Unbundled Law in a Gig Economy

Doing law differently

Unbundled Law in a Gig Economy

Working from home. Court appearances via Microsoft Teams. Offering remote services over zoom to someone in the Kootenays from your couch. Did you ever think this was possible in law? Neither did your colleagues.

In this pandemic-era, many lawyers and legal service providers have had to find new ways of practising law.

Technological innovation has enabled professionals to think outside the full-service model of law. This type of practice is often referred to as unbundled or limited retainer law. A lawyer provides a client with legal services for part of their legal matter and allows for the lawyer and client to work collectively in deciding what tasks the lawyer will perform and what tasks the client will perform. It has become increasingly popular with self-represented litigants and for folks who are unable to afford full representation. Similarly, gig workers are independent contractors who enter into short-term contracts with firms or individuals to complete specific and often one-off tasks.

How does one thrive in a legal “gig” or unbundled legal practice?

Know Your Client (and Their Expectations)

Not all clients are suitable for unbundling. It’s vital to understand the client’s legal issue, their needs, expectations for services being provided and what termination of services looks like. All of this should be captured in the initial intake meeting.

Know Yourself

Are you capable of letting go? Are you okay with or sharing control of a legal matter with your client? Are you able to effectively communicate boundaries? A lot of unbundling is built on trust and communication. While the Law Society of BC provides a policy framework and rules around limited representation, it is ultimately your professional and personal responsibility to know whether this is the right type of practice for you.

Invest in Technology

Investing in legal software (preferably cloud-based) that supports streamlining client communication and helps organize your practice goes a long way. With tools like online intake forms, integrations with online scheduling and the ability to manage documents collaboratively with clients will increase efficiency and flexibility, and provide transparency and reduction in legal fees for the client.

Think Like a Teacher

A huge chunk of providing unbundled legal services to clients is acting as a conduit to knowledge sharing/transfer to clients. Clients are smart. They know their story. What they need from lawyers is not just advice, but access to information. Connecting clients with useful and accurate legal resources goes a long way, particularly those available online.

Abundance Mindset

Similar to the gig worker, unbundled legal practitioners may struggle with financial scarcity at the outset. Ask yourself what is the impetus for providing unbundled legal services? Is it Free Agency? Flexibility? Necessity? Sometimes we do things because we feel we need to. Investing time and intentional energy in connection with other professionals (not just lawyers) who have non-traditional models of practice will help you see if this is a right fit for you. Be curious. Along the way you will also realize that your fear of scarcity is shared, but remember risk often leads to reward.

Client Feedback

It’s important to ask the client about their experience. The more feedback you receive, the greater insight you will have into the efficacy of unbundling your legal practice and ultimately you!