Monday, May 19, 2008

Law Society Task Force Report on Unbundling of Legal Services

The Law Society of British Columbia has published Report of the Unbundling of Legal Services Task Force.

The report deals with lawyers acting on a limited basis in lawsuits. Some litigants are not able to afford to, or may not wish to, have a lawyer handle all aspects of their case. For example, a party to a lawsuit might ask a lawyer to draft court documents, and provide advice, but not appear in court.

Limited retainers raise a whole host of issues. What are the lawyer's responsibilities to the client? To the opposing party? To the court? Many of the rules of court and ethical rules are based on the assumption that a lawyer will handle all aspects of the case. For example, lawyers get on the record in court, and the other side may then serve documents on the lawyer. Does a lawyer who is retained to handle only a few functions need to get on the record? A lawyer for one side may not communicate directly with the other litigant if he or she is representative by a lawyer. What happens when the lawyer is not retained to handle negotiations?

One interesting issue is the potential for conflicts when a lawyer is doing volunteer work in advising people through a clinic. The lawyer may not know in advance whom he or she will be advising and the lawyers only function may be to provide advice on one occasion. It may not be practical for the lawyer to check for conflicts of interest in each case. What if the lawyer's partner or associate is representing someone who has conflicting interests with the person the lawyer at the clinic has advised?

The report sets out 13 recommendations for the Law Society to consider.

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