The Need for Alternative Legal Services Delivery

There has been a significant increase in the number of self-represented family litigants, with one or both parties now appearing in court without a lawyer in over half of family law cases. Many people involved in alternative dispute resolution processes for their family law issues are also not represented by a lawyer.

Research has established that the inability to afford full representation by a lawyer is the single biggest factor in the decision to participate in family court or extra-judicial family law dispute resolution processes without counsel.

Although many self-represented litigants do an effective job on their own, proceeding in court without legal assistance has significant potential negative impacts. Litigants often find family court processes daunting and have difficulty understanding the process, as well as their rights and obligations. This then makes it more challenging to resolve their disputes in an efficient way, potentially leading to increased costs and delay for the parties and the family justice system. The same issues arise for self-represented participants in alternative dispute resolution outside the court process.

Family law limited scope services, also known as “unbundled” legal services, provide an innovative option between full representation and no representation at all. Under a limited scope retainer, also known as an “unbundling” agreement, a lawyer provides services for part, but not all, of a client’s legal matter. For more information on “What are Limited Scope Services?” – click here.

The provision of limited scope services has significant potential for reducing the gap in representation for family law disputes.

Have you worked with a lawyer who provided you with unbundled legal services in a family law matter?

Dr. Rachel Birnbaum at King’s University College, Western University is interested in hearing from clients who have used unbundled services.  Any telephone interviews will be kept strictly confidential and any information reported will be anonymous.

Dr. Birnbaum can be contacted by email at: rbirnbau@uwo.ca or by phone at: 1-800-265-4406, Ext. 4431 or 519-433-3491, Ext. 4431.