The Solicitors Regulation Authority plans to publish guidance on unbundling to encourage more practitioners to feel they can offer bespoke services.
Juliet Oliver, general counsel of the SRA, said the guidance will include case studies to help solicitors assess the risks.
Oliver was speaking during a roundtable discussion on litigants in person in December, released in the last week. It was convened by the Civil Justice Council, and featured politicians, lawyers, regulators and academics.
She stressed the SRA encouraged the use of unbundling, and solicitors not on the court record as having conducted the litigation helping the litigant with defined tasks for a fixed fee.
Oliver said there remained questions about the risks of going further than agreed with the client, and of clients not understanding the limits of the help they were paying for.
‘Of course, there was always a risk of the solicitor being blamed later, and it becoming an SRA conduct issue,’ she was reported to have said.
‘There should not be any barriers to the use of unbundling, however – simply a clear understanding of who’s doing what and what information [the] lawyer is basing advice on.’
Oliver explained that research from the Legal Services Consumer Panel had shown that in most cases without unbundling, the litigant would have had no access to advice at all. Unbundling, she added, could save between a third and two-thirds of the costs of a case.
The Law Society has published its own guidance on the unbundling of services to a wider range of civil claims, as a response to cuts in legal aid provisions.
The Court of Appeal has held that solicitors may offer unbundled services without being held liable for matters beyond those in their client retainer.
Elsewhere in the roundtable discussion, justice minister Sir Oliver Heald was said to ‘sound a warning note’ on the use of professional McKenzie friends, noting the ‘inaccessibility of the existing system risked thrusting litigants into the hands of those who were not the best source of advice on how best to pursue a claim’.
Heald noted there are now 20 personal support units in 16 cities, with the Exeter PSU successfully introducing advice on the telephone – an example of what could be done for those living in a rural area.