Improving Access to Justice Through Unbundling

What’s next?

Improving Access to Justice Through Unbundling

CBABC Executive Director Caroline Nevin focused her December 2016 BarTalk column on unbundled legal services and said: “… there is a legitimate place for lawyers to provide their services on an ‘a la carte’ basis (also known as unbundled services or limited retainers). What that means is that a huge underserviced market is available to those with the interest and know-how to provide services in a new way that reflects a radical departure from the past practice of ‘all or nothing’ legal services.”

As the legal industry landscape changes and the number of self-represented people increases, particularly in family law matters, there is a greater need for innovative ways of delivering legal services to modernize the legal industry and address the access to justice crisis. Caroline Nevin identified the opportunity to connect the dots between two realities: 1) While many lawyers practising in diverse areas already provide unbundled legal services, they may not use that term and they rarely advertise these services to the public; and 2) Many clients want legal advice and representation and can afford some legal services but don’t know where to find unbundling lawyers. Unbundling allows people to pay for the legal services they can afford and make informed decisions about their legal matters. This not only benefits the individual, but also the entire justice system by reducing the challenges faced by courts and judges. 

Fortunately, in Canada and internationally, unbundled legal services are gaining popularity among lawyers and the public. Although promotional efforts to date have focused on family law matters, in particular in the context of litigation, unbundled services can be provided in most practice areas and in all forms of dispute resolution processes such as mediation and arbitration, giving disputants the opportunity to avoid litigation and opt for non-adversarial, efficient and effective approaches to resolving disputes. 

In BC, the CBABC, Mediate BC and other legal organizations collaborated over the past two years to promote and provide practical supports for unbundled legal services, including:

Looking ahead, there is still much to be done, including: 

  • Increasing public awareness about unbundling to close the gap between demand and supply
  • Collaborating with law schools, PLTC and CPD providers to incorporate unbundling
  • Continuing to collaborate with the Judiciary 
  • Improving the current Roster and toolkits and developing new rosters and toolkits for all practice areas

What can you do?

  • Join the new CBABC Unbundling Section
  • Sign up for the Family Unbundling Roster
  • Let colleagues, trusted intermediaries and clients know about unbundling and refer them to the resources
  • Learn more about how unbundling could enhance your practice

With every challenge comes an opportunity to make a positive difference. The access to justice crisis can be overcome with innovation and collaboration and unbundling is a great start. 

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