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Limited Scope Representation

Please note that the legal information presented on this page is intended only for those living in the state of Illinois.

It is no secret that hiring a private attorney is expensive. Recognizing this, some private attorneys offer a cheaper arrangement for providing legal help. One such arrangement is called limited scope representation (AKA unbundled, or a la carte legal services).

This article gives a basic overview of limited scope representation – what it is, and what it's not. We also discuss when limited scope representation can be a good fit for your legal needs, as well as how it differs from traditional legal representation.

What does "Limited Scope" mean?

Limited scope representation is an agreement a client makes with a lawyer to get legal help with only a part of their case. The cost of this service is typically a one-time fee.

Costs should vary depending on the part(s) of your case the lawyer will help with, as well as the lawyer's experience. However, you will only be charged for the parts of your case the lawyer helps with. 

To form a limited scope agreement, you and the lawyer must first decide what parts of your case you'd like help with. The attorney will then put this agreement in writing, which should be updated with any future changes to the agreement.

Some examples of limited scope services include:

  • drafting legal documents for you, such as a motion or a petition
  • appearing on your behalf in court (on a limited basis)
  • helping negotiate a settlement agreement
  • serving another party with court papers
  • preparing an argument for you to deliver in court

What Limited Scope Representation Is NOT

Once you enter into a limited scope agreement with an attorney, you do NOT have an ongoing relationship with that attorney. The attorney can only represent you during the matters listed in your limited scope agreement. In all other matters, you must represent yourself in court, and prepare your own paperwork.

Before you enter into a limited scope agreement, you should first consider what parts of the court case you feel comfortable handling on your own.

Is Limited Scope Representation Right for Me?

While limited scope representation is far cheaper than traditional legal representation, it can come with extra challenges. Specifically, you will need to represent yourself in court for all matters that aren't covered by your agreement.

Make sure you are comfortable with the possibility of representing yourself in court or drafting your own legal paperwork before seeking limited scope representation.

Finally, most attorneys that offer limited scope agreements are highly transparent with their pricing. Despite being far cheaper than traditional representation, these agreements may be unaffordable for some folks. Before accepting a limited scope agreements, be sure to understand the cost of each part of the agreement.

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