Since 1 April 2013, legal aid is no longer available for most private family law matters where there is no history of domestic violence and abuse. Clients of modest means, including those who would not previously have been eligible for legal aid, are unlikely to be able to afford to instruct a solicitor on the basis of a traditional retainer, but they may wish to instruct a solicitor under a partial retainer for a particular aspect or aspects of their case. Increasingly, firms are introducing some level of unbundled services as a more affordable alternative to the traditional retainer.
On 1 May 2013, The Law Society issued guidance to advise family practitioners on best practice in relation to offering unbundled (ie partial retainer) legal services to their clients. The guidance points out the potential risks (and how to minimise them) and is aimed primarily at face-to-face service providers.