Access to justice: Limited scope representation
Increasingly, legal services are moving away from the full-service model. Outsourcing document review, e-discovery, and other discrete legal services are becoming more common-place. Small practitioners and larger firms alike can offer limited scope representation, or “unbundled” representation, which let clients pick and choose when they want to engage with a lawyer during the life of a transaction or litigation. Limited scope representation provides greater access to justice, as clients need not retain a lawyer for the whole life of a file, and can instead save money by ordering from a “menu” of legal services.
LAWPRO has recently collected materials for lawyers wanting to offer limited scope representation, available here. When you offer your client limited scope services, be clear on what your tasks are and what they are not. Miscommunication claims arise in this context when either the lawyer or the client expect different things from each other. While the retainer will mark out the territory just as clearly, it’s a good additional step to have your client look at the checklist of tasks and sign off on what exactly will and will not be done. The checklist can then be appended to the retainer as a schedule.
Follow best practices to avoid any landmines. If you have only known the full-service model, limited service representation is more than just offering bits and pieces of your legal skills to clients. For example, you cannot hand off a research memo to your client and expect your client to write a factum. Some complex legal matters should only be handled by a lawyer. Clients that are not as learned as you will need extra help. Similarly, clients with limited capacity or language barriers are likely not good clients for limited service representation. Simply because you have clearly set out the borders does not mean you are absolved of your duties as lawyer. You still must adequately represent your client and take steps to make sure your client is making informed decisions.
Limited scope representation may help you grow your business as it helps you cater to a different market. With the right tools you can kill two birds with one stone: provide access to justice and improve your bottom line.
Ian Hu is Counsel, Claims Prevention and practicePRO at LAWPRO.