Legal Fee Saver Inside Tip #4: Unbundled Representation

InsideScoopCrpdCptn“Unbundled representation,” also known as “discrete task” or “limited scope” representation can, in the right circumstances, save divorcing spouses a lot of money.

In the approximately 40 states that permit it, unbundled representation allows divorcing individuals to choose which parts of their case a lawyer will handle.  Tasks that can be easily separated from the rest of a case lend themselves to “unbundling.”

Those tasks include:

  • • Court proceedings such as temporary custody or support hearings and trial
  • • Where permitted, drafting court filings (“ghost-writing”)
  • • Drafting settlement agreements
  • • Providing legal advice and opinions upon request
  • • Legal research
  • • Reviewing documents and agreements

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
  • • A client educated about how unbundled representation works, its benefits, and its limitations
  • • Adherence to relevant state ethical rules and laws

Unbundled representation is not for every client or every case.  It 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 only certain parts of a case may not be in a position to negotiate an overall settlement

To find out if, and the extent to which your state permits unbundled representation, visit the American Bar Association’s Pro Se/Unbundling Resource Center at:

Learn more about how to maximize results and minimize costs
in Larry Sarezky’s new book Divorce, Simply Stated.


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