Divorce Legal Fee Saver Tip #3:
Save a Bundle of Legal Fees
With Unbundled Representation
There’s something really special about sitting in court with your lawyer waiting for your case to be called while the clock ticks away dollars from your wallet into your lawyer’s. And it’s especially painful if you’re waiting for something like a status conference that you could have handled (with a few minutes of instruction) yourself.
“Unbundled representation,” also known as “discrete task” or “limited scope” representation allows you do to that, by separating out or “unbundling” tasks for which you most need a lawyer, such as contested court proceedings, preparing settlement agreements and legal research, and paying only for those.
Tasks that you might be able to avoid paying your lawyer (or her paralegal) by handling yourself include:
- Preparing routine court filings such as motions for continuance
- Handling perfunctory court appearances such as status conferences
- Obtaining, copying, scanning and organizing financial documents
- Preparing a draft of your financial affidavit or “disclosure statement”
Unbundled representation is not for every client or every case. A successful unbundled representation arrangement requires the following:
- A client able to manage certain tasks customarily handled by lawyers
- A written agreement clearly specifying the respective responsibilities of attorney and client
- Adherence to relevant state ethical rules and laws
- A client educated about how unbundled representation works, its benefits, and its limitations
Note also that unbundled representation has a number of potential downsides:
- The line between the respective responsibilities of lawyer and client can become blurred, leading to confusion and tasks being neglected
- In an arrangement limiting the lawyer’s role to providing advice, clients do not always know when to seek that advice, and thus may miss important guidance
- Clients who feel they can handle, for example, a “routine” court proceeding may find out otherwise when they hit the courtroom
- An unbundled representation lawyer who is responsible for very limited portions of a case may not be in a position to negotiate an overall settlement
However, in the right circumstances for clients and lawyers who communicate clearly and work well together, unbundled representation can save, well… a bundle. To find out the extent to which your state permits unbundled representation, visit the American Bar Association’s Pro Se/Unbundling Resource Center at: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/delivery_legal_services/resources/
Then discuss with your lawyer an arrangement that will avoid you paying her to drive to (and back from) court, wait around for an hour, and then spend 30 seconds reporting to the court that your case is nearing settlement and requesting a final hearing date.