Have you ever walked out in a daze after meeting with a lawyer? Was it English they were speaking? What was it they actually said about your problem? Was the only thing you understood, “Don’t worry, we will take care of it for you”, and then with confused relief you left your legal problem in their hands.
A few weeks later you get the bill but you still don’t really understand what work has been done AND why are you paying for photocopying and meetings and phone calls?
Well, the law is pretty complicated. There’s no doubt about that. It’s not always easy to navigate, and often only an experienced lawyer will know the best strategy to help you reach your goal. And, yes, paperwork is generated, even in my paperless office there is photocopying to be done. Meetings, research, reviewing documents and phonecalls are also vital tools of our trade.
And, yes, the traditional model is we do take care of you and you pay us to do that - we can try to keep our fees down but the analogy might be, you are flying first class, with all the tinsel and trimmings and not a care in the world (but for the bill).
But can’t there be a different way? What about those who prefer to, or simply have to, fly economy so to speak.
In my article of 7 December 2018 I talked about preventative law. This article is about an approach to law that is equally exciting. Around the world, it's called “Unbundled Law”, also known as limited scope or discrete task representation. Unbundled Law is where the lawyer and the client make an agreement to limit the scope of the lawyer's involvement in a legal matter down to specific tasks.
The New Zealand Law Society* explains the potential benefits to clients in using Unbundled Law as:
It simply stuns me the number of people who do not know what their legal documents say or do - and in some cases don’t even have a copy!
As for court cases, if you don’t know what your legal case is about how can you possibly make decisions about what to do next in it when you are asked by your lawyer for “instructions”?
An important point to make is you don't have to compromise quality with Unbundled Law, because ALL lawyers have professional obligations to their clients that are closely monitored and nowadays it's easy to do some homework and find out about your lawyer's experience and skills - just as you would with any other potential service provider.
There’s no doubt some people will always prefer the traditional legal model and thank goodness there are some great law firms in the region providing those services but more and more people are taking on assisted “DIY Law”.
At Comer Legal, we have developed a fixed fee framework so that clients can get the assistance they require as they require it. When work is completed, the client takes home all their own original documents for safekeeping or lodging – thus keeping control over their own legal matter. Electronic copies are kept by us and also provided by email to the client if requested. If we decide that a client might not be the right fit for Unbundled Law, quality referrals are made to traditional lawyers.
The key to the success of professional services is YOU the client.
More and more your choices matter when it comes to how services are delivered and that’s why Unbundled Law has a very important role to play right now and in the future in helping people access justice.
*Unbundled Guidelines - New Zealand Law Society 9 August 2017
Note from the Author
I get plenty of time to think about legal matters while I am on the road.
This blog shares those thoughts and also answers some of the many questions people ask me. Hopefully there is something of interest to you. If there is a subject you would like covered then let me know!
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