About 75% of the individuals I meet with for the first time cannot afford to hire an attorney full time. Most of these folks are not poverty level and do not qualify for volunteer legal aid. Similarly, they do not have a few thousand dollars in a shoebox to hand over for their legal representation.
Like most of my colleagues, I shied away from being hired piecemeal. Why? Well, it simply doesn’t come naturally to an attorney to let go of something once it is started. Also from an ethical standpoint, attorneys hesitate to do partial work and trust that something will not go terribly wrong down the road once the case is out of the attorney’s hands.
Well, from a practical perspective, things can go terribly wrong down the road whether or not an attorney is controlling every aspect of the case presentation. On the flip side, things can also go marvelously well whether or not an attorney is controlling every aspect of the case presentation.
The vast majority of folks who come to see me simply want some help – any help. I accept on one or two pro bono cases a year on an ongoing basis but I wish I could offer more free services. As a result, quite a few of my initial consultations end with hopeless feelings on both sides. I cannot help the person without watching my practice go into deep crimson red and the potential client has already called ten other attorneys and gotten the same answer – no dice without a few thousand up front.
Meanwhile, our court system is hopelessly clogged with a high number of self-represented individuals in the same boat. Court staff is strained beyond capacity trying to direct folks in the right direction without improperly giving legal advice. The judges and commissioners are frustrated by their own inability to help because a judicial officer cannot give legal advice or otherwise “assist” to a self-represented individual.
And so, without further ado, I’ve kicked my ego aside and I am happy to offer unbundled services starting now.
There are a number of great resources online for researching limited-scope and unbundled services. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Washington State Bar website.
- An article published on the American Bar Association website.
- Another article on the American Bar Association website pertaining to ethical concerns for unbundled services.
- Association for Family and Conciliation Courts.
Not all who wander are lost.