considerable stress and uncertainty navigating the legal system. They may encounter difficulty educating themselves on court rules, procedures and the laws that apply to their case. For some, hiring a lawyer to represent them in their matter is simply not a financial option. In other cases, individuals start their case with representation but eventually run out of money and need to terminate their lawyer’s services before their matter is resolved.
Fortunately, there is an option for people in British Columbia who wish to access legal services, but cannot afford full representation.
What are ‘Unbundled Legal Services’?
You may have heard of some family lawyers who provide ‘unbundled legal services’ or a ‘limited retainer’. This means that they are engaged to assist you with specific tasks related to your legal matter, while you handle your case yourself. This is a good option for individuals who cannot afford to pay a lawyer for full representation, as you only pay for those parts of your case that you need assistance with.
In addition to a lower cost, this approach provides flexibility, and empowers you to decide which tasks you need help with, and which you can perform yourself. It gives you a voice in the process, and will often result in better outcomes than if you handled your matter without any legal assistance at all.
What services can be unbundled?
Almost any part of a family law matter can be unbundled. For example, a limited-retainer lawyer might assist you in one or more of the following ways:
- Provide general legal advice and strategic guidance
- Conduct legal research
- Draft pleadings, submissions, affidavits, financial statements, orders, agreements, or any other documents
- Meet with you to prepare you for negotiation, mediation, court, or any other legal process
- Represent you in mediation or court on an as-needed basis
When engaging a lawyer who provides unbundled legal services, it is important that you and your lawyer agree on the scope of the retainer at the outset, so there is no confusion as to what tasks you perform yourself, and those which you want your lawyer to be responsible for. You, as the client, might be responsible for tasks such as filing documents at the courthouse, negotiating directly with your spouse or spouse’s lawyer, and appearing in court. Clear communication with your lawyer regarding roles and procedures is crucial in order to avoid errors or missed deadlines.
The Family Law Group at Watson Goepel LLP is committed to helping remove barriers to the justice system and making legal services more affordable for the public by providing unbundled legal services. Contact us to learn more.
Gagan Mann is a lawyer in the Family Law Group.