In 2015, The Supreme Court of Ohio Task Force on Access to Justice issued a report that recommended “the promotion of limited-scope representation, also known as unbundled services, as a way to provide legal representation to litigants who may have the means to hire an attorney for a limited purpose, even if not for the entire legal matter.” Specifically, the Task Force recommended clarification of the phrase “reasonable under the circumstances” in Prof. Cond. Rule 1.2(c) and the development of Continuing Legal Education courses on how to ethically provide limited scope services.
On July, 2018, The Supreme Court of Ohio made some important amendments to the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure published July 1, 2018. Civ. R. 3(B) permits an attorney to limit the scope of appearance and provides for the filing of a Notice of Limited Appearance and Notice of Completion of Limited Appearance. These pleadings allow the attorney to define what tasks he/she is performing in the case and the parameters of the limited representation. Civ. R. 5 discusses how service must be made in a case where an attorney is representing a client in a limited manner. The practice of limited scope representation common in other areas of the country now has a foundation in Ohio procedural law.
The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct support a lawyer taking on limited representation of a client within certain guidelines. Prof. Cond. Rule 1.2(c) permits lawyers to limit the scope of their appearance “if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and communicated to the client, preferably in writing.”
If utilized carefully and appropriately, limited scope representation can benefit everyone involved in the legal process: clients receive legal advice and representation where otherwise they would be struggling on their own in a sometimes frightening world of complex procedures; lawyers have the opportunity to utilize and monetize their skills; judges experience a smoother courtroom process when a client is represented in court by counsel or at least better prepared.
While the rules provide a framework for effective limited scope representation, an attorney needs to evaluate each potential client and case, and carefully explore whether or not taking on the legal matter at hand in a limited manner is reasonable given the complexity of the case and the abilities of the client. He or she must strike a balance between providing selective legal services at a cost less than full services while still guaranteeing entirely competent representation.
The Akron Bar LRIS Committee hopes that the Limited Scope Toolkit it has prepared will be a helpful resource for local attorneys seeking guidance on how to work with limited scope clients, communicate the scope of the limited representation effectively, and file the appropriate pleadings.