Supporting Families Through Change: Unbundled Legal Services Project Part 3

In Part 2 of this series of posts on unbundled legal services, we explored lawyers’ use of various fee arrangements to support unbundling as well as the perceived benefits and concerns about unbundling.  In this post we will focus on lawyers’ views about what needs to change in order to encourage them to provide more unbundled legal services for families.

What needs to change?

Those who were not currently providing unbundled services responded with comments falling into these themes:

  1. A structure or system to support unbundling

Respondents emphasized the need for a comprehensive framework to address perceived risks.  They suggest that the framework include an understandable process to follow complete with clear professional guidelines, templates, checklists, ready-made materials and guidance on critical issues.

“Like all things lawyers do, a clear checklist of steps taken and information received can reduce the risks here.”

The project team is already working on creating a Lawyer Toolkit on unbundled legal services for families.  Version 1.0 will include clear, “fill in the blanks” template retainer letters, checklists, flowcharts and some examples of wording lawyers can use on their websites or promotional materials.

  1. Support and endorsement from the Law Society

In line with the liability concerns noted above, respondents identified a need for a greater sense of support from the Law Society (and its insurer), particularly in the event of a claim or complaint.  One respondent emphasized the need to feel that he was “not going to get in trouble if I’ve missed something due to the way unbundled services are handled, especially because clients like this are generally in a rush but don’t have all of the information and it’s never as simple as they think.”

Another explicitly called for “greater protection/support to lawyers from the Law Society”.

  1. Education of, and promotion to, the public about unbundling

“It would be helpful if there was more knowledge in the public about the benefit of these services so that we are not doing all of the educating on it.”

Another Respondent commented on the same theme:

“Education for family law lawyers and the public is needed – educating family law lawyers on how to provide unbundled services with the least amount of risk and educating the public on the availability of these services and what they mean – that they are not hiring a lawyer but simply contracting out certain services or parts of their case to an expert who will only be liable for the service or advice they have been hired for and nothing else.”

Another goal of this project is to create a public-facing list of BC family lawyers who are willing to provide unbundled legal services to families.  Once the toolkit is in place we will be issuing invitations for lawyers to participate in this exciting initiative.

Closing comments

Respondents were asked to provide any other comments.  One respondent said:

“In today’s world, unbundled services are crucial for families because of the cost of legal services, and the limits to availability to legal aid.  Unprepared self-litigants in court leads to increasing costs and poor results.  Support to mediation is crucial given that without support, mediations can result in poor agreements.”

In the next post in this series we will begin to explore the responses about unbundling from 46 members of the public who have encountered legal issues related to their separation or divorce.

Information about the BC Family Unbundled Legal Services Project can be found here.  Summaries of the responses to all three surveys are posted on that page.

Mediate BC is enormously grateful to the lawyers, mediators and members of the public who participated in these surveys – thank you!  The information was really helpful.  Stay tuned for more information from the BC Family Unbundled Legal Services Project.

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