Questions to Ask Yourself
Most people facing separation and divorce would like to have the advice and assistance of a family lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer to represent them from beginning to end is often too expensive and makes it difficult to predict total costs.
The good news is that it is possible for you to have the help you need from a lawyer at a cost you can afford through unbundled legal services. “Unbundling” is useful when your resources are stretched and you are not able to represent yourself.
That said, unbundling may not be the best option for everyone or every type of problem. Unbundling means breaking up a complex matter into a list of tasks or activities and allocating them between you and your unbundled lawyer. You are, in effect, self-representing for those tasks allocated to you.
Before you commit to unbundling, it is important that you ask yourself some hard questions to see if unbundling is the right option for you.
Answer the following questions in writing. This will ensure that you are more thorough in your analysis.
Be honest, even if the answer is difficult. No one will see this list but you.
- Why do I think unbundling would be a good approach for me?
- Save money
- Retain more control over the process
- Provide me with coaching I need to stay on track
- To make sure I have access to the up to date applicable law and caselaw
- Other reasons – list
- What are the risks or disadvantages if I represent myself in whole or in part?
- List all perceived disadvantages
- Can your matter be broken down into small steps, easily divided between you and your unbundled lawyer?
- Are there any complicated issues that cannot easily be split between you and your lawyer?
- Are there any important deadlines approaching that you are not able to meet?
My Strengths and Weaknesses
- Depending on the type of legal problem you are dealing with and the kinds of tasks ahead of you, you need to be confident that you will be able to deal well with the tasks are allocated to you. Tick the tasks that you are very good at:
- Organizing papers
- Organizing thoughts, facts and details into logical order
- Summarizing information into an easy to read format
- Preparing chronologies (what happened in date order)
- Filling out forms
- Writing clearly and concisely
- Following instructions
- Public speaking
- Using technology
- Investigation and information gathering
- Analysis of documents
- Financial planning and analysis
- Work habits:
- Attention to detail / accurate
- Finishing what you start
- Meeting deadlines
- Persisting through difficulty
- Now, put an X beside those items that you are not good at and two XXs beside those you really dislike doing.
Time Commitment & Responsibilities
- Managing a family legal problem can be very time consuming. Consider your current and future responsibilities (work, children, parents and other relatives, volunteer activities, self-care, etc.).
- How will you free up time to devote to self-representing on part of your matter?
- What plan can you make to address your other responsibilities (including to your children, if any)?
- Is it an option to delegate some of those other responsibilities temporarily to free up your time? If so, to whom?
- If you manage your tasks from home, can you be sure the kids don’t see or hear what is going on?
Self-Care and Emotions
- Family legal problems can be long, complicated, stressful and difficult. You need to be sure that you are able to take care of yourself (physically, emotionally and psychologically) while still managing parts of the matter yourself.
- How well do you think you can achieve this balance?
- Are you able to stand firm when under emotional pressure?
- How will I react if my unbundled lawyer provides me with advice that I disagree with? What process will you suggest to resolve those differences?
- How well will I be able to follow my unbundled lawyer’s instructions and meet deadlines?
- Am I willing to take complete responsibility for the outcome of the family matter?
- Am I willing to take the risk of being wrong?
It will be important for you to have a frank and transparent discussion with your unbundled lawyer about all issues including financial issues. Take a look at another resource provided on this page that suggests key questions you can ask your unbundled lawyer at your first meeting.
Unbundling is more affordable but it is usually not free. Many lawyers who provide unbundled legal services are willing to consider a variety of pricing options including flat-fee services.
Consider your financial situation and calculate how much money you have to spend on legal fees. That will help you to achieve an appropriate allocation of tasks between you and your unbundled lawyer.
Do I believe that the advantages of unbundling (partial self-representation) outweigh the potential disadvantages/risks?
If your answer is “yes”, then go to the BC Family Unbundling Roster to find a lawyer who best meets your needs. Click here to find a list of questions that you can ask the lawyer at the beginning of your relationship.
If unbundled legal services won’t work for you
Your other options include:
- Start by paying a lawyer for a comprehensive initial consultation to get information, options and a helpful roadmap. Some Roster lawyers offer this important service and the CBABC Lawyer Referral Service provides a 30-minute initial consultation for $25.
- Seek free legal services if they are available:
- Represent yourself for the entire matter:
- National Self-represented Litigant Project website and blog
- Join a Support Group: NSSN – National Self-Represented Litigants Network
- Info on bringing a Support Person to Court: Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court, The McKenzie Friend: Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion
- Connect to key sources of information:
- Meet with a Family Justice Counsellor
- Visit or phone a Justice Access Centre
- Get help from the Supreme Court Help Centre
Find a Family Law Advocate in your area