Unbundled legal services

Is unbundling for you?

I am prepared to take on aspects of my legal matter myself.
  • Yes
  • No

With unbundled legal services, your legal matter is broken down into parts. You choose which parts a lawyer helps with, and which parts you will do yourself. You get professional assistance where you need it most — at a cost you can afford.

Understand how unbundling works

With unbundling, you hire a lawyer for part of your matter

“During my divorce, I couldn’t afford a lawyer to represent me. With unbundling, I hired a lawyer to help me get ready for a settlement conference. I got the result I was hoping for. And it wasn’t as stressful as I feared.”

– Edna, Richmond, BC

Hiring a lawyer to handle a legal matter from start to finish can get expensive. Especially if court is involved.

Instead of hiring a lawyer to handle your entire matter, you can hire a lawyer to handle specific parts. Doing so “unbundles” these tasks from the parts you can do yourself. For example, if you’re going to court, you can hire a lawyer to help you prepare documents or to coach you on how to present your case.

Unbundling means getting professional legal help isn’t all or nothing. You can get supported where it makes the most impact.

Unbundling lowers the cost of hiring a lawyer

Because your lawyer only handles part of your file, you pay less than you would if they were doing everything for you. With the lawyer, you can develop a budget and spend your money on the tasks you need the most help with.

For example, if you’re involved in a mediation, you can hire a lawyer to provide legal advice before the mediation or during the mediation, or to draft a binding agreement after mediation. These options are much less expensive than having a lawyer represent you throughout the mediation process.

By paying only for the legal services you can afford, unbundling helps you manage your finances as you’re dealing with your legal problem.

You stay involved, and in control

With unbundling, you remain in control of your legal matter. Any tasks you don’t hire your lawyer for, you take care of on your own. But you get professional assistance where you need it most.

You and your lawyer work together to identify what needs to be done to address your legal problem. You choose the tasks you need help with and the ones you will handle on your own.

Working as a team, you work with your lawyer to design a plan that’s right for you. The approach is flexible. You can tailor the plan to your needs, including your budget and comfort level managing your own case.

With unbundling, a lawyer can help you with a wide range of legal services. For example, they can:

  • provide advice, such as an opinion on the merits of your case or advice on options to resolve it

  • help with documents, such as drafting an affidavit or reviewing your draft of a document

  • coach you, such as how to handle yourself in a mediation or negotiation

  • represent you, such as during a single court appearance

Unbundling can be particularly useful for legal matters that impact families. Family law issues are uniquely personal. Insight and guidance from a knowledgeable and compassionate family lawyer can be invaluable as you go through a family breakup.

Unbundling works well for many — but not for all

Unbundling works well for many people and many types of legal matters. However, it’s not for everyone.

It works best for those with certain qualities

With unbundling, your lawyer doesn’t take on your entire legal matter. That remains with you. You are, in effect, representing yourself for those tasks with your name beside them.

Being successful requires time, hard work, and follow-through. It can be stressful. You should be honest with yourself about whether you have the capacity to take this on.

As you’ll be handling parts of your legal matter yourself, it helps if you’re well organized, have good research skills, and can speak with confidence about your legal position. These qualities aren’t required, but they will help ensure you get a good outcome with unbundling.

And a budget — even if it’s limited

Unbundling does not mean free legal help. Lawyers offering unbundled legal services charge at their regular hourly rate. Although some lawyers may work at a flat rate for certain tasks.

Many lawyers offer unbundled services — but not all

Not all lawyers offer unbundled services. Make sure when you meet with a lawyer to let them know you’re looking to hire them for an unbundled legal service. If you want an unbundled lawyer to represent you in court, be sure to ask them if they provide that service. 

The next steps

Take this free self-assessment to see if unbundling is a good fit

To explore whether unbundling might be a good fit for your situation, this free self-assessment can help. It takes just five minutes, and will give you a fuller sense of what's involved. 

Find an unbundled lawyer

If you're ready to take the next step, here's a walk through of the steps to find an unbundled lawyer, prepare for a meeting with them, and decide on moving forward with unbundling.

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in October 2020
  • Time to read: 4 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

People's team, People's Law School

People's team

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