What Limited Scope Representation Services Should You Offer?

The question comes up almost every time:  “What services should I offer as ‘limited scope’?”  My answer is invariably: “It depends.”

Start with what you know already.  Can you break that down into advice-only and “assisted pro se” services?  If someone contacted you with an ordinary version of the type of matters you already know how to handle, but only had 15% of the fee you would charge, what could you offer to do that was commensurate with that fee?  Using your existing knowledge and skills is the fasted path to getting your limited scope practice out of the gate.

Next, what would you like to offer on a limited scope basis?  If you want to create and build a limited scope practice in a practice area where you are not already proficient, you need to get those skills first.  Read blawgs, talk to lawyers in that practice area, and master the applicable rules and law.  Read case files at the courthouse for litigation matters, or documents in the public records for transactions.  Most clerks offices do not charge to read public files and records, they only charge to print or certify copies.

An often-overlooked source of suggestions for the types of matters people already want on a limited scope basis is your local legal aid organization or pro bono program.  They know how many people they turn away each month due to inadequate funding, staff and volunteers, and the types of cases those people had.  Talk to the pro bono coordinator to see what cases they wish they could place with volunteers if there were more volunteers.

Even better, consider working on a volunteer basis in an “assisted pro se” clinic or similar program for a while.  Legal aid organizations have been delivering unbundled and limited scope representation for decades.  They know how to do it and may even have the forms and pleadings you could use if you agree to take a certain number of matters pro bono each year.  Better than a win-win solution, this is win-win-win!  The low-income client receives services, the pro bono organization gets a new volunteer and you get both the LSR skills and the satisfaction of helping a financially-challenged family.

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