Insiders’ Guide To Unbundled Legal Services

By: Carol Ann Mazza Date Posted: February 16, 20231:48 pm

Insiders’ Guide To Unbundled Legal Services

A distinguished Collaborative family lawyer and Supreme Court of Florida certified family law mediator, Carolann Mazza has been practicing in Florida since 2001. She helps families handle their divorce or other family-related matters through negotiation and collaboration, enabling them to solve their problems in a healthy and amicable environment.

In addition to assisting families in resolving disputes out-of-court, Carolann also offers unbundled legal services. In her years-long practice, she has handled hundreds of cases based on a limited scope of representation. Being in the legal profession for more than two decades, Carolann understands the underlying incentives for using unbundled legal services. Many clients have financial concerns, so hiring an attorney for a complete bundle of legal services seems out of their reach. Others decide to represent themselves in court (pro se litigants) and hire an attorney to handle specific (more complex) issues. Finally, some only want to try out an attorney before deciding to hire them full-time.

Carolann Mazza knows unbundled legal services inside out. Throughout her successful career, she has performed each legal service with undivided focus and unreserved devotion, adhering to the highest ethical principles.

Based upon her experience the following is a comprehensive guide to help you understand how unbundled legal services work in Florida:

Since When are Unbundled Legal Services Available in Florida?

In November 2003, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted rules allowing family attorneys to provide limited legal services to their clients. The new practice enabled prospective clients to hire an attorney for specified (unbundled) legal services instead of using the complete bundle of legal services. The clients pay only for the services they choose to use, doing the rest themselves (including pro se representation in court). That is also known as limited scope services or discrete task representation.

Until the Supreme Court of Florida made these significant changes, clients could only choose between hiring an attorney full-time or pro se litigation. Once hired, the lawyer offered the complete package of (bundled) legal services.

What is a Limited Scope Services Agreement

What is a Limited Scope Services Agreement?

A limited-scope services agreement is a contract between a client and a lawyer, defining mutual rights and obligations regarding unbundled legal services. The agreement specifies the legal services the client will use, determining the scope of the attorney’s rights and responsibilities. In addition to limiting the extent of their engagement, the agreement also outlines the risks of not utilizing full-time lawyer representation.

By signing the agreement, a client gets a clear picture of the representation boundaries, resulting in more realistic expectations and less misunderstanding.

The attorneys benefit from the agreement too. First, they know which services they are providing and which they are not. Secondly, by knowing the precise boundaries, lawyers are less likely to overstep their authority by acting outside the scope of their representation.  This reduces misunderstanding between the client and the lawyer.

The purpose of limited-scope representation (among other things) is to encourage people to use the services of legal counsel, making them less intimidated by the costs.  It allows the client to tailor the representation to their specific needs.

Are Attorneys Working in an Unbundled Arrangement Responsible for the Entire Case?

Unlike lawyers representing clients full-time, attorneys working in an unbundled arrangement perform specific (pre-defined) services, such as coaching clients in preparation for a hearing or drafting an individual document. It allows lawyers to accept representation for discrete tasks in a family law representation. Consequently, the attorneys do not assume responsibility for the entire case like their full-time counterparts. They are only responsible for the services they offer, while the client takes responsibility for the rest.

What Advantages do Clients Get From Using Unbundled Legal Services?

Using unbundled legal services brings numerous advantages for clients. Below are the most common:

  • Easier access to justice. Offering unbundled legal services enables easy access to justice, benefiting the entire society. Using only specific legal services, rather than full representation, results in lower costs of legal representation. Lower legal costs particularly appeal to lower-income clients, enabling them equal access to court services. Some attorneys charge hourly for their services , others charge for service at a flat rate. 
  • Outsourcing possibilities. Although low-income clients find unbundled legal services especially attractive, part-time representation benefits other clients’ needs. Selecting a specific service from a bundle helps companies’ in-house attorneys. By performing most of the legal work themselves, in-house attorneys can outsource specific services to unbundled lawyers, saving a great deal of time. Outsourcing specific legal services proved one of the most effective time-management techniques, helping companies focus more on their everyday business operations.
  • Privacy concerns. Clients in family cases want to represent themselves due to privacy concerns. Despite the attorney-client relationship being confidential, some clients find it more comfortable to keep their sensitive private information to themselves. That is why they only require professional legal help in taking specific legal steps along the way. When they need help, clients hire attorneys to only assist them with particular actions or during certain stages, such as divorce or custody strategy, drafting documents, preparing for the trial, etc.

How Can Lawyers Benefit from Providing Unbundled Legal Services?

Unbundled legal services not only benefit clients. They also offer multiple advantages for lawyers:

