One of the services offered by Oregon Legal Resolution Services is unbundled legal services.
Unbundled legal services are sometimes called limited scope representation or discrete task representation, which really does not help much in terms of understanding what they actually are. Let’s use a restaurant analogy: you walk into a fancy restaurant and, after you are seated, are told that you will be served a six course meal. The waitress does not tell you what this will cost. You are served an appetizer, a salad, a meat entree (you are vegetarian), a “palate cleanser”, dessert, and an aperitif. You were no longer hungry after the salad, but stuck it through to the end, finding yourself having eaten a week’s worth of food and being stuck with an exorbitant check. You wish you had gone to the little sushi place on the corner, so you could have gotten just what you wanted to eat, and could afford.
Unbundled legal services are like the little sushi place on the corner. Tasty, you can eat as much, or as little, as you want, and the check is no surprise. With traditional legal services, you are typically asked for a retainer that is deposited into an attorney trust account. A retainer can be as little as $5,000 or as much as $15,000, depending on the type of case. Your attorney files a notice of representation. This means that your spouse or adverse party will likely hire an attorney. Your attorney cannot talk to your spouse and your spouse’s attorney cannot talk to you. The two attorneys talk, meet, write letters and emails about your case. The attorneys might also talk with court staff and others about your case. Every month, you receive an invoice showing what happened in your case over the month and how much money was deducted from the trust account for the work that was done. Surprise! And, that is all before your case ever gets near a courtroom.
With unbundled legal services, you are responsible for your own case, and represent yourself, with an attorney on standby to help you with whatever you ask for help with. The adverse party and/or their attorney talk to you or write to you directly. Legal pleadings and letters go to you, not to your attorney. If you want help drafting a motion or responding to the other person’s motion, you can make an appointment for a half hour consultation. If your case goes to trial, your attorney can coach you and role play with you so you know what to expect. The attorney will help you with what you came in for, and you pay for the time you spent with the attorney. Thats it! No retainers, no trust account, no surprises, at least not on your bill!
When you use our unbundled legal services, you can expect high quality representation and the same professional, ethical and competent legal services you should expect from any attorney. The same rules of professional conduct and confidentiality apply to traditional legal services and unbundled legal services. Unbundled legal services are fully endorsed and encouraged by the Oregon State Bar Association.
Of course, nothing is ever truly simple. Not every case is appropriate to be handled in this way. Some cases are just too complex for a non-attorney to handle on their own. Examples might be a divorce with significant assets or assets held by companies or trusts, or situations involving domestic violence in which safety might be at risk. Not every individual is equipped to represent themselves. It certainly helps to be organized, articulate and calm in the face of stress but knowing you have an attorney ready to assist you at any time definitely can help to alleviate that stress.
You and your limited scope attorney will sit down and work out a contract, laying out what you want the attorney to do and what you will be responsible for. The contract will include specific financial information about your agreement to pay for the services as you use them and what you can expect from your attorney. Of course, you and your attorney can modify the contract to change the “who does what” part any time. If things don’t go as planned, your limited scope attorney can help you transition to an attorney who can provide you with traditional legal services.