Unbundling… or losing the plot?

The Law Society has published a practice note for family lawyers looking for more affordable ways to serve their clients recommending ‘pay as you go’ legal services  allowing clients to deal with aspects of their cases themselves, writes Emma Walker.

The note follows on from the practice suggestion made by the Law Society President, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, at its Legal Aid Conference in March. However, the note also warns of the risks such ‘unbundled’ services can present. ‘Unbundling’ refers to the provision of isolated or ‘discrete events of legal assistance’ by a solicitor under a ‘partial retainer’ rather than a traditional retainer under which a solicitor deals with all aspects of a case. In its purest form, says the note, unbundling means a case remains client-led so the solicitor does not accept service of documents, does not send out correspondence in the firm’s name or otherwise communicate with third parties, does not incur disbursements and does not go on the court record.

The note was met with widespread disapproval from the profession, with one solicitor complaining that the Law Society did ‘not understand the logic of solicitors being advised on how to support the Government in dismantling our legal system by unbundling our legal services… The Law Society has lost the plot big time’. Others compared the unbundling of legal services to taking your car to the mechanic once you’ve had a go under the bonnet yourself or a patient attending surgery once they had made the necessary incisions on themselves. One critic exclaimed that ‘anyone who agrees to act on this basis is not so much unbundled as unhinged’.

To take a view for yourself, read the practice notehere.






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