  • Client base increase. A limited-scope service helps attorneys increase their client base. Offering unbundled legal services to numerous clients, lawyers expose their practice to a broad client base. The logic behind that approach is simple. More clients want a specific legal service or particular legal advice than those who seek full-time representation. Law firms that offer a part-time relationship with the client (unbundled package of services) have a significant market advantage over firms that only have a full-time representation. Reaching more people means your firm becomes known to a broader audience, increasing the chances of new clients hiring you (part or full-time). At the same time, law firms can earn more overall profits by providing multiple unbundled services compared to fewer full-time clients.
  • Greater efficiency. In addition to helping law firms increase their client base, offering limited-scope representation results in greater efficiency. Namely, providing specific legal services instead of engaging in an entire case often means more attention to detail. Lawyers often feel overwhelmed by the complexity, especially if the case drags on for several years.. On the other hand, performing a single legal service (drafting a document or appearing at one court session) takes less time to prepare, and the reward (a fee) waits around the corner. Consequently, attorneys often invest more energy and devotion to providing unbundled services, knowing the results are immediately visible.
  • Potential full-time engagement. One of the benefits of increasing the client base through unbundled legal services is the possibility of acquiring more long-term clients. Providing limited-scope representation allows attorneys to prove themselves, exhibiting their skills and legal expertise. On the other hand, many clients do not feel comfortable hiring lawyers for full-time representation before they see how they work. The unbundled legal services model connects attorneys’ needs (for long-term clients) with clients’ expectations (for verifiable results). We could say that unbundled legal services are a testing ground for attorneys and clients. Once they experience the lawyer’s value, most clients decide to go with the bundled package of services.
The Types of Unbundled Legal Services

The Types of Unbundled Legal Services

Offering unbundled legal services enable endless possibilities regarding a lawyer’s engagement in family law matters. The flexibility, dynamism, and efficiency make this model an important tool for every respectable law firm. Below are some of the most common legal services attorneys can provide without full representation:

  • Consultation/Advice. Being involved in a family dispute often requires seeking professional advice or consultation. Before deciding whether you will engage in a court procedure (or out-of-court process), you need to know your options. Unbundled legal services enable clients to get the information they need early without hiring an attorney. Getting professional legal advice will help you decide what steps to take next - and which process is the right one.
  • Legal Strategy Session. Pro se litigants represent themselves for various reasons (low income, privacy concerns, etc.). Going to court alone is challenging by itself. But engaging in a court process without a clear strategy is another level. That is why many clients who decide to represent themselves hire an attorney for a single legal strategy session. They seek to understand the pitfalls that await them along the way and how to respond.
  • Drafting Pleadings, Motions, and Petitions. Participating in litigation requires continuous communication with the court and the other party through numerous pleadings, motions, petitions, and correspondence. You must submit these documents to court or respond to the other party’s motions and petitions. Using unbundled services enables you to hire an attorney asking them to draft one or more of these documents. They may charge you a flat fee instead of an hourly rate. That proved an effective way to get professional help if you represent yourself in court.
  • Drafting and/or Reviewing Proposals, Settlement Agreements. If settling your family dispute is likely, you will need professional help drafting the settlement proposal and an agreement. Instead of hiring an attorney to represent you throughout the process, you can benefit from limited-scope representation, asking a lawyer to draft an agreement to settle your dispute.  In the same vein, you can hire an attorney to review and advise you about a proposed agreement drafted by your spouse or their attorney.
  • Negotiation. Although negotiation is inherent to out-of-court dispute resolution methods (mediation and collaborative divorce), it does not mean you should not hire a lawyer to help you get the most out of it. Negotiation is a sophisticated process requiring skill and experience. To avoid ending up in a situation with untenable repercussions, always seek professional assistance. You can hire an attorney to help you with the negotiation (preparing for the sessions, making offers and counteroffers) without participating in the drafting process.
  • Limited Appearance at a Custody Trial, a Child Support Hearing, a Settlement Conference, a Protective Order Hearing, or a Motions Hearing. Instead of paying for the whole bundle of legal services, you can hire an attorney for a limited appearance at custody trials, child support hearings, and other family-related court sessions. Before your limited service attorney appears at a hearing, you must provide them with the facts regarding your case so they can prepare in advance.
  • Day of Trial Assistance. Trial assistance differs from limited court appearances because it involves an active role in proving your claims. You can hire an attorney to assist you at trial for a day, helping you offer an opening statement, cross-examine witnesses, or give closing arguments. An option to assist clients at court for one session is beneficial for lawyers too. They get an opportunity to help you with your case and get experience in court.
  • Filing Petitions for Modification and Appeals about Alimony, Custody, and Child Support. You represented yourself in litigation, and it ended unfavorably. The alimony you have to pay is too high. Your former spouse got custody, and you have to pay child support. It is not too late. You can hire an attorney to prepare appellate documents for you, seeking better terms or a petition for modification due to changed circumstances or other reasons.
  • Preparation of and Responding to Discovery Requests. Discovery is one of the most significant litigation stages. Its purpose is to gather evidence and build the factual basis for the positions you are taking. Each party must prepare a concise discovery request and a truthful response.
  • Legal Research. A professional performing legal research for you is sometimes all you need (or at least you maythink so) for success. When clients do not have the time (and knowledge) to perform comprehensive legal research (compare statutes, find and analyze relevant case law, etc.), they usually hire an attorney on a limited-scope basis. Relying on the results they have gotten from the lawyer, clients proceed as pro se litigants filing necessary motions and pleadings.
  • Preparation of Parenting Plan Agreement. A parenting plan agreement defines when and how often parents can meet children after the divorce if they are not the custodial parent. To improve compliance with the plan, both parents should actively participate in drafting the agreement. If necessary, hire a part-time attorney to help negotiate the best possible arrangement.
  • Affidavit preparation. Finally, hiring an  attorney on a limited basis can help you prepare an affidavit. Because it is a written statement you give under oath, which is evidence in court, you should not prepare it alone. Always seek help from a professional who will explain the legal repercussions of giving untruthful statements under oath. To avoid potential sanctions (including prison time) for perjury, hire an attorney on a limited scope services basis.

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