Limited-Scope Representation: A little bit of lawyering can go a long way
Limited-scope representation (sometimes called "unbundled services") can allow you to hire an attorney to do only certain things for you, allowing you to control the scope of services and to predict the costs more easily.
What is limited-scope representation?Limited-scope representation (sometimes called "unbundled services") is a model that allows you to hire an attorney to do only certain things for you, but not take on all of the responsibility for your case.
For example, a physician who plans to negotiate with a potential employer could hire an attorney to review the contract provisions and any proposed changes to the contract. The physician would still negotiate directly with the employer--rather than paying an attorney to negotiate--but would have the benefit of the attorney's analysis during negotiations.
Another example is the client involved in a small litigation matter--such as a small-claims court. It may not be worth the expense to hire a traditional, full-representation attorney, but the client could hire an attorney for an hour or two of trial coaching, to prepare exhibits or--in states that allow for limited-scope appearances--to appear in court to argue a motion or other hearing.
Limited-scope representation is often coupled with flat-fee arrangements, making it easier to predict your legal costs, compared to an hourly fee arrangement.
Is limited-scope representation right for me?Limited scope representation is best for clients who understand their legal needs and are capable of taking care of the other issues they face. That is why the model is quite common for sophisticated business clients, who often have an in-depth understanding of their legal needs and what they can do on their own.
Increasingly, legal services companies like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer have made transactional legal forms available to startups and small businesses that cannot afford full-service business representation. Many attorneys have recognized the demand for limited-scope services, and have begun to offer similar services, but with the addition of the personal service that only an attorney in the community can provide.
Complex cases--like litigation involving extensive discovery and complex filings--and those that involve high emotions--like many family law cases--are not the best cases for limited-scope representation. In these cases, hiring an attorney for full representation may be more ideal or even necessary.
How do courts feel about limited-scope representation?Limited-scope representation--especially when the alternative is a pure pro se (no lawyer at all) representation--has been generally quite well accepted. According to the ABA, more than 40 states have adopted rules that explicitly allow for limited-scope representation. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission recognizes that securing the assistance of legal counsel ought not be an all-or-nothing proposition and endorses high-quality, limited-scope representation as a way of ensuring access to justice. Organizations facilitating limited-scope representation--like the Civil Justice Network--address the needs of low to moderate income people who are unable to afford legal services offered through the traditional full representation model.
What will a limited-scope attorney do for me?When you discuss limited scope representation with an attorney, you need to make sure that you understand what all parts of your legal issue are, what you will do, and what the attorney will do. Your attorney should provide you with a written agreement that clearly states what tasks the attorney will perform, and you would be responsible for everything else associated with your case.