MORE ABOUT UNBUNDLING (A $500 Product That is Worth $1000)
I admit that I have been obsessing on one issue, which is the disparity between WV people who need, but do not think they can afford, legal services and the West Virginia small firm lawyers who need work. I have several ideas how to bridge the gap, and “unbundling” of legal services is one of them.
There are lots of lawyers ready to help someone injured by a negligent, insured, “tortfeasor”, but the pool of such cases is getting smaller. Our firm does this work and will be happy to “audition” for your personal injury case. This work is performed on a “contingent fee basis”, so you do not pay unless there is a recovery. I have many blog articles on these kinds of cases. Just search in www.hunterlawfirm.net for “personal injury”, “insurance”, “negligence”, “industrial”, or “malpractice.
But, in many other kinds of conflicts, there are people every day who truly need help but don’t get it. An example is family court where something like 70% of litigants “fly blind”. They, at best” get a “one size fits all” abbreviated form of justice, and, at worst, can lose, or pay, valuable alimony payments, real or personal property, retirement benefits, and even primary custody of their children. Self-representation is a high-risk venture, and it is not less so because the circuit clerks will sell you “do it yourself” packets, which falsely imply that using the forms will protect you. They won’t.
I believe that the product I am going to describe here, and in some detail in the video which you will find at the following location, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh8VkKqa-lA&t=82s , provides, at the very least, $1000 in value for the $500 flat fee I charge. But, there are important questions that any attorney who offers “unbundled legal services” needs to answer correctly
For example, do younger, less experienced, or less innovative lawyers have a sufficiently valuable product to unbundle? I suggest that unless they are willing to do thousands of dollars’ worth of “groundwork”, the answer may be, “No.”.
For now, I believe “unbundling” will work only for the passionate innovator, the person who builds enough value into the product being sold that no reasonable person can question the ethics of the process or the value of the product.
Unbundling requires a careful description of its benefits and, especially, its limitations. No one should think that they get the equivalent of an experienced, aggressive, competent attorney for one small flat fee. “Ain’t gonna” happen!” And while “tutoring” from an experienced lawyer make help confirm the phrase, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man (or woman) is king”, it will NOT turn you into a lawyer. This product is for the person who perceives that he/she/they have no other choice.
And, fair warning, many of the people who come to me for a “robust consultation”, when they see the outline of the challenges ahead, work with me in a plan so that I can become their record counsel. Properly done, the consultation stage can apply directly to the “representational stage” if that’s where the client decides to go.
While “unbundling” may be a bit avant-garde in West Virginia, it is strongly promoted by the American Bar Association “Future of the Law” committee. I recently listened to a podcast interview of the chair of that committee, and I felt as if I were in the choir listening to the preacher. Amen.
Here are some of the people who can benefit from unbundling legal services:
- A young mother, victim of abuse, stay-at-home, no job, with children to protect or a young father who perceives what he is losing and wants to remain relevant this children’s lives.
- The person being sued for contempt.
- A person with a “difficult neighbor” on issues related to their common boundary line, right-of-way, overhanging tree, loud music, or barking dog.
- A relative of an older person who is being unfairly influenced or abused or defrauded, or who has passed away, with questions about their protection, their will, their wishes, or heirship.
- Any couple, or group of people, or even group of organizations, who are having trouble communicating and who could benefit by a facilitator or “mediator”.
Lawyer – mediators can draft legal agreements or orders just as “unbundled consultants” can. A colloquial term for assisting a person to prepare a document for their own signature is “ghost writing”. The difference is important. The mediator represents neither party, and his/her ethical duty is to the process of permitting the parties to reach their own decision. The “unbundled consultant” has loyalty to the person who hired him, and his existence NEED NOT EVEN BE KNOWN to the client’s adversary.
Other examples that come to mind of people in conflict are churches in crisis, parent-teacher organizations, parents in youth sports, neighbors, families, heirs, and even friends. It would be nice if the default in such controversies was “Why don’t we find a good mediator?” The presenter in our last CLE seminar opined that one of her favorite mediations ever was “265 angry jews in a synagogue”.
At the very minimum, our “unbundled full consultation” includes providing the client with blog articles I have authored, copies of court rules, sometimes “The Rules of Evidence” or “Rules of Civil Procedure”, applicable statutes, WV Supreme Court Decisions, family court forms, instructions on organizing the facts in your case, and drafting everything from a will, to power of attorney, divorce property settlement agreement, simple pleading, or parenting plan or order.
You will leave such a consultation much more aware of the pitfalls and challenges ahead, and perhaps a new appreciation of what a good lawyer does to represent a client. For those who can afford nothing more, such “unbundled” services can be a godsend.
If you are a casual reader, you may stop now, but if you very much need a lawyer, and question whether you can afford one, then check out this ten minute video please go back and click the link to my video. Burton Hunter
This post was written by Burton Hunter