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Hiring a lawyer for limited scope representation

Hiring a lawyer for limited scope representation
by Kathleen Bird

Limited scope representation is an option when you are confident that you can manage a legal matter with a lawyer performing only tasks requiring legal knowledge and discretion. The lawyer performs specific legal work in your matter, and tasks that do not require a lawyer’s discretion are performed by you. The lawyer applies the same standard of professionalism and care as if hired to handle the entire case, and the fee is based on the specific services agree upon. This could involve consultation about your legal rights and remedies, drafting and/or reviewing legal documents, or appearing in court for a limited purpose. It can be cost effective for specific legal tasks or legal matters that are not complex, such as an uncontested divorce. You are usually required to pay before the lawyer performs the work, but this typically does not involve as large of an advanced deposit as when a lawyer provides full representation.

Keep the following in mind when considering limited scope representation:

Limited scope representation requires a cooperative mindset. Usually, the lawyer is entitled to rely on the information you provide, so be prepared to discuss the specifics with as much accuracy as possible. Have a full and frank discussion with the lawyer about what will be required to handle your legal matter, what services you believe you can handle, and the fees and other costs involved. A written engagement agreement is required and will spell out what you are hiring the lawyer to do and the tasks you will perform. Before you sign it, you should feel well informed about how the lawyer will help you.

You accept responsibility to accurately perform the tasks you are undertaking in a timely manner, and the risk is yours if you do not complete them as agreed. In some cases, you may want the lawyer to take charge of communications with others. Unless the lawyer is asked to do so, communications will be made directly through you, and you should know when you are required to take the initiative.

Stay in touch with the lawyer to be sure that the tasks are completed. If you have concerns about whether the engagement agreement covers what is needed, talk with the lawyer about whether it should be changed. The agreement may need to be revised as you further appreciate the value of the services the lawyer is performing. Be aware that the lawyer is not required to expand the scope of representation without renegotiating your agreement. When the lawyer has completed the legal services you agreed upon, the lawyer will terminate representation. The lawyer does not need the permission of a judge to withdraw when a limited appearance is made in court once the tasks are completed.

The Missouri Bar maintains Lawyer Search, a free online search tool to help you find a lawyer currently accepting new clients. You can search by areas of practice and location, as well as for lawyers offering limited scope representation in family law civil matters. For additional information on limited scope representation, read Seven Things You Should Know About Limited Scope Representation.

Kathleen BirdKathleen Bird is a lawyer and mediator serving on the Missouri Committee on Access to Family Courts.

This information is intended as general information about the law and legal system. It is not to be considered as legal advice for your specific situation.

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