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What are “unbundled Legal Services”? Why consider using unbundled legal services?

What does it mean to be self-represented? If you do not have a lawyer representing you in your legal matter, then you are considered to be self-represented.

In family law, it is common to be self-represented. It can be confusing trying to navigate the complex legal system as a self-represented litigant. The Court expects the rules to be followed and for people to be aware of the laws regardless of if you represent yourself or have a lawyer. If you do not get any legal advice, you run the risk of misunderstanding the laws and losing your case or putting yourself in a seriously disadvantage position.

Hiring a lawyer to fully represent you means they will assume the entire conduct of your file and be your official “Counsel of Record”. Simply put, they are responsible to do the work. This is very expensive and not everyone can afford that. At Step By Step Law, we give you another option. We are aware that hiring a lawyer to do all the work can be too expensive for many people but also recognize the dangers involved in self representation when a person is unfamiliar with the legal system. We offer a more economical way for you to protect your interests.

Unbundled legal services are where you, and the lawyer, decide at the outset who will be responsible for what. You “unbundle” the services – meaning that you break them down and customize the legal services to your specific needs and financial circumstances, which becomes part of a “limited representation agreement”. An unbundled lawyer will not be your counsel of record. You will remain responsible for many aspects of your case. For example, you could hire the lawyer to only help you complete a Financial Statement and you’d be responsible for the subsequent steps. Because you are still doing work on your file, unbundled legal services are often more affordable and they can be tailored to your specific needs.

It is important to note that legal services are not for everyone. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to hire a lawyer on a full scope retainer. For example, if you work a demanding job and have the financial means to pay a lawyer, you might prefer to hire a lawyer on a full scope retainer so that you can focus on your job and not your litigation. Unfortunately, many people do not have the financial ability to pay a lawyer on a full scope retainer.

If you are in a tight financial situation, you might want to consider whether you can do parts of your matter on your own and hire a lawyer for unbundled services to assist with specific aspects of your case. For example, you might decide to present your own case in court, but you want a lawyer to review your affidavit evidence before you file it with the courts. An option is to hire a lawyer on an unbundled retainer to review your document(s). You could also hire the lawyer for “legal coaching” where the lawyer explains how to present a case in court, and gives you resources so that you can self-represent in court more efficiently.

The Law Society of British Columbia supports unbundled legal services and provides resources for lawyers and clients. You can find information about unbundled legal services on the Law Society of British Columbia website

Unbundled legal services are often underutilized and can help fill the gap between no representation and full representation. If your income is too high to qualify for Legal Aid but not high enough to afford a fully retained lawyer, then you should consider unbundled legal services.

If you would like to read a summary of the different types of legal representation to see how unbundled services could benefit you, check out the blog post titled “What different types of legal representation can you hire a lawyer for?” 

Step By Step Law offers unbundled legal services for people going through separation or divorce and other family law issues. If you are interested in unbundled legal services, contact Step By Step Law to book a consultation.

This post is for informational purposes only. If you require legal advice, please contact a lawyer

Lawyer Jamie Fitzel facing camera and smiling

Written by Jamie Fitzel, family lawyer at Step By Step Law.

Last updated/reviewed on July 22, 2021.