What are Unbundled Legal Services?

Many people cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them, or they determine that the issue or amount at stake is not sufficient to require an attorney to represent them. 

Unbundled legal services allows a client to hire an attorney to perform specific projects while the client agrees to perform the balance, with the attorney’s guidance.

For qualified clients (explained later), you can get the benefit of an attorney’s knowledge and experience for a fraction of the cost of full representation.  Unbundled Legal Services fills the gap between full representation and receiving no assistance.

What kind of Unbundled Legal Services does Lakeview Law provide?

Clients can seek legal assistance from an attorney to draft or revise letters or legal documents, coach them for a hearing, mediation, or trial, or represent them in negotiations.  This is the “unbundling” of full service legal representation into specific projects.

Lakeview Law has extensive experience in unbundled services for family law matters, but is also available to assist clients who have other civil legal matters, such as disputes involving owners of small businesses, neighbors, beneficiaries in a probate, or a landlord-tenant issue, but the use of unbundled services requires careful consideration.

Don’t I need to hire an attorney to represent me?

You are allowed to represent yourself in any court in the state of Washington.  With very few exceptions, an experienced and skilled attorney will represent your interests better than you can.  This is a function of education, training, advanced research and writing skills, and courtroom experience.  It is particularly true at hearings, mediation, and trial, especially when the other party may be represented by an attorney and advocacy is critical.

Why do people use Unbundled Legal Services?

Most people who seek Unbundled Legal Services cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them.  Clients also weigh the expense of hiring an attorney to pursue or defend a claim against the amount at issue, or potential outcomes, and decide to spend the money elsewhere.  Whatever the reason you ultimately decide to handle none, some, or all of a legal matter, your chances of being successful will almost always increase when an experienced and skilled attorney assists you.

For people with personal financial resources or the ability to borrow from family and friends, hiring an attorney makes sense.  But for people who do not have the funds available for full representation, cannot borrow those funds, or choose not to become indebted for legal services, receiving some qualified legal assistance at a reasonable price is invaluable.

What is the cost for Unbundled Legal Services?

For standard full service representation, many attorneys require a substantial retainer (deposit) and do not finance legal services by accepting payments.  Depending upon the complexity of the issues, retainers of $5,000 to more than $10,000 are common.  When the retainer is depleted, the attorney may require that you deposit another retainer of a similar amount.

Unbundled Legal Services allows a client to pay for services on the day they are received or, for more extensive assistance, using a smaller retainer ($1,000 or $2,000).  The final cost depends upon the complexity of the issues and the division of projects between you and the attorney.  The best way to make a decision about whether Unbundled Legal Services is the best choice for you and get an idea of the total cost is to make an appointment for an Initial Consultation.

A friend handled her own divorce.  She said it was really complicated and time-consuming.

The challenges of representing yourself depend upon a number of factors.  You must assess the complexity of the case and your ability and availability to 1) research and understand the law, including statutes and cases that govern the issue, 2) research and understand court rules and procedures, 3) collect and organize documents and information, 4) generate documents and complete often complicated forms, 5) meet deadlines imposed by the court, and 6) appear and argue in court.  Attorneys spend three years in law school and every day of practice learning more about areas of law, cases, statutes, court rules, and advocacy before specific courts.  An attorney’s legal education never ends.  This is a full time job and most clients already have a full time job.

Why would someone not want Unbundled Legal Services?

For very complex litigation and family law issues, it may not be effective to represent yourself.  For some people, there could be personal obligations or issues that would make it difficult or impossible to represent themselves, such as 1) demands of current employment (extensive commuting, out-of-town travel, overtime), 2) requirement to provide child care, 3) unfamiliarity with computer technology, 4) discomfort with the uncertainty of representing yourself in responding to opposing counsel, and 5) complexities of handling oral argument before a court commissioner or judge.

Unbundled Legal Services is not for everyone, for some of the same reasons that representing yourself does not work for everyone.  In order for the attorney-client relationship to work well, you are responsible for certain projects, so you must be extremely organized and able to devote time to projects that have rigid deadlines.  You must be able to use a computer, specifically word processing software, an e-mail program, and the internet.

How does Unbundled Legal Services work?

At the conclusion of the Initial Consultation, you and the attorney may make a decision to enter into a Legal Services Agreement that identifies specific projects that the attorney will handle and the work that the client will complete.  You will be provided with project lists and resources.  If at any time you or the attorney feel that Unbundled Legal Services is not working effectively, we will discuss this before making a decision about future representation.

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Carrie M. Kovacevich, Attorney

Phone:  (206) 367-6962

E-mail:  carrie@lakeviewlaw.com