It is no secret that legal services can be very expensive. When you need them, they can be worth every penny. Being able to pay every penny, however, can sometimes be challenging.

Many lawyers and law firms recognize this challenge and offer what’s called “limited scope representation” or “unbundled services.” In this type of representation, the lawyer breaks down the tasks and/or issues associated with a legal matter and only provides representation pertaining to a portion of your legal needs. You accept the responsibility for doing the footwork for the remainder of your legal matter until it is completed.

Examples of unbundled services include:

  • Consulting with an attorney to prepare or review your paperwork, but attending the hearing yourself;
  • Representing yourself through the whole case, and periodically consulting with an attorney who can coach you on the law, procedures and strategy;
  • Doing the preparation yourself and hiring an attorney just to make the court appearance for you;
  • Doing your own investigation of the facts (“discovery”) and asking the attorney to assist you in putting the information in a format which is useful to the court; or
  • Asking the attorney to be on “standby” while you attend the settlement conference yourself.

With limited scope assistance, you may be able to handle the whole case yourself, except for a few technical areas. It really is between you and the attorney how much of your case you hire them to do.

If you decide to hire an attorney to provide limited scope representation, here are four tips for getting the most out of the relationship:

  1. Keep returning to the same attorney. Otherwise, you’re paying a new person to get up to speed on your case each time that you consult.
  2. Thoroughly discuss all aspects of your case (even those which you think are simple) with your attorney before deciding which parts you want to do yourself and which ones the attorney will assist you with. Realize that there may be important issues presented by your case that you aren’t even aware of. You could be at serious legal risk about an issue you don’t even realize exists. If you don’t discuss them with your attorney, how will you know?
  3. Never make assumptions about the law which applies to your case. The law shows you’ve seen on TV are rarely accurate, and just because you’ve “seen it on TV,” doesn’t mean it is correct, or even “legal.” The only way you know this is to talk it over with a qualified attorney.
  4. Sometimes new issues will pop up after your case is started. If they do, it is important to advise your attorney and discuss them, so that you know the potential legal consequences to you. Remember that your attorney can only advise you on matters you tell him/her about, so it is essential that you provide complete information about your case.

Have you hired an attorney to provide unbundled services? What was your experience?