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Limited Scope Representation

Court Basics

This article explains "limited scope representation," which is one way to make hiring a private attorney more affordable.

Attorneys are expensive, and legal services' costs have risen over the past few years. Legal problems do not disappear simply because a person cannot afford to hire an attorney. Limited scope representation is one possible solution. Learn about it in this article.

What is limited scope representation?

Limited scope representation is a way to hire a lawyer to handle some parts, but not all, of your case. In limited scope representation, you and the lawyer agree on which parts you will hire the lawyer to do, and which parts you will do on your own.

What does “unbundled services” or “unbundling” mean?

Unbundled services, or unbundling, is simply another term for limited scope representation. It is a service where a lawyer is hired to do some parts, but not all, of your case.

Will I save money hiring a lawyer for limited scope representation?

Yes! It is almost always more affordable to hire a lawyer to help you with a part of your case, instead of all of it. For example, you might do the work on your case by yourself (including going to court), other than paying a lawyer to:

  • Review your court paperwork that you put tougher, and give you feedback
  • Give you one or two hours of legal advice
  • Explain a contract or other legal papers to you before you sign it
  • Prepare a checklist for you on how you can represent yourself in a case
  • Write a letter for you, or
  • Coach you on negotiation strategies and trial tips.

How much does limited scope representation cost?

The cost of limited scope representation depends on which lawyer you hire and how much work you hire the lawyer to do.

Below are some questions to talk with the lawyer about regarding fees:

  • Talk about whether you can hire the lawyer for a “flat fee," or an hourly fee. Flat fees are usually easier to plan for.
  • It can be a good idea to ask for a “not to exceed” agreement with the lawyer. Let the lawyer know that you have limited funds to pay a lawyer, and you cannot spend more than X (name your budget) dollar amount on the case.
  • Ask if the lawyer is willing to work on a reduced-fee agreement. Some lawyers will agree to perform work at a reduced cost as a courtesy or as a way to give back to the community.

Make sure to get a clear, written agreement that details the cost of the work, the specific parts of the case you are hiring the lawyer to do, and the specific parts you will do.

Should I talk to a few lawyers before deciding which lawyer to work with?

Yes. It is a good idea to interview a few lawyers to decide which lawyer you want to hire for limited scope representation. Here are some questions you may want to ask the lawyer to help you decide:

  • Can you tell me about your experience with cases like mine?
  • What counties do you regularly work in?
  • Have you had cases in the court that my case will be in?
  • What has been your experience with judges in cases like mine?
  • What are appropriate expectations for me to have in this case?
  • Have you helped clients with limited scope representation before?
  • Can you tell me which parts of my case you feel I could handle on my own?
  • Do you offer any discounts (cash, reduced fee, etc.)?
  • Do you offer payment plans?
  • If I hire you, what is the expected timeline for when you could start and finish the work?

When should I not use limited scope representation?

Not all cases are right for limited scope representation. Some cases are better served if the lawyer handles the entire process.

You should talk with a lawyer with experience in limited scope representation to see if it makes sense for your case.

In addition, if you learn that your case has become more complex than expected, you may need to make an agreement with your lawyer to switch from limited scope representation to full legal representation.

Where can I learn more about limited scope representation?

The following links have more information about limited scope representation: 

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