If you’re like most Coloradans, you’ve never heard of limited scope representation. A recent poll found that although about 54 percent of solo practitioners and 45 percent of lawyers in small firms offer unbundled services, over 70 percent of consumers don’t know what the term means.
Unbundled legal services (a.k.a. limited scope representation, limited representation and a la carte legal services) take place when a lawyer or firm offers discrete parts of full legal representation to clients for a per task or hourly fee. This is in contrast to a typical full representation agreement where you retain your lawyer to perform all tasks related to your case, which typically include services such as appearing in court for hearings and trials.
Sometimes you and your lawyer divide the work between you. Other times, you might buy one or two services, such as drafting a brief or filling out certain legal forms. Fees for unbundled legal services can range from as low as $125 for a 30-minute consultation to $750 for a half-day deposition, to several hours of billable time as minimum retainer. By contrast, full service firms often charge retainers that amount to thousands of dollars from the start — and then escalate from there.
What’s new with unbundled services
While aspects of unbundling – such as document review or legal consultations – have been around for years, the whole concept has become more popular during the economic downturn. People are looking to save money; lawyers are looking to retain or attract clients.
Judges and other court administrators support unbundled services because having a lawyer involved, if only partly, saves them time from having to explain how the legal system works to the growing number of pro se parties (those without legal representation). In other words, some legal counsel is much better than none.
Quick facts about unbundled services
1) Colorado is among 41 states that have specific rules in statute that permit unbundled legal services.
2) When you choose such services, you lose some degree of legal protection.
3) Even in the simplest and most amicable of cases, an attorney in a limited representation situation can only represent one party, not both.
4) It’s best to have an agreement in place with your attorney at the onset of your relationship defining or outlining the limited scope of representation.
When to choose unbundled services
Limited representation is not appropriate for all types of cases or all types of clients. Simple cases with little conflict and in which both parties know the issue(s) are best suited for unbundled legal services.
For example, a simple divorce is an ideal case for limited representation. If you and your spouse agree to divorce and have no children, or you easily agree on a child custody arrangement, a lawyer might simply help fill out some necessary forms such as a financial affidavit or a child support worksheet. The rest is up to you.