There's a movement afoot to loosen the monopolistic grip lawyers have upon the legal representation of parties in litigation. This reform is hottest in several sagebrush states where "do-it-yourself" is a long-standing tradition. It's called "unbundling", which allows lawyers to provide useful litigation services to clients who are otherwise appearing pro se (without a lawyer) in court. Unbundling allows a pro se litigant to obtain the expert advice of a lawyer without that lawyer obligating himself in the representation of the litigant's claims. This saves the pro se litigant a great deal in court expenses while getting practical assistance from an attorney.
Over the past few years the state bars in Alaska, Washington, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, and Florida have formalized unbundling by adopting rules of professional conduct to govern it. Other state bars, including those in neighboring Illinois and Ohio, are joining the unbundling movement. The stodgy legal culture here will probably make the Michigan bar a johnny-come-lately.
The primary argument hidebound barristers have against unbundling is that it encourages ordinary citizens like you and me to go into court without an attorney and that we are really too ignorant of the nuances and sophistications of the practice of law to be trusted with handling our own legal complaints. Of course, that misses the point. Most of us would prefer to be represented by an attorney if we get mired in a lawsuit, but we cannot either afford or find one with sufficient experience for our case. So, we're faced with either going into court pro se or giving up without a fight. Unbundling addresses that dilemma.
It is really past time for the reactionary part of the bar (including judges) to get over their disdain for pro se litigants. When it comes to the practice of law, there are basically two areas: Litigation and transactions. Transactions include the stuff of contracts, wills, trusts, and all manner of agreements. Most people do these things without any legal advice. For example, how many of you hired an attorney to review the purchase of your current home? We use lawyers for agreements when we need them, not for every one of them.
So what's the difference with the other half of the legal trade, litigation? Why is it the general assumption of lawyers and judges that a person should never enter a courtroom without a lawyer in tow? Why shouldn't the legal profession accommodate our wide of preferences like unbundling does instead of shoehorning us into a one-size-fits-all approach to litigation? Our legal complaints and our defense of complaints against us are our business, just like our contracts and wills are our business. Isn't it our prerogative to decide what if any expert assistance we hire to handle our affairs?