New Limited Scope Representation Toolkit a Great Resource for Lawyers to Expand Their Practice and Improve Access to Justice

September 13, 2017

A new Limited Scope Representation Toolkit released by the CBF and others is a practical resource for Illinois lawyers seeking to expand or add limited scope representation as one of their service offerings. A number of recent reports have shown there is a huge untapped demand for limited scope representation, and expanding the availability of these services can go a long way towards improving access to justice in our community.

The CBF and our Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) developed the toolkit in partnership with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, and The Chicago Bar Association. The resources in this toolkit—including rules, forms, checklists, and a sample engagement letter—are intended to assist attorneys in understanding the limited scope rules and using them in an ethical and effective manner to make their services more accessible and affordable for clients who might not otherwise be able to afford full representation.

Limited scope representation, often referred to as “unbundling” or “a la carte services,” allows lawyers to help potential clients for only a portion of a case, so long as the agreement is reasonable under the circumstances and the client has given informed consent. Limited scope can be used for both discrete tasks, such as drafting pleadings or offering advice, and for discrete issues, such as the child support portion of a dissolution of marriage case. Supreme Court Rule 13 also allows limited scope attorneys to act nimbly, entering and exiting a case quickly to meet a client’s needs, without being burdened by the cumbersome process of withdrawing from a case under the general appearance rules. Clients can hire an attorney for the most important or most complex portion of a case while handling the simpler matters by themselves. This provides predictability for clients and flexibility for lawyers, creating a win-win situation.

Unbundling also allows lawyers to charge fixed fees by task or phase of a case. Fixed fees can help lawyers distinguish themselves in the market and make their services more accessible to clients. Many JEP Network attorneys have successfully incorporated limited scope representation into their practices and are seeing the benefits firsthand.

This toolkit was a collaborative project made possible by a number of partners and volunteers, including Mary K. Rochford, Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, and Dan Kotin, CBA Immediate Past President, who made access to justice the theme of his bar year. Under Dan’s leadership, the CBA worked to expand limited scope representation by creating a new lawyer referral panel to connect potential clients in the areas of domestic relations, landlord/tenant, and contract/debt collection matters with attorneys offering unbundled legal services.

We invite your feedback as we strive to make the toolkit an even better resource going forward. Feedback and questions regarding this toolkit or limited scope representation more generally can be directed to Jessica Bednarz, JEP Director of Innovation & Training, at jbednarz@chicagobar.org or (312) 554-8022.

Lawyers interested in applying for any of the new CBA limited scope representation panels should contact Samira Nazem, CBF Director of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy, at snazem@chicagobar.org or (312) 554-8356.

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