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Development of a Limited Scope Representation Practice

What Is Limited Scope Representation? 

Limited scope representation (LSR) is a means of providing designated legal services specifically chosen by the client and lawyer. It is an efficient way for the client to reduce legal costs while still benefiting from the expertise of an attorney. By specifying the services to be provided by the attorney, as well as specifying what won’t be provided, both parties have a clear understanding of the limited scope of the arrangement wherein the client pays only for the services needed.

LSR is ethical and permitted by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct since 2007. Under Prof. Conduct R. 1.2(c) “[a] lawyer may limit the scope of a new or existing representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and communicated to the client, preferably in writing.” 

Why Limited Scope Representation? 

Because everyone wins!

The majority of low and middle income litigants cannot afford full service attorneys. Nationally, a majority of all cases have an unrepresented party. However, many litigants have enough disposable income to pay for some legal services. Others can pay a “full service” retainer but cannot afford to continue making similar installment  payments. The lawyer often then discontinues services and the client becomes a pro se litigant creating a loss for the client, the court and the lawyer. LSR addresses this gap in access to legal services.

LSR is good for the legal system, which is not as fair when litigants don’t have access to lawyers to help them navigate the system. The legal system is more fair when all of the parties know how to utilize it effectively. The legal system is also more efficient when all of the parties understand the laws, rules and procedures. LSR results in higher quality filings, better focus on the issues, better docket management and higher satisfaction with the outcome.  

LSR is good for the client by making legal assistance available to moderate income people in a manner they can afford. The client receives legal assistance in achieving their lawful objectives, thereby increasing the client’s satisfaction with the legal system.

LSR is good for the lawyer. Lawyers can offer needed services to a marketable clientele thereby expanding their practice. Clients who find a lawyer who is willing to “meet them where they are” financially become clients, repeat clients and  referral sources. Furthermore, many clients seeking LSR ultimately choose full-service representation or later become full-service clients.

My firm’s average yearly cases have more than doubled since offering LSR. While most clients seeking budget friendly legal services ultimately choose full service representation, offering limited scope options has created an overall increase in percentage of retained clients. Clients appreciate that I offer them the flexibility to choose their services and respect their budget which helps to overcome negative stereotypes about legal billing. Furthermore, potential clients, whether they retain or not, also become referral sources.  

“My firm’s average yearly cases have more than doubled since offering LSR.”

Putting LSR Into Practice

Lawyers contemplating adding LSR to their practice must understand when limited scope is and is not appropriate. LSR creates an attorney/client relationship therefore, it is important to conflict check limited scope clients just as diligently as full service clients. Here are some other things to take into consideration when implementing LSR:

The Client. When counseling clients on the propriety of limited scope representation, consider the client’s emotional detachment, communication skills, ability to understand basic legal concepts, manage legal paperwork and perform tasks timely. Also consider any disabilities that may hinder the client. Some clients will have no choice but to use LSR, but understanding the client’s strengths and weaknesses will allow the lawyer to more closely tailor the scope of the representation to meet the client’s needs.

The Case. Consider the nature of the case (transactional v. complex litigation), the forum, the issues involved, and the opposing party and/or counsel. Also consider whether the client is eligible for appointed counsel. 

ALWAYS Use an LSR Agreement. Specify which services will be provided, which may include:

  • Legal advice, with no representation.
  • Review of documents prepared by the client.
  • Review of documents prepared by the opposing party or counsel.
  • Document drafting.
  • Negotiation. 
  • Factual investigation.
  • Legal research and analysis.
  • One-time appearance.
  • Ongoing appearance. 
  • Preparing depositions. 
  • Planning for negotiations. 
  • Planning for court appearances.

The LSR agreement should also identify the court or forum. If a case may process through multiple courts, or if the client has multiple cases, this will prevent misunderstandings as to the scope of representation. The LSR agreement should clearly state all financial arrangements and specify whether the client will be charged hourly, a flat fee, or a series of flat fees.  Each change in the representation or the financial arrangement should result in a new representation agreement.

If the attorney will represent the client in any forum, the attorney should notify the tribunal in writing of their limited appearance and the scope of that appearance. When the attorney has fulfilled their obligation to appear before a tribunal, they should file a notice of the completion of the representation. 

Ending the Representation. The LSR agreement should define how and when the representation will be completed. At that time, the client should receive the same type of closing letter and financial accounting as full service clients. 

Done correctly, LSR can be a win for the client, the lawyer and the legal system.

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