A contrary decision would have dealt the concept of unbundling a grievous blow.
‘The client care letter also states what we have NOT agreed to do – the court has only made a commonsense decision based on a bleedin’ obvious point.’ So said one bemused Gazette reader about last week’s seemingly important precedent protecting a solicitor offering ‘unbundled’ advice.
Up to a point. It’s surely true, nevertheless, that a contrary decision would have dealt the concept of unbundling a grievous blow.
In what was indeed a commonsense judgment, Lady Justice King warned that there would be serious consequences for both the courts and litigants in person if solicitors felt unable to accept instructions to act on a limited retainer for fear that what they anticipated to be a ‘modest and relatively inexpensive drafting exercise’ may lead to a far broader duty of care. Lesley Landsberg, the solicitor involved, says that had she lost, lawyers would have refused to touch anything on a limited retainer.
It would be too optimistic, however, to expect solicitors to greet this decision as carte blanche to collectively embrace unbundling. We note a potentially problematic proviso: ‘An inexperienced client will expect to be warned of risks which are (or should be) apparent to the solicitor but not to the client.’
While welcome, the appeal ruling also underlines the risks of unbundling and the need to proceed with caution.