What are full-service and unbundled services?
One factor to consider when deciding what law firm is a good fit for your needs is whether they provide “full-service,” “unbundled services,” or both. As a policy, the Firm provides full-service representation as well as unbundled services. The Firm does not, however, provide “fragmented representation,“ also discussed below.
For more information after you review this article, you may visit the American Bar Association’s overview of “limited scope representation,” available here. https://www.americanbar.org/
Full-service representation is straightforward to define: an attorney is responsible for everything in the matter from beginning to end. As an example, if the client has a transaction, the attorney is responsible for both drafting and negotiating. If the client has a litigation matter, the attorney is responsible for drafting court documents, interacting with opposing parties or their attorney, appearing in court, preparing materials for court appearances, and everything in between.
The benefit to clients of full-service representation is the client doesn’t have to worry about the “nuts and bolts” of a matter: the attorney handles all aspects and delivers a “turnkey solution” (in the case of a transaction) or sees the case all the way through to a final determination by settlement, judgment, or appeal (in the case of litigation).
The downside of full-service representation is the cost: most matters are billed at an hourly rate, and time worked on scope that a client could have completed on his or her own is more expensive to the client. The Firm attempts to reduce the cost by leveraging professionals at different billable-rate levels depending on the type of task involved. For example, if a task does not require legal advice and does not involve the practice of law, it may be performed by a paralegal with attorney supervision in order to reduce the cost.
Because the Firm offers unbundled services, clients have the option to reduce the scope of the Firm’s representation to a more affordable model if desired.
Limited-scope representation, also called “unbundled services,” is a situation where the Firm is responsible for only some of the tasks in a case, with the client being responsible for the remainder. Some situations can be clearly defined as limited-scope representation. For example, if an attorney drafts a contract while the client is responsible for negotiating the terms with the opposing party, we view this as “limited scope representation.” Or in a family-law litigation case if the attorney only appears at a hearing for purposes of oral argument while the client is responsible for preparing the documents for the hearing, this is also “limited-scope representation.” Another example is where the attorney drafts a trust and will, but does not draft any other estate planning instruments because the client only wants or can afford a trust and a will. The scope of drafting a trust and the scope of drafting a will and the scope of drafting other instruments can be effectively separated into distinct functions. As such, this is also limited-scope representation.
Essentially, limited-scope representation (in our view) is a situation where the Firm’s scope of work is only a part of what may need to happen in the matter, but it is a part that can be effectively separated from the other parts. Limited-scope representation is a service offered by the Firm where the rules governing lawyers permit such representation.
There is another species that some may call “limited scope representation” which the Firm does not offer: namely, “fragmented representation.”
Fragmented representation (or “micro-scope unbundling”) is a situation where the client desires an attorney to perform only a small fraction of what would normally be a limited scope representation matter. For example, if a hearing involves argument on two legal issues, attending the hearing on behalf of the client would be “limited scope representation.” Attending the hearing to present only one of the arguments, while the client presents the other, would be “fragmented representation” in our view. Same would be true if a client would like the Firm to draft only one clause in a contract, or to negotiate only one of many sessions with the opposing party, or to draft only part of a trust, or to teach the client how to represent themselves in a case, etc. The Firm does not offer this type of representation.
In a situation where a client views full representation as being too costly, the Firm offers limited scope representation where appropriate. But in situations where the client views even limited scope representation as being too costly, the Firm is not open to exploring micro-representation options. Aside from the potential risks to the client of fragmenting representation, such an arrangement would take Firm time away from other clients who need more of the Firm’s services and would also create a management and scheduling burden without an adequate return. Stated differently, the Firm views limited scope representation as a reasonable alternative, and the only alternative we are willing to offer, in situations where full scope representation is too costly.