Limited Scope Representation: Unbundled
Often called “unbundled legal services” or “unbundling,” limited scope representation (LSR) is a resource available to those who wish to represent themselves in propria persona (also known as in pro per or pro se), but who also choose to avail themselves of the services of an attorney to perform many of the tasks requiring legal acumen. Simply put, LSR is the division of tasks between an attorney and the client based on an agreement between the two.
Attorneys generally counsel and advise clients, explain legal ramifications or remedies and suggest strategies, or rather, a course of action. Once that plan is determined, the client and the attorney divide the tasks and duties, entering into an agreement detailing the duties and who is responsible for each task.
In a typical LSR arrangement, the attorney may provide legal advice and recommendations, perform necessary research, draft pleadings and handle court appearances. The client may decide to handle the paperwork and processing, or even represent himself or herself in court. Attorneys can prepare the self-represented litigants for trial through coaching, including the writing of deposition and cross-examination questions or preparing the client to testify.
Attorneys can also assist with the preparation of exhibits and any number of document-related tasks, should the client wish to pay the attorney for those particular tasks. Otherwise, those tasks may be apportioned directly to the client, or to a third party legal document assistant (LDA) who then prepares the necessary documents pursuant to the instruction of the client. Unbundling legal services by offering limited scope representation reduces legal expenses and costs through use of alternative resources and careful planning, ensuring that the consumer pays only for the legal advice or discrete services he or she needs for each separate phase of the litigation.
Since 2001, limited scope representation has the endorsement and support of the California State Bar and the Administrative Office of the Courts, which have adopted LSR as one remedy to the access to justice crisis. In 2009, the California State Bar released this statement in support of limited scope legal services.
The Judicial Council of California has adopted specific mandatory forms to facilitate LSR by informing judges, court officials and parties of the specific responsibilities and division of tasks between the client and attorney in family law cases (JC FL 950).
In 2005, the American Bar Association published this white paper on unbundled legal services; setting standards for limited scope representation as a way to provide legal advice and services to clients who would otherwise proceed entirely on their own without the assistance of an experienced legal professional.
The Alliance of Legal Document Assistant Professionals (ALDAP) supports LSR as a means for clients the self-represented to meet their self-help legal needs in a manner that achieves their specific objectives while maximizing cost savings.