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August 4, 2012

E-lawyers Offer Tips on Delivering Unbundled Legal Services

To expand business during the bad economy, more lawyers than ever are providing unbundled legal services. Just as iTunes allows consumers to buy specific tracks off an album for a cheaper price than paying for a full album, this kind of representation allows clients to pick and choose what they want from a lawyer, usually for less money than full representation.

At an Aug. 3 ABA Annual Meeting program, “Delivering ‘Unbundled Legal Services’ Over the Internet,” sponsored by the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, a panel of experts on e-lawyering discussed the trend of providing limited-scope representation.

For those interested in offering such services, panelists Richard Granat of Granat Legal Services; Will Hornsby, staff counsel for the ABA; and Stephanie Kimbro of Burton Law LLC, shared these best practices:

Get an agreement in writing. Informed consent is very important when dealing with unbundling, according to the panelists. When providing limited-scope representation, you should confirm all agreements in writing, so clients know what you are responsible for.

Do not exceed the scope of your agreement. You may amend your agreement at any time to add or take away duties, but you should always get signed permission from your client first, especially if these new duties will increase the cost of services.

Create a checklist of duties for your client. There may be many tasks for your client to do, so developing a checklist with timelines will help them hold up their part of the agreement—without delaying yours.

Learn your state’s ghostwriting laws. Depending on where you live, your client may or may not have to inform the judge that he or she used the help of an attorney in pro se litigation. In some states, judges may even require clients to identify their attorney.

Educate your client. Make sure your client is fully aware of everything you are responsible for, and—more important—you should inform them of what you are not responsible for.

Get feedback from your client and adjust your procedures accordingly. Also, keep digital records of all interaction with your client.

After representation, terminate the limited-scope agreement. You should always get a signed termination agreement after you finish your work with a client. If there are any additional steps that your client must do after the agreement, it is a good practice to follow up with them to make sure they have turned in any final paperwork or anything else you could be held liable for.

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