When you retain a lawyer or a law firm to handle your divorce case, you will typically be offered a package deal, a bundle of legal services that will include everything you need from start to finish of the process. Typically too, you will be billed based on the hourly rates of the full-service attorneys who will be assigned to your case. The downside? The longer your case drags on, the more you have to pay. If you really need a divorce but doubt you can afford the legal cost this will entail, one possible option for you is to find an attorney who offers “unbundled legal services.”

Unbundled legal services, also referred to as “limited scope representation,” is an arrangement authorized by the courts where you can receive a lawyer’s help on some but not all parts of a case for a limited fee or set of fees. Under this type of arrangement, you and the lawyer can agree that you yourself will be performing some of the work needed in your case while the lawyer will be doing the other work. Examples of unbundled services include preparation of legal correspondence, court appearances, client representation during negotiations, evaluation of financial information, and assistance in the discovery phase of the process.

The courts have long recognized this type of legal representation as it can better protect the rights of those less-affluent litigants who usually try to represent themselves because they cannot afford the cost of full-service legal representation. An unbundled service attorney at the side of these litigants, even if in a limited capacity, will give them an opportunity at covering all possible bases in the presentation of their cases and will at the same time give them greater control at the pacing of the proceedings. Under limited scope representation, you and the lawyer will however have to agree on the allocation of work. For instance, you can agree to just consult the lawyer and get legal information and advice about your case only when you need it. Or, you can agree that the lawyer will represent you during court hearings, or will otherwise attend to the more complicated parts of your case like legal research and financial analysis, while you, on the other hand, will accomplish the court-prescribed forms and do the rest of the work yourself.

Obviously, if you will be paying your lawyer to do only those parts of your case that you cannot do by yourself, you will be saving money on legal fees. The lawyer in turn, by leaving the less complex but more time-consuming tasks to you, will be able use his or her time more efficiently to focus on those parts of the work that you by yourself may not have the legal training to handle properly. In any event, with unbundled legal services, you will have more control over your case than if you were to let a lawyer handle the case entirely.

In the practice of family law, unbundling of services has been shown a successful arrangement over the years. When trying to determine if this arrangement is right for your divorce case, you should first discuss the matter thoroughly with the unbundled service lawyer. Decide whether you are willing to take full responsibility for those parts of the case which you will be handling on your own. Based on this discussion, you and the lawyer can then agree on whether an unbundled legal services arrangement will be appropriate for you and your divorce case. Once you and your lawyer have agreed, you document that agreement by way of a written service contract. Make sure that the contract is very clear on what the lawyer will and will not be doing, as well as what you will be doing. The contract should of course also clearly specify how you will be charged and when.

If you need help in drafting a prenuptial agreement, or need to get your property division executed after divorce, speak to us at: (805)497-7474, or email us: emilyrobinson@dionlawoffice.com

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