Saturday, January 9, 2010

Judges Speaking Out on Unbundling Legal Services

The New York Times published A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers written by judges on the subject of unbundling legal services. The judges describe what is meant by unbundled legal services and why it is a good thing in these paragraphs:

But this is only a beginning. It is essential that we promote other efforts to close the “justice gap.”

One such effort involves the “unbundling” of legal services. Forty-one states, including California and New Hampshire, have adopted a model rule drafted by the American Bar Association, or similar provisions, which allow lawyers to unbundle their services and take only part of a case, a cost-saving practice known as “limited-scope representation” that, with proper ethical safeguards, is responsive to new realities.

Traditionally, lawyers have been required to stay with a case from beginning to end, unless a court has excused them from this obligation. Now, in those states that explicitly or implicitly allow unbundling, people or businesses can hire a lawyer on a limited basis to help them fill out forms, to prepare documents, to coach them on how to present in court or to appear in court for one or two hearings.

I have written about unbundling legal services here and here. Responses to these articles have been nil.

I belong to a lawyers listerv where the subject of alternative fees and unbundling legal services comes up fairly often. We see this as the future of legal services, as empowering clients.

What seems to be truer is that the vast majority of clients show no interest in knowing about alternative fees or unbundling legal services. They watch television and hear about hourly fees and anything else confuses them. Until we educate clients about fees and their alternatives, the future seen by the New York judges remains out of reach and I think client frustration shall continue and may even increase.

Everyone, please, follow the link below to my older attorney fees articles and educate yourself.

Reading Family Lore's Divorce joins baked beans on the supermarket shelves makes me think the English have found a business model for providing unbundled services.
For the first time divorcing couples will be able to compare on one website a range of options from both the cheap online providers, as well as more traditional family law firms. Prices range from a DIY divorce at £69, up to a full solicitor managed divorce for £249.
I am not sure that I like what I think I see in the plan. That it might not provide the best services may not mean much in this current economy, but will clients miss what they do not know about? Do we need not to find a better way to educate clients about fees on this side of the Atlantic?


stuart showalter said...

Sam-I don't know what it is going to take. We both post about this issue. I offer coaching and to find an attorney such as yourself to represent them on a limited basis. You offer that and still we get no takers. I so often hear people say "I can't afford that" being yours or my service. What are their children worth to them then? Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time.

Sam Hasler said...

I often have the same thoughts. Looking at my bank account today, I am not sure if I am not crazy to keep plugging away.

I had had hopes with this blog to get feedback from the general public. Never really happens. (Which is one reason why I think what most people think they are doing with blogging - educating the public - does not really happen. The general public wants a specific answer to a specific question. You know how often we have a generic solution.)

See, there all sorts of things put forth about clients that may not have any foundation in reality. I would love to know what the general public thinks about what we do.

Lawyers love the idea of unbundled fees. To us it is a win-win solution. We get to work and the clients get affordable services. Yet, I think clients think there must be something wrong with the idea because lawyers like.