Author: Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois
Last updated: April 2010
Limited scope representation – sometimes called “unbundling” – is where a lawyer provides some, but not all, of the services contained in traditional representation. Individual services provided might include fact-gathering, negotiation, advice, legal research, document preparation, discovery, legal coaching, and representation in court.
Limited scope representation is permitted in Illinois under the revised Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(c), but there are no guidelines about how lawyers can represent someone in court on a limited basis. In response, amendments to four rules of practice are proposed to establish guidelines that will allow lawyers to make limited appearances in civil matters, and to prepare pleadings and other documents to be filed by clients on a pro se basis.
Limited scope representation gives lawyers more options for providing a range of services that are affordable yet profitable. The proposed rules will allow lawyers to extend limited representation to litigation matters. Lawyers in other states say limited scope representation has become an important part of their practice: They represent clients who would otherwise be priced out of full representation and left to proceed pro se. Since fees are paid up front, they have fewer accounts receivable, and some limited scope clients ultimately convert to full representation as their cases grow more complicated.
Rules that guide how lawyers can provide limited representation in court will give clients who can’t afford full representation the option of hiring a lawyer to provide some legal services in a case. For most limited scope clients, the alternative to limited representation is no representation at all. Even on a limited basis, lawyers can provide valuable services that help clients address their legal problems.
Yes. Limited scope representation is permitted under Rule 1.2(c). The same ethics and professional rules that apply to full representation apply equally to limited scope representation. And under the rules, lawyers must use their judgment and discretion in determining whether limited scope is appropriate for a client.
If lawyers are permitted to provide assistance on a limited basis, pro se litigants will be more informed and better prepared as they move through the court system, and the courts will operate more efficiently. Lawyers will be able to help pro se litigants draft appropriate pleadings, coach them about how to address the court, and appear for them in particularly complicated hearings.
Forty-one states currently permit limited scope representation through rules that are substantially similar to Illinois Rule 1.2(c). Of those, 17 states – including Iowa and Missouri – explicitly permit limited representation in the courts through procedural rules similar to those proposed in Illinois.
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