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Thinking About  Unbundled Law

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1.   The State Bar of Wisconsin and local bar associations should sponsor and promote a campaign for private practitioners

Private practitioners should provide free half-hour consultations to prospective clients.  The State Bar should develop a brochure or videotape, which provides clients with basic information about what to expect and how they can maximize the use of the lawyer’s time through advance preparation.  The State Bar should develop continuing legal education programs on how to provide affordable legal services and how to communicate with clients and prospective clients about legal fees.  The commission believes that CLE programs designed to educate lawyers on how to balance ethical and economic considerations in establishing legal fees and rendering legal services will help achieve actual fee reductions and thereby expand access to legal services. 

2.   The State Bar should sponsor a symposium on the subject of “unbundling” of legal services and lawyer assistance in self-representation

The Commission recommends State Bar sponsorship of a symposium-possibly as part of a convention-on the subject of unbundling.  Judges, court administrators, lawyers who have offered unbundled or “client coaching” services, and experts on legal ethics and risk management would be appropriate presenters or panelists.  The purpose of the symposium should be to explore inherent issues of economics, client satisfaction, quality assurance, judicial administration, ethics and lawyer malpractice, and to share information on the subject with the bench and bar.  The comments from the symposium should be published to encourage lawyers to evaluate the feasibility of unbundling legal services. 

3.   Wisconsin courthouses should house information resource centers to provide the following assistance to courthouse users and visitors:
a. Helping people to find where they need to go;
b. Providing rudimentary “how to” information to persons who need
    access to the court system
c. Answering simple legal questions and assisting in the preparation
    of forms that are available in these centers;
d. Acting as a resource and directing persons to appropriate state,
    local, and federal or other nonprofit groups for additional services.

The local bar associations should support the Information Resource Centers by, for example recruiting lawyers to serve as courthouse advisors; operating volunteer lawyer hotlines to provide access to legal information; and assisting with the dissemination of pro se forms, leaflets, manuals, information packets and videotapes relating to simple procedural or substantive legal matters.  The commission also recommends that the State Bar continue to work with the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Marquette University Law School to develop a clinical program for law students to staff nearby courthouses as “courthouse advisors,” to provide telephone and online information relation to simple procedural and substantive legal questions, and to provide direct telephone consultation similar to the community law office model at the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Marquette University undergraduate student legal service.    

4.   The Wisconsin Supreme Court should establish a statewide standing Pro Se Forms Committee responsible for compiling existing pro se materials, creating new forms as needed in the different substantive areas and establishing procedures to routinely and reliably update and disseminate pro se material 

      The commission recommends that the State Bar collaborate with the law schools, local bar associations, and other groups to establish an appropriate implementation plan.  The commission also recommends that the Judicial Education Office develop educational programs to sensitize judges to special consideration in handling pro se cases. 

5.   The Supreme Court should create a Task Force on Family Law in the Courts to review and make recommendations on administration, processing and proceeding in cases presenting CHIPS, custody, child support and domestic violence issues

A Task Force on Family Law appointed by the Supreme Court would provide a forum for all interested parties to examine more closely those court proceedings affecting the family and children.  The Task Force should include judges, family court commissions, lawyers, advocates, legislators, and representatives of the general public.  Special emphasis should be given to the obstacles encountered by the unrepresented litigant and to continuing legal education requirements and minimum standards of practice for guardians ad litem.

6.    As an interim measure, the State Bar should support the use of lay advocates in need for assistance and where the public interest can be protected

  • Administrative agency proceeding:  Where it is determined that legal needs are not being met by lawyers, Wisconsin should consider allowing nonlawyer representation of individuals in state administrative agency proceedings.  Nonlawyer representative should be subject to the agencies’ standards of practice and discipline.
  • Statutory authorization:  While at this time there should not be enacted a broad, general statute authorizing nonlawyer practice, the activities of nonlawyers who provide assistance, advice and representation authorized by specific statutes, court rules or agency regulations should be continued, subject to review by the entities under whose authority the services are performed.
  • Other nonlawyers:  With regard to the activities of all other nonlawyers, Wisconsin should adopt an analytical approach in assessing whether and how to regulate varied forms of nonlawyer activity that exist or are emerging in Wisconsin.  Criteria for this analysis should include the risk of harm these activities present, whether consumers can evaluate providers’ qualifications, and whether the new effect of regulating the activities will be a benefit to the public.  The State Bar’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Subcommittee of the Consumer Protection Committee or other appropriate State Bar committee should continue to monitor the activities of law advocates.  The State Bar periodically should petition the Wisconsin Supreme Court to examine specifically nonlawyer activities, which appear to be detrimental to the public.

7.   The State Bar should develop guidelines for expanding the range of activities traditionally performed by paralegals, with lawyers continuing to supervise and remaining accountable for paralegals’ activities

8.    All lawyers should make a personal commitment to perform or
       provide financial support for voluntary pro bono representation
       of individuals of limited means

9.   The State Bar annual membership dues statement should
      include a solicitation for voluntary contributions to support pro
      bono programs 

The commission also urges that the funds collected through this appeal be distributed by an entity such as WisTAF with the expertise and experience to distribute the funds statewide to legal services providers and legal programs, and which is qualified as tax exempt and has the authority to receive funds as charitable donations.

10. Law firms should assume responsibility for the delivery of pro bono legal services. This can be accomplished by various means, or a combination of means, including the following:

      a.   Committing the Law Firm Pro Bono Pledge;
b.   Establishing internship programs or partnerships with legal service
c.   Setting up and adequately funding a firm pro bono department;
d.   Making direct financial contributions to WisTAF for the delivery of
      legal services to the poor; and
e.   Directly staffing and/or financially supporting community law

11. The State Bar should systematically coordinate, support, and promote pro bono activities 

12. The State Bar should provide leadership in exploring alternative funding sources for legal service agencies

The commission recommends that the State Bar work closely with LSC-Funded and other legal services organizations in Wisconsin to diversify their funding sources and thereby reduce their dependence on federal funding.

13. The State Bar should actively encourage federal, state, and local governments and the public at large to expand their commitment to ensure that all persons have access to legal services and the message should be sent that this is a public obligation 

14. The President of the State Bar should appoint a committee to monitor and assist the Bar in implementing the Commission’s Recommendations and Pilot Projects and report back to the bar on an annual basis

The commission believes that the State Bar would benefit from an annual report by the implementation committee, analyzing the progress and status of the commission’s recommendations and projects, suggesting changes or modifications, and assessing the fiscal impact of completed and ongoing initiatives.

reproduced from: 



The report is not copyrighted.  Bound copies are available at $10 each (tax, shipping, and handling included.)  You may also download the report from the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Internet homepage located at http://www.wisbar.org

State Bar of Wisconsin
P.O. Box 7158
Madison, WI 53707-7158

In September, 1994, the President-Elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin with the authority of the then-President appointed a thirty-person commission to “explore and make recommendations concerning ways to increase the availability and accessibility of legal services to low and moderate income persons.” The impetus for this search was driven three separate but related initiatives by the American Bar Association to not only focus on the improvement of the Civil Justice System, the data and findings from their study but also the quest for a solutions and a need to take action and implement changes. Again the tools used to arrive at the following recommendations were based on public hearings, research, subcommittee work, funding and seed ideas for five pilot projects. 

John Skilton, Pamela E. Barker, Maureen A. McGinnity, et. al.