Monthly Archives: February 2016

Expanding Resources for Expanding Access

books

The limited scope representation movement is a key part of the effort to bring about equal justice under law via access to the courts. There is now a swelling number of lawyers across the country who offer unbundled assistance tailored to the specific budget and needs of clients who can handle some aspects of their legal matters themselves. This is very different from several decades ago when judges used the “fingerprint rule” to pull any lawyer whose activities could be detected in a client’s matter into full scope representation without consent or concern for getting the lawyer paid.

Periodically, I like to look at the ways state court systems and bar associations are rolling out and updating resources for lawyers who want to offer limited scope representation as a core or secondary part of their for-profit practices.  Below are some materials you may find helpful.

TEXAS

I start with Texas because it is different.  It is one state that has not updated its own disciplinary rules in decades, falling well behind most and clearly behind the ABA.  Even so, Texas has been working hard to improve access to the courts for self-represented litigants as well as partially-represented litigants.  For example, on the Texas Access to Justice Commission’s site, you can find information on free online CLE from active LSR practitioners and judges (http://is.gd/LSRinTX) as well as find out how to schedule a presentation in your area.  One of those lawyers, Matt Probus, gave a presentation to the Dallas Bar Association a few years ago that is posted on their site at http://is.gd/HYXm8w.

MISSOURI

The Missouri Office of State Court Administration has a toolkit posted online intended for judges that has helpful materials.  One chapter, “Limited Scope Representation and Pro Bono Practice,” walks the reader through Missouri’s Supreme Courts Rules on LSR and bridges the gap between traditional, full-scope practice and the limited version, including the encouragement to award attorney’s fees when appropriate, even though the party was only partially represented. See the toolkit here: http://is.gd/LSRinMO.

ILLINOIS

The Illinois State Bar set up a Practice Resource Center online at http://is.gd/LSRinIL.  Those include links to the rules amended in 2013 to clarify that LSR is appropriate in Illinois as well as a number of free resources.

NATIONAL

Finally, you can’t complete your research without a stop at the ABA’s site.  They can’t mention my book there because they sell an $80 book they feel is a competitor (I disagree), but you can get a number of good materials there.  Start with this recent article that gives Sue Talia, the “Queen of LSR in America,” her due, summarizing her February 2015 webinar: http://is.gd/LSRatABA. (And as for that $80 book: you may be able to find it in your local library if you are cost conscious!)

There are other resources out there if you look. I will keep looking as well!

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Who’s Your Prospective LSR Client?

There contemplationare some misconceptions about the people most likely to want limited scope representation or “unbundled” legal services. Are they poor people? Overly frugal middle class? Anti-lawyer?

Probably so. In other words, there is a spectrum of people who are looking for affordable and effective assistance with predictable financial costs. Some have very low incomes but are unable to get help from free civil legal services organizations for various reasons (most commonly, because those programs are sorely underfunded). But at the other end, you have people who have the money, want to accomplish a legal objective, but are turned off by the unpredictable and unexplainably-high nature of traditional full-service legal costs.

Before you launch a limited scope legal services practice or set of services, think about the market you want to reach. That will make a difference on your strategies for marketing, setting up your internal systems, streamlining your production, and developing your practice overall. It is a rare situation where a shotgun approach–trying to be all things LSR to all people–will let you hone your practical delivery and services to keep the effort moving and profitable.

One of the chapters in my book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice (available for download and reading now on any mobile device), is “A 7-Step Plan for Success.”  That chapter lays out a simple guide for making the decisions that build your foundation for a new or re-launched LSR practice. I think you will find it helpful.

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