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New Limited Scope Representation Rules

By Roberta Gubbins posted 08-02-2019 01:58 PM


Last week we introduced limited scope representation, a method of legal representation in which an attorney and client agree to limit the scope of the attorney’s involvement in a civil lawsuit, leaving responsibility for other aspects of the case to clients in order to save money and give them more control.

In 2016, the State Bar of Michigan president appointed an Unbundling Work Group that drafted limited scope court and ethics rules that were adopted by the Bar’s Representative Assembly, and then by the Michigan Supreme Court. The rules became effective in January 2018 and provide for:

  • Ghostwriting without entering an appearance or disclosing your identity.
  • Limiting the scope of your involvement with the client’s informed consent, preferably in writing.
  • Entering and withdrawing your appearance by simply filing notice with the parties.

First, let’s look at the rules for filing an appearance. MCR 2.117 (B)(2)(c) allows attorneys to appear for limited purposes “during the course of an action, including . . . depositions, hearings, discovery, and motion practice” if the attorney has filed a notice of limited appearance to all parties and the notice limits the scope by date, time period, and/or subject matter.

According to MCR 2.117 (C)(3), an attorney may withdraw by filing a notice of withdrawal with the court and served on all parties. If the withdrawal is signed by the client, it is effective immediately; if it is not signed, it becomes effective 14 days after filing and service unless the client files an objection because the attorney didn’t complete the agreed upon service.

The rules also provide that if the attorney exceeds the scope of limited appearance, opposing counsel or the court may set a hearing to establish the actual scope of appearance.

Ethics rule (MRPC) 1.2(b) allows for the filing of a limited appearance if the “limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent, preferably confirmed in writing.” Determination that LSR is “reasonable under the circumstances” includes the capacity of the client to understand the matter and use self-help assistance such as Michigan Legal Help to assist in pursuing their case.

Next, we turn to the rules for ghostwriting. Court rule (MCR)2.117(D) allows an attorney to help a client draft pleadings without filing an appearance. The rule states that “an attorney who assists in the preparation of pleadings or other documents without signing them . . . has not filed an appearance.” Rule MRPC 1.2(b) makes clear that papers ghostwritten by a lawyer do not require the attorney’s signature but do require the following statement on the document: “This document was drafted or partially drafted with the assistance of a lawyer licensed to practice in Michigan.”

To learn more about LSR, the State Bar provides a Limited Scope Toolkit and a three-part series of on-demand webinars on LSR offered by ICLE in coordination with the SBM. The webinars are free and can be accessed through the Limited Scope Toolkit. Once you’re trained in LSR, remember to add “Limited Scope Attorney” to your profile in the SBM Member Directory.

Next week, we’ll look at some of the problems that can arise with LSR and how to avoid them.

After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.

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