Category Archives: Training

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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Immitation: the Sincerest Form of Flattery

If you have not read the book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice, (purchase details at right), you have missed out on the practical guidance and unique tips for getting your limited scope representation practice up and running.

You can get a sense of one part of the book, however, from today’s Wall Street Journal. In the Small Business Report section, Barbara Haislip has an article, “If You Want to Beat ‘Em, Learn From ‘Em First: Your future competitors have a lot to teach you.” In the article, Ms. Haislip observes:

Researching your rivals is a vital step for entrepreneurs entering a market…Yet too many small companies don’t do that homework.

Though her article focuses on steps a start-up should follow before entering a competitive marketplace, the concepts are equally valid–as I note in my book in more depth–for a new way of doing business in an established market. LSR practitioners can learn a LOT from other entrepreneurs in non-legal businesses in their target area and apply those lessons to improve the success of their LSR practice.

What are you waiting for? Other lawyers are starting to see the vast, untapped market of willing consumers who can pay some money for limited scope services and who are overlooked or even rejected by lawyers unable to restructure their office practice to take advantage of the opportunity these eager consumers present. Every day you wait is another day someone else has to get ahead of you. Flatter those other businesses by imitating what works for them and don’t be shy about letting them know how they helped you. You may find a rich source of referrals and peers with whom to network in the process.

So get your copy of my book today and learn how you can Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice. It may be the most profitable $10 you have ever invested!

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Limited Scope Pro Bono?

The Legal Services Corporation just released a full report from its Pro Bono Task Force.  The report, produced pro bono by DLA Piper, summarizes findings and recommendations of the PBTF.

One of those recommendations is to develop a “Pro Bono Toolkit” that local programs can use to help expand the ways lawyers volunteer to help those unable to afford legal assistance.  A noteworthy example of what that toolkit could include is found on page 12 of the report:

“Mechanisms for involving pro bono volunteers in providing limited assistance to pro se litigants, and otherwise empowering pro se parties.”

In other words, teach lawyers how to apply limited scope representation concepts on a volunteer basis. This makes perfect sense.  Legal aid attorneys have been delivering LSR for decades out of economic necessity.  With inadequate funding for the staff needed to fully represent the millions of low-income applicants for free legal aid, these innovative lawyers found ways to help some of those applicants handle their own legal matters.

If you have read my book, you know that I devote some ink to how to benefit from the extensive expertise that probably exists in your community legal aid office.  I won’t give it all away here, but you can quickly learn from the pros how to deliver limited scope representationand pay for it by volunteering at the same time.  Even better, when you handle pro bono cases through most legal aid organizations, they provide malpractice coverage for those cases at no charge to you in addition to the forms and mentoring to get you off and running.   That’s more than “win-win,” it is “win-win-win” because an eligible client gets legal assistance, the program gets a new volunteer and you get support as you learn a new way of delivering your valuable legal skills to people who cannot afford full-scope representation.

Oh, and did I mention that October 22-26 is National Celebrate Pro Bono Week in the U.S. and that November 5-10 is National Pro Bono Week in the U.K.?  Great timing, eh?

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‘Failing Law Schools’

There is a good interview with law professor Brian Tamanaha, author of the new book, Failing Law Schools , over on the Inside Higher Ed website.  You can read the entire interview, but the part I want to highlight is his discussion of the changes needed in our law schools.

Mr. Tamanaha argues that the present state of law school education is not only unsustainable, but, due to the high costs of a legal education and low employment rate for law graduates, unethical. 

While Tamanaha has some suggestions for improvement, the ones to take up relate to restructuring the legal education syllabus for each student to ensure some “survival skills” are present and that the efforts law schools put into such restructuring are not penalized by the ABA accredidation system because they take resources out of the “intellectual” components. 

Students should at least be exposed to non-traditional delivery strategies for legal services because the traditional form of full-scope, hourly-billing law practice is shrinking rapidly and being replaced with alternative, outcomes-based, unbundled and other types of law practice.

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Great Limited Scope Primer and Online CLE (and it’s FREE!)

The Practising Law Institute has a reputation for providing timely, high-quality online CLEs.  Sue Talia has a reputation for her no-nonsense nuts and bolts guidance in setting up a Limited Scope Practice.  You can get both for the price of none in this webinar:  Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation 2012.

(Full disclosure:  Ms. Talia does give a favorable comment about my book, Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client, which she previewed and helped edit.  But I liked her 2009 webinar which was very similar and would have urged you to see the new one anyway.)

So go get some free CLE while you hear another perspective about the opportunities, risks and rewards of offering LSR to your law practice.  And did I mention that it is FREE???

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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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Sue Talia’s Webinar is Wednesday!

If you are still on the fence about LSR or are just setting out (without the benefit of a book such as Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice), you should invest a little of your time on April 18 for a FREE webinar by M. Sue Talia entitled, Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation.  You may even be able to get CLE in your state, and when you are starting out or struggling with a small practice, free CLE is always a good thing!

The webinar will provide an introduction to the rapidly changing practice of limited scope representation (often called “unbundling”) in a family law context, including all of the fee agreements, forms and other materials you will need to practice limited scope representation competently, safely and profitably.

The seminar is live in San Francisco and will be broadcast live via the PLI web site.  Tune in and turn onto LSR!

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“Workshare” for Lawyers and Their Clients

A core concept in Limited Scope Representation is the non-traditional way of dividing work between lawyer and client.  In full-scope representation, the lawyer typically handles everything.  With limited scope representation, the client earns a big discount by handling a significant portion of the work in the legal matter.

The key to effectively and ethically shifting this dividing line is clear communication.  You need a written fee agreement and a document that memorializes the list of tasks that the lawyer will–and will not–perform for the stated fee.  The “will not perform” list is as important as the list included in the stated fee because it serves as a check list for the client and documents the agreement between them.

A good example of one of these checklists is included in the Appendix to Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice:  How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client.  There are many ways to implement such a checklist in the retainer process and to incorporate the checklist as a tool to support the representation agreement.  Whichever options you use, just make sure you have a clear, written memorialization of the way work is shared in the LSR context.

Who knows?  When the LSR client sees the list of tasks that are not included, they may even ask you to take on more for a higher fee!

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New Webcast Seminar by M. Sue Talia on LSR at 9 a.m. PDT 4-18-12 – Don’t Miss It!

Lawyer, trainer, mentor and private family law judge, M. Sue Talia will present an updated webinar through the Practising Law Institute on April 18.  The seminar, entitled “Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation 2012,” will provide an introduction to the rapidly changing practice of limited scope representation (often called “unbundling”) in a family law context, including all of the fee agreements, forms and other materials you will need to practice limited scope representation competently, safely and profitably.

So watch the live webinar starting at 9 a.m. PDT for valuable information, perhaps some CLE credits and a great perspective from a lawyer who has done and trained other lawyers to deliver LSR.  And did I mention that it is FREE?

 

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