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​​​Limited-scope representation vs. full representation
There are many benefits to limited-scope representation over full representation:
  • By only paying a lawyer to do those parts of your case that you cannot do yourself, you can save you money on legal fees.
  • The lawyer can use his or her time more efficiently by focusing that time on things you cannot effectively do yourself and leaving other more time-consuming tasks to you.
  • You can keep greater control of your case than if the lawyer handles the entire case.

But, there are many times when limited-scope may not be a good choice, like when:​
  • Your case has a lot of technical issues or is very time-sensitive. 
  • You do not have the time to put into educating yourself and effectively handling many of the tasks that you need to do.
  • There is a lot of stake in your case, so if you lose, you could lose your home, lose rights to see your children, or owe a lot of money.

Limited-scope representation vs. representing yourself
Limited-scope representation can often also be a better alternative than representing yourself:
  • Having a lawyer helping you with parts of your case can save you a lot of time and energy because the lawyer can educate you about the process and your specific issues. He or she can also help you find self-help books and other resources so you can handle the parts of the case when you are on your own.
  • A lawyer, by being more removed from your case than you are, can see things about your case that you cannot. A lawyer can help you focus on the legal issues and on what the court can do for you, and not let yourself be distracted by other issues and emotions.
  • A lawyer can identify potential problems or hidden complications early on, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.
  • Remember that the lawyer has the education and experience to work on the more technical parts of your case, guide you throughout the court process, and spot important legal issues that you may not see on your own.
These days, 80-85% of litigants in court are self-represented, or "In Pro Per". This means they go into court representing themselves without an attorney directly handling their case. Limited-scope representation is when you and a lawyer agree that the lawyer will handle some parts of your case and you will handle others or that you will handle all of it while the lawyer merely assists you. This is different from more traditional arrangements between lawyers and clients where a lawyer is hired to provide legal services on all aspects of a case, from start to finish. Limited-scope representation is sometimes called “unbundling” or “discrete task representation.”​  It is a relationship that may also be structured as "consulting services" where you as the party/client continue to represent yourself in your own case while obtaining legal guidance in a more cost-effective manner.  Most importantly, you control the costs and the nature of services provided.

Here are some examples of limited-scope arrangements:
  • You can just consult a lawyer and get legal information and advice about your case when you need it.
  • You can hire the lawyer to prepare the forms and other court documents but file them yourself and represent yourself at the hearings.
  • You can hire the lawyer to coach you on how to represent yourself at the court hearings and help you prepare the evidence that you will present in court.
  • You can hire the lawyer to help you with the more complicated parts of your case, such as discovery and legal research while you do the simpler tasks yourself.
  • You can hire the lawyer to counsel you how to prepare letters and pleadings and then just have the lawyer review your work before sending or filing.
  • You can hire the lawyer to represent you on certain issues in your case (like child support or custody) while you do the rest yourself.

It's entirely up to you.  When you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to handle your entire case, limited-scope representation can be a great way for you to have legal help with your case while keeping costs down. Courts approve of limited-scope representation because they want to encourage people to get as much legal assistance as they need to protect their rights. They know that you will do a better job of following proper court procedures and presenting the important information to them if you have the help of a lawyer during the more complicated parts of a case.

Limited-scope representation may be somewhat new in some counties, and some courts and lawyers may not be very familiar with it though it is becoming widely encourages and accepted practice and more and more judges are becoming familiar with these arrangements. 



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Self-Represented Litigant Legal Assistance
Limited Scope Representation
Consulting Services
Offices conveniently located in Westlake Village, Encino, Brentwood, Pasadena, Downtown LA, Santa Clarita
2945 Townsgate Road Suite 200, Westlake Village, CA 91361
 (800) 419-4171  ·  Fax: (310) 882-6512  ·  info@familyfirstlaw.org
DECIDING IF LIMITED-SCOPE REPRESENTATION IS RIGHT FOR YOU

When trying to decide if a limited-scope arrangement is right for you, you should:

Discuss your case with a lawyer in depth, including areas that you want to handle yourself. If you do not discuss the whole case with the lawyer, even the parts that you think are simple and want to handle yourself, you will not know if you have overlooked something that is legally important. Once you have had this discussion, you and the lawyer can agree on whether a limited-scope arrangement will work for you and your case and you can be comfortable that you have identified any hidden complications.

Decide if you are willing to take on full responsibility for those parts of the case you will handle on your own. Remember that the lawyer went to law school and probably has years of experience in this area. That means that he or she will know things you do not about the legal process. If you instruct your lawyer not to take certain steps, either to save money or because you want to remain in control, you will have the full responsibility for the outcome in the parts of the case you do yourself, even with a lawyer coaching you.

Why do I need a lawyer at all?
With limited scope assistance, you may be able to handle the whole case yourself, except for a few technical areas, such as "law and motion," where an attorney can help you. It really is between you and your attorney to decide how much of your case you hire him or her to do. If you do this, it is important to keep returning to the same attorney. Otherwise, you are paying someone new to get up to speed on your case each time you consult.

Some areas of the law and procedure are extremely technical and it is rare for non-attorneys to effectively handle them. Among these are motions to compel discovery, motions attacking the pleadings or summary judgment motions, and preparing trial briefs.
Also included are substantive areas of law that generally require legal expertise or cases where the offers of proof or burden of proof may be difficult or complicated such as: someone's intent, a breach of the fiduciary duty of care in a martial relationship, fitness as a parent in custody dispute, reimbursement claims, proving the marital standard of living, the existence of a verbal agreement, date of separation, competing claims to title to real property, valuation and apportionment of retirement accounts, etc. You will almost certainly need extensive assistance from, or often full representation by, an attorney if your case involves any of these issues.

Contact FamilyFirst Law to schedule a free consultation to see if a limited scope or consulting arrangement is right for you.