Every year in Illinois, hundreds of thousands of people go to court without any legal help. The vast majority would rather have an attorney—they simply can’t find or can’t afford one. Many people in this group make too much to qualify for the limited legal aid and pro bono resources available, but too little to pay for traditional market rate legal services. Others may not realize that affordable legal services exist and are easier than ever to access, thanks to limited scope representation.
Limited scope representation, also called unbundling or a la carte legal services, is designed to give lawyers and their clients more flexibility. In a limited scope representation, the lawyer takes on some part of a case while the litigant handles the rest, allowing the lawyers to focus their expertise on discrete issues and tasks. This can drive down costs for consumers and give them more flexibility and control over their legal matters. It can also bring in new clients who may be unwilling or unable to pay for full representation but can afford something less.
The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a series of rules to clarify the permissible and ethical uses of limited scope representation in Illinois trial courts. The rules are included below, in addition to many other tools and practical resources designed to help lawyers understand and incorporate limited scope representation into their practices.
This training series is designed to provide a foundational overview of how an attorney can ethically incorporate unbundled legal services into their practice. We encourage attorneys to watch all segments of the series prior to taking on their first unbundled matter. The presenters in this series are all experienced attorneys who have been successfully unbundling cases for several years. If you would like to reach out to any of them, their contact information is below.
- Part 1: Debunking Myths
- Part 2: What are Unbundled Services & Why Should You Offer Them
- Part 3: Rules
- Relevant Illinois Rules (for attorneys practicing in Illinois)
- Relevant ABA Model Rules, Opinions & Resolutions
- (for attorneys practicing in states other than Illinois)
- Part 4: Identifying Appropriate Candidates
- Part 5: Engagement Agreements
- Part 6: Tips & Resources
- CBF Limited Scope Representation Toolkit
- IL Supreme Court Approved Statewide Forms for Limited Scope
- Examples of Unbundled Services
For additional resources, check out the other sections on this page, including the “Limited Scope Practice Resources” section.
Presenter Contact Information
- Jessica Bednarz, Director of Legal Services and the Profession, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS)
- Alyease Jones, Attorney & Owner, The Law Office of Alyease Jones
- Andrea McGinn, Attorney & Co-Owner, The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn
- Darren Perconte, Attorney & Owner, Perconte Law
- Roya Samarghandi, Associate Director of Advocacy, Innovation, & Training, The Chicago Bar Foundation
These resources (also included in the Limited Scope Toolkit) are designed to assist attorneys in understanding and using limited scope rules in an effective and ethical manner.
- Checklist – Identifying Good Candidates for Limited Scope
- Checklist – Discussing Limited Scope with Potential Clients
- Checklist – Attorney and Client Task Assignment
- Template – Engagement Letter
- Template – Disengagement Letter
- Increasing Access to Justice Through Limited Scope Representation (March 2019)
- Limited Scope. (Almost) Boundless Opportunity (January 2019)
- New Resources Help Lawyers Build Business and Increase Access to Justice by Providing Limited Scope Representation (November 2017)
Data and Research
- Sara Smith & Will Hornsby’s Unbundled Legal Services: At the Tipping Point? (April 2018)
- The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System’s (IAALS) Cases Without Counsel: Research on Self-Representation in U.S. Family Court and Recommendations After Listening to the Litigants (May 2016)
- Dr. Julie Macfarlane’s The National Self-Represented Litigant Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants – Final Report (May 2013)
- American Bar Association’s Perspectives on Finding Personal Legal Services (February 2011)
- The Illinois State Bar Association’s Limited Scope Representation Consumer Legal Guide
- The American Bar Association’s Unbundling Resource Center
- The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System’s (IAALS) Unbundling Legal Services Project
- The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Pricing Toolkit
- Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 allows lawyers to “limit the scope of representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.”
- Supreme Court Rule 13 allows lawyers to make limited appearances in Illinois civil court proceedings and to withdraw by oral motion or in writing after the representation is complete.
- Supreme Court Rule 11 requires that the opposing party or counsel serve all documents on both the attorney and the party while the limited scope appearance is in effect.
- Supreme Court Rule 137 allows lawyers to prepare and review pleadings, motions, and other documents without signing the pleading or filing an appearance.
- Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2 clarifies when a lawyer may communicate with a person represented by counsel on a limited basis.
- Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5 clarifies that lawyers may counsel and coach litigants without filing an appearance.
The CBA referral panel is a list of experienced private attorneys who offer limited scope representation as one of their service offerings. Attorneys who offer limited scope representation in landlord/tenant matters and domestic relations matters are invited to apply.