Hiring a lawyer may not always necessary, and in some cases may not be possible.

Traditionally, a person needing legal services would hire a lawyer to see the matter through from start to finish, particularly if their legal matter involves the courts. However, hiring a lawyer may not always necessary, and in some cases may not be possible. In such circumstances there are alternatives.

Some people may choose to represent themselves in court. This is rarely efficient or effective because unrepresented parties not only have to educate themselves on court rules and procedures, but they lack the experience to know what kinds of evidence, or how much evidence, they need to present to the court.

There is a third option that falls between full representation and no representation. A limited scope retainer, or what is often referred to as “unbundled legal services,” means that a lawyer agrees to represent a client for part, but not all, of a legal matter. For example, an individual preparing for a hearing before a judge in a family court matter might retain a lawyer to help prepare by explaining what documents will be required, how to fill them out, and what kinds of questions to expect from the judge.

Unbundled legal services was made possible in BC in 2008 through amendments to the Law Society Rules. Not all lawyers offer such services, but the number continues to grow.


The People's Law School launched Unbundled Legal Services to explain unbundling for the public. The website features a self-assessment to help people decide if unbundling is a good fit for their situation, a directory of lawyers offering unbundled services, and tips for working with a lawyer on an unbundled matter.

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project offers a number of resources on its website, including: