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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Solicitors Regulation Authority publishes report on unbundled services

Solicitors Regulation Authority publishes report on unbundled services


The report finds that unbundling could improve access to legal services

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published its final report on the unbundled services pilot on 15 June, which finds that solicitors providing 'unbundled' services could make legal help affordable for those on low incomes.

The SRA’s final report is based on a pilot exercise in family law, which involved a survey of 114 firms and engagement with law firms, the public, legal regulators, technology innovators and professional indemnity insurers on the barriers to unbundling legal services. The SRA also commissioned a YouGov survey of nearly 700 members of the public and analysed the relevant case law on unbundling issues.

The findings set out in the SRA’s final report include: that unbundling does have the potential to increase access to justice as it makes some legal services more affordable; some consumers said they would have not engaged a legal service provider had the option not been available; law firms could attract more clients through offering unbundled deals, with some consumers also wanting to have more control over their case; low levels of awareness were identified in regards to what unbundling is and how widely available it is; and some providers would like to expand what they do but there are concerns around the impact on firms' insurance premiums and the possibility of legal action should things go wrong.

The report also includes a set of actions to increase awareness and availability of unbundled services, and the opportunities made possible by technological innovation. The SRA will embark on the following: exploring an alternative to the term ‘unbundling’ to increase understanding for both the public and legal services providers; exploring how to help consumers ask their legal services provider about unbundling if appropriate; working with professional indemnity insurers to build a better understanding of their perception of risk in unbundled services and what actions firms can take to mitigate these risks; developing guidance for law firms on key points to consider when providing unbundled legal services; and supporting and showcasing technological solutions and good practice in unbundling.

Commenting on the report, Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the SRA, said: “Our findings suggest that unbundling has the potential to make some legal services more affordable for those on low incomes, while law firms could benefit too as it would increase their client base. Unbundling won't work for everyone but raising awareness would help people to make good choices. We will also explore whether we can do more to address the concerns that may be stopping firms from offering this way of working. As part of our public legal education work we will look at what more we can do to improve the information available about unbundling and work with others to raise awareness of this option for firms and consumers.”