Understanding Limited Scope Representation or Unbundled Legal Services in Illinois

Limited scope representation, or unbundled legal services, is an alternative to traditional full-service legal representation where an attorney and their client can limit their relationship to a specific task. By unbundling legal services, a lawyer can represent a client on a singular aspect and/or specific specific aspects of a case. The effect is that the client gets the legal assistance they need without the added expense that comes along with retaining an attorney for a case from start to finish.  

In Illinois, the rules were recently changed to specifically encourage  Illinois lawyers to represent litigants on a limited scope. The goal of these changes is to expand access to legal assistance, particularly for those who are unable to afford the full service. Illinois is now one of twenty states that permit attorneys to practice on a limited basis.            

What are the benefits?

Illinois limited scope representation allows attorneys to serve their clients while reducing legal fees to clients. There are three main rules from the Illinois Supreme Court to know that apply to limited representation.

While the limited scope representation is in effect, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 11 requires that the service of all documents be made on both the client and the lawyer. This allows the client to be better informed as to the status of the Court proceedings. Rule 13 requires an attorney to have a written agreement with the client regarding the terms and conditions of limited scope representation. Rule 137 allows lawyers to help clients prepare pleadings, motions and other legal documents without making a court appearance on that person’s behalf. This means that attorneys may assist clients with document preparation without having to sign the documents or file a formal appearance (e.g. in court) on that person’s behalf.

Most importantly, however, Rule 13 now allows a lawyer to make a special limited appearance in court proceedings and to withdraw from representing a client in court, without Court approval, after completing the services outlined in the written limited scope appearance agreement between lawyer and client.

Services are tailored specifically to the needs, wishes, and/or budget of the client  and may include drafting and assembling documents, offering procedural advice, doing research, figuring out what evidence a client needs and how to get it, and coaching how to attend a hearing.

There are multiple ways in which an attorney can help a client using limited scope representation. One of the largest bonuses of limited scope representation, is if the case gets to be too complicated or the client feels they need more traditional assistance/representation, the attorney can change his representation and become a traditional/retained attorney for the matter.

What are its drawbacks?

Aside from its many advantages, limited representation is not for everyone. As stated above, clients who opt for it will be responsible for a portion of their case. This in and of itself limits the pool to types of people who feel confident that they can engage in legal services on their own behalf. However, as earlier stated if, representation starts off as limited scope, it can always be changed to the traditional representation upon agreement of the client and attorney.

The most common types of cases in which limited scope is ideal for are:

  • Family law,
  • Consumer law,
  • Landlord/Tenant,
  • Government benefits/housing,
  • Special needs advocacy, and
  • Homeowner association cases.

If a client does not fully understand process, they may open themselves up to risks. However, when legal services are unbundled, the lawyer must advise clients on all related issues, even if they do not know to ask about them.

Who should consider it?

Should be used by individuals who are willing to take responsibility for a portion of their case. Although it may not be ideal for everyone, it may be an ideal solution for those who are on a limited budget and feel comfortable handling some to most aspects of a case, with the exception of more technical areas such as drafting complex legal documents or conducting a contested hearing.

What kind of client should ask about limited scope representation?

Clients for this service include those who are low income or on on a limited budget,  may only need an attorney for a specific task or situation such as document assistance or procedural advice, and multiple different issues in a family law case.

For those individuals who want to do some or most of the legal work on their own case, they now have the ability to hire an attorney for only the crucial aspects of their case. At Lake Cook Legal Solutions, we are proud to offer limited scope representation to our clients and will work with you to determine the best plan to get you the exact help that you need. Contact us today at (847) 387-5559 to find out more.

Written by Lake Cook Legal Solutions, LLC

Lake Cook Legal Solutions, LLC

Lake Cook Legal Solutions has been helping people throughout Lake, Cook, McHenry, and DuPage counties since 2012. We focus our practice on matters involving Illinois families—namely Family Law and Estate Planning.