A little late to the party by comparison with other provinces, the Law Society of Upper Canada is now seeking comments on how best to treat the practice of “unbundling” legal services in the rules of conduct. Specifically, a report (undated) prepared by the Policy Secretariat, “Unbundling” of Legal Services and Limited Legal Representation, [PDF] has made a number of proposals for change in the rules governing lawyers and paralegals, and the law society invites responses to these.
In this context, the society means by “unbundling”:
… the provision of limited legal services or limited legal representation. It is the concept of taking a legal matter apart into discrete tasks and having a lawyer or paralegal provide limited legal services or limited legal representation, that is, legal services for part, but not all, of a client’s legal matter by agreement with the client. Otherwise, the client is self-represented.
This is seen as mainly applying to self-representing litigants in the area of small claims and family law, where the cost of acquiring full legal representation would be too great. Of course, any legal matter may be “unbundled,” whether it involves small claims courts or large stakes corporate commercial dealings; the report, however, does not directly address the latter.
As I noted above, other provinces have already amended their rules to guide practitioners who offer partial or limited services. The British Columbia Law Society, for example, has for a while had a rule that addresses a limited retainer, and this was amended after an extensive 2008 study, Report of the Unbundling of Legal Services Task Force — Limited Retainers: Professionalism and PracticeBritish Columbia [PDF].
And a decade ago the Canadian Bar Association addressed unbundling of legal services in Chapter Seven of its 2000 report, The Future of the Legal Profession: The Challenge of Change [PDF].