Unbundled services ideal for simple divorces
By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
Unbundled law services give self-represented litigants better access to justice because they are affordable and effective, says Toronto family lawyer Numan Bajwa.
“Most law firms charge high retainers up front, which many litigants cannot afford, so we give them a way to break that down and only pay for the services they require on a step-by-step basis,” says Bajwa, founder of DivorceGo.
“That provides them with an option to retain us for some services while self-representing themselves in other areas, where they feel that they are knowledgeable enough to move forward on their own,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Bajwa says his firm focuses on simple divorces — which are uncontested and where spousal support, child support and custody matters are not an issue — and the creation of separation agreements.
“For simple divorces, we cover the entire process with a flat rate fee, so our clients are not being billed by the hour,” he says. “We’re transparent about the costs upfront, so they know exactly what it’s going to cost them to complete the work.”
Bajwa says a simple divorce works well for those couples who don’t have children or significant assets..
“If their situation is more complicated, we can provide clients with a general consultation about what the divorce process entails, then give them the option of retaining our services in the more traditional way where they pay an upfront retainer,” he says.
When it comes to separation agreements, Bajwa says clients often provide his team with the basic settlement that they have already negotiated with their partner.
“Working with that, we can draft a professional separation agreement for them that will include all the key issues that need to be covered in these documents,” he says.
The Law Society of Ontario approves the use of unbundled legal services, also known as limited-scope retainers, as long as the agreement clearly sets out the obligations of the lawyer and client, Bajwa says
“I feel unbundled services might actually be encouraged since it is an affordable option for people who are otherwise self-represented,” he says. “They can’t afford some of the services that are provided by other law firms who charge an hourly rate.”
Bajwa says the popularity for services in the area of simple divorces and separation agreements has been so positive that his firm opened a new office in Mississauga to meet the demand.
“Clients appreciate the flexibility limited-scope retainers offer,” he says, explaining that a recent client incurred large legal fees when starting the divorce process with a lawyer who was charging by the hour.
“Even after spending $30,000, the couple failed to reach a separation agreement,” Bajwa says. “Both knew exactly what they wanted, but said their lawyers kept them jumping through hoops. So they really appreciated that we could draft the agreement they wanted, within the confines of the Family Law Act.”
He says clients have given his firm glowing reviews online.
“We don’t tell them how to review us, we just provide them with a link where they can write whatever they like,” Bajwa says. “So far, the feedback has been very positive.”