At Prism Family Law we understand entirely that not everyone can afford to instruct a solicitor on a privately fee paying basis – the traditional method of employing a solicitor or lawyer to help in your case.
Potential clients of modest means, including a number who may have previously been eligible for legal aid prior to the April 2013 civil legal aid scope cuts, may be unable to afford a solicitor but may however wish to instruct someone on a “limited retainer” for a particular aspect or aspects or parts of their case. This is also referred to as unbundling of legal services.
In the context of our legal services, the term ‘unbundling’ is used to describe provision of discrete acts of legal assistance under a limited retainer, rather than a traditional full retainer where a solicitor typically deals with all matters anticipated from initial instructions until the case is concluded. It is sometimes referred to as ‘a la carte’ legal services. Unbundling can operate on several different levels such as :
- providing clients with self-help packs
- providing discrete advice about a specific step or steps in a case or issue on one or more occasion
- checking or drafting documents
So for example, you may need some limited help and guidance only in relation to the drafting of a divorce petition or you may wish to simply instruct us to prepare a consent order having reached a financial settlement with your ex-partner or you may instruct us only to check a Separation Agreement that you have made with your ex-partner or you may wish for us to draft that for you.
As the Law Society guidance and note on the subject provides for, the essence of “unbundling” of legal services in its purest form is that the case remains client-led so the solicitor does not necessarily accept service of documents, does not send out correspondence in the firm’s name or otherwise communicate with third parties on your behalf, does not incur disbursements and does not go on the court record as acting on your behalf.
In relation to the provision then of family law services, the Law Society has suggested that the following types of service could be on offer on client led limited retainer:
- The drafting of divorce petitions or related court documents (Judicial Separation for example),
- Preparation of a Form E – financial statement in financial relief proceedings,
- Consent orders and advocacy
- Assisting clients in relation to contested proceedings may be possible on an unbundled basis provided that the limits of the retainer are strictly defined and adhered to
Whatever the limits of the proposed retainer and “unbundling”, solicitors continue to have a duty of care to apply the relevant degree of skill and exercise reasonable care in carrying out the task instructed upon.
The main advantage then for any client in opting for unbundled services is that it should result in lower legal costs than a traditional retainer. There is no single fees model for unbundled services as the fee will very much depend upon the circumstances of the case but whatever the fee agreed upon our legal fees will be set out in a simple, transparent and made affordable to clients of modest means.
A limited retainer then can be entered into with us in a number of different ways:
You may wish to employ us on a ‘pay as you go‘ basis and system whereby you pay for the advice you receive, as you receive it. Fees might be charged, for example, on the basis of five- or six-minute units as per a traditional retainer and each advice session is treated as a discrete event and payment is made at the end of each one. This is a straightforward system with no need for payments on account.
You may also wish simply to employ us on a “traditional hourly rates” basis and rather than pay at the end of each advice session or action, you are billed say on a monthly basis and so are only then paying for that work done on your case.
You may also benefit from agreeing a fixed fee, although for quick pieces of advice, charging by short units of time might be considered to be more flexible and in certain instances more favourable to you than agreeing a fixed fee.
Agreed fees (often referred to as “fixed fees”) might be more appropriate for discrete pieces of work regarding a defined stage of a case where it is possible to determine the average amount of time for completing the task.
Agreed fees may also be appropriate for advocacy where this is provided.
Clearly whatever preferred option you consider, we are able to offer advice and help to suit all circumstances and budgets. We will provide to you sufficient information to allow you to make an informed decision and decide whether unbundling is appropriate to your case.
At Prism Family Law, we offer all potential client’s the opportunity to meet with us for free and offer all a 30 minute initial appointment so that we can discuss your requirements and case such so as to allow us to advise you on all the available options open to you to choose from. If you find yourself in a position whereby either you or your partner are contemplating bankruptcy prior to or during separation then it is imperative that you seek advice at the earliest opportunity to determine what impact that may have on the family. We would strenuously advise all that may be impacted by the issues of this article to seek legal advice and help at the earliest opportunity.
Should you require the services of Prism Family Law for any family law related matter please do not hesitate to contact solicitor Andrew Wraith in the first instance.
Prism Family deliberately offer free initial consultations. You can call us on 0191 269 6871 or email us via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest news and views on family law.