Dr. Julie McFarlane has recently blogged on the failure of the Canadian bar to provide unbundling. Much of the blog is a discussion of the purported reasons for not availability, and a rebuttal. The post is well worth reading for this. In addition, she highlights how in her recent research, so many litigants wanted, but were unable to find, unbundled services.
Interviews with 253 SRL’s in my recent study (http://www.representing-yourself.com/PDF/reportM15.pdf) expose the reality that despite a decade of provincial Law Societies drafting new rules of professional conduct on limited scope retainers (LSR’s) or unbundled legal services – when lawyers provide services on an hourly basis for specific contracted tasks – lawyers who regularly offer their clients LSR’s are still about as rare as a shooting star on a cloudy night.
The 53% of SRLs in my study who started with counsel but ran out of money to pay the bills – as well as those who could never afford a retainer in the first place – were totally baffled by this. In interview after interview, SRLs described going systematically through the Yellow Pages and calling a dozen or more law offices asking: “Will you assist me with my case by (eg) reviewing my documents/ appearing with me at a hearing/ other task, and bill me only for the hours we agree that you spend on this assignment?” To their amazement, almost no lawyer said “yes”.
A total of just 13 SRLs reported receiving unbundled services. Virtually all sought and /or desired this.
This would suggest that supply is more of a problem that demand. This is in interesting juxtaposition to the ABA survey that appeared to show that most people had not heard of unbunding, and that it is therefore a demand issue.
We need better research on this.
All of us trying to improve the system for all need to read the McFarlane study–so thanks for shedding some light on these issues Richard! On unbundling–we do need more research–and we need to also get a sense of the price per action. I was just talking to someone who needed a demand letter written by a lawyer (in prep for a small claims case related to some home construction issues)–the charge for the letter was $500.00. This means the person has to be able to invest 6% of the maximum case value ($7,500). If the case is worth less than $7,500–the initial investment in a demand letter gets higher. As Lewis says above–we need to understand what this market looks like. How much would it cost per type of case if it is done cafeteria style as opposed to prix fix? And what would most people purchase to improve the final decision? What do they pay for, and what do they do on their own? (using the meal analogy–do they always get protein–what is the protein? What is the starch or fiber, and what are nice to have or should be done in limited amounts (oil, salt, sugar)?
Richard, research may be part of the solution, but perhaps it should be more “market research” instead of just delving into the reasons people represent themselves. I.e., let’s find out what the typical SRL *could pay* to show small practice lawyers that the market is real, not imagined.
In my post today that is intended as a supplement to yours (http://limitedscopepractice.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/whats-stopping-you/), I challenge lawyers to ask themselves why THEY aren’t already offering LSR. There just aren’t any excuses anymore other than the ones they hide themselves behind.
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