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  • Since the 1970s, Australian lawyers have been pioneers in the development of limited scope or ‘unbundled’ service delivery, seeing it as a means of addressing the unmet legal needs of those who have fallen through ‘the justice gap’.
  • There is an increasing need for the formal recognition of limited scope services in legislation, ethics rules and court rules in Australia.
  • Unbundling is not for everyone. The competence or legal capability of the client is a critical factor in determining the reasonableness of limiting the scope of services provided and the terms of the retainer.

With so many technology-driven changes occurring in life and legal practice, more clients (and potential clients) are seeking limited scope(or ‘unbundled’) legal services. However Australia is lagging behind other countries in the development of guidelines for the provision of such services. At present, Western Australia and Queensland are the only states with guidelines and they  have been developed with the assumption that it is a process undertaken with the consent of the client – an assumption not without its problems. It would seem the time has come for the broader profession to provide more formal guidance to practitioners who are considering providing these kinds of services. (See also: Michael Legg, ‘Recognising a new form of legal practice: Limited scope services’, 50 The Law Society of NSW Journal, November 2018, 74).

Most clients who seek assistance from the legal assistance sector get what they can by way of legal service. In this context unbundled services are driven not by client choice or consent but by the challenge presented to the sector of addressing unmet legal need using limited resources.

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