Law Office of Tom James
(320) 286-6425

 

 

 

FAQs about unbundled legal services


Q: What are unbundled legal services?

A:
Unbundling is the provision of limited legal services to persons with no undertaking by the lawyer providing those services to provide the complete, “bundled” set of services that would be provided if the lawyer were to provide full representation to the client. Some examples of unbundled legal services include:

  • providing brief advice to pro se parties;
  • reviewing and providing advice on proposed settlement agreements;
  • assisting in the drafting of pleadings to be submitted to the court over the signature of the pro se party;
  • conducting legal research and preparing appellate briefs or memoranda of law for a pro se party.

Q: Is it ethical for an attorney to provide “unbundled” legal services instead of providing full representation to a client?

A: Yes, it is ethical for Minnesota attorneys to do this. Rule 1.2(c) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct provides, “A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.”

Q: Can an attorney ethically ghostwrite a legal brief or pleading for a party?

A: The federal court circuits are split on this issue. It does not appear that the practice violates any rules insofar as Minnesota state courts are concerned, however. At one time, a committee tasked with responsibility for making recommendations for the regulation of unbundled legal services (the “Pro Se Implementation Committee”) considered recommending a rule that would require attorneys to indicate their role in providing writing help, but ultimately decided against it. Focus groups of attorneys and judges concluded that attorney-written pro-se briefs are a benefit not only to the client but to the court; that requiring disclosure could discourage attorneys from providing this service; and that “disclosure was not needed.”  

Q: Should an unbundled legal services agreement be set out in writing?

A: Yes, and it should clearly delineate the services the attorney will provide, and the services the attorney will not provide.