The SBM Lawyer Referral Service reports that they receive 20–25 calls per week asking for limited scope assistance. As word of the practice spreads, there will be more clients looking for limited scope representation (LSR) and creating more opportunities for you to expand your business.
How do you approach the practice of LSR in a way that satisfies both your needs and the clients’?
At your first meeting with the prospective client, you need to determine whether they will be able to handle parts of the case alone. Can this person prepare documents, meet deadlines, or represent themselves in court with some help by you? If so, they could be a good LSR candidate.
On the other hand, persons who are not proficient in English, may have mental health issues, or who have contacted several attorneys are probably not a good selection for LSR.
Once you’ve decided to proceed, your first step is to determine the scope of your assistance and identify tasks reserved for the client. This agreement should be in writing. The SBM Limited Scope Tool Kit found on the Practice Management website contains the forms you will need including an engagement letter and consent to representation form. As stated in the letter, there are four ways to limit the scope of your representation:
- Services over a specific date/time period or until a milestone is met such as a judgment and submission of order.
- Services related to a particular purpose or activity such as mediation, discovery, or arbitration.
- Services related to a specific subject matter.
- Representation in a specific hearing.
The letter additionally states how changes to the agreement are to be made; the communication terms between the opposing attorney, client, and limited scope attorney; and how the relationship will be ended. Billing is explained for when it will occur and in what form such as a retainer, hourly rate, flat fee, or out-of-pocket expenses.
The Limited Scope Tool Kit also provides the following forms:
- Notice of Limited Scope Appearance
- Motion for Service
- Task checklist
- Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance
- End of Representation Letter
- Flow charts of tasks for the client and attorney
Remember the value of Michigan Legal Help and the self-help centers available to the public throughout the state. For clients who are partially represented, Michigan Legal Help online is available to assist them in both English and Spanish. It has articles on numerous legal topics, helps clients determine the proper court based on jurisdiction and type of case, and uses online interviews and a document assembly program to generate all of the forms needed for the action. Michigan Legal Help also sponsors about 16 self-help centers in or near courthouses throughout the state. Fifteen additional self-help centers are also available for people in Michigan. Michigan Legal Help and the self-help centers are valuable resources for your LSR clients and practice.
There are potential pitfalls in the LSR practice. First, be sure the client understands the attorney/client relationship has ended by sending the end of representation letter. Second, be wary of scope creep. It is in an attorney’s nature to help, so be aware and say when a request is outside the scope of the agreement. If the client wants more help, make sure to redraft the agreement. And, third, be sure the client understands the difference between LSR and full-service representation.
The LSR Tool Kit offers two- and three-page fliers to send to potential clients. Remember to include the service on your website and in your SBM Member Directory profile so that the public can find you. If you have not already done so, consider joining the Lawyer Referral Service so your name is available to people calling the service looking for assistance.
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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