Friday, October 8, 2010

Article on "unbundling" of legal services

Here is a link to a new article in the Illinois Bar Journal on "unbundling" of legal services.

There is a lot of talk about the concept of "unbundling" of legal services these days. Unbundling usually refers to an agreement in which the attorney agrees to help the client with a distinct and limited task. For example, the attorney would agree to review a document that the client will use to negotiate a deal by himself. The attorney's representation in such circumstances is "limited" to reviewing the document. For everything else, the client is either on his or her own or will rely on other lawyers.

Some say "unbundling" allows lawyers to provide access to legal representation to people who could not otherwise afford to hire the lawyer to represent them in all aspects of the case. Others respond, that that has always been the case.

The more difficult question we need to address is whether an attorney who writes a court document for a pro-se litigant should be required to disclose (in the document) that the lawyer helped the client prepare it. A recent ethics opinion in the state of New York concluded that attorneys could remain incognito. In response it has been said that anonymity can result in abuses and in lawyers taking advantage of the clients they are supposedly trying to help by unbundling the services. Go here for my comment on this question.

This debate is now before the Supreme Court of Illinois. It is considering some proposals to amend certain rules to regulate limited representation in the state. The proposals are available here. Interestingly, the proposal regarding "ghostwriting" is the opposite of the view adopted in New York, which, in my opinion, is a very good thing.

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