This post expands upon my previous post on Limited Scope Representation.
Limited scope representation means hiring an attorney to provide services for certain, but not all, tasks. It is “a la carte” representation, choosing from a menu of options.
Maryland Rule 19-301.2(c) states: An attorney may limit the scope of the representation in accordance with applicable Maryland Rules if (1) the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances, (2) the client gives informed consent, and (3) the scope and limitations of any representation, beyond an initial consultation or brief advice provided without a fee, are clearly set forth in a writing, including any duty on the part of the attorney under Rule 1-324 to forward notices to the client.
In settlement, clients have the choice of full service representation or limited scope.
Full service representation means representing a client in every aspect of the settlement process – from the start until an agreement is signed and uncontested divorce or other uncontested consent order obtained. This generally involves advice, strategy, financial analysis, negotiations, drafting and/or reviewing/editing of a settlement agreement, and representation in an uncontested divorce or uncontested case to obtain a consent order. This may also involve attendance at mediation or representation in other dispute resolution process.
For those clients who prefer limited scope representation, it is well suited to settlement. Because a settlement is not done until signed, limited scope representation can occur at any point in the settlement process before an agreement is signed and still benefit the client. While there are benefits to involving an attorney early in the settlement process, until a settlement agreement is signed, a client can step away from settlement terms (albeit at the cost of prior negotiations and good will). Litigation is not so flexible.
Defining the scope of limited scope representation is key. This is how you customize your case – to suit your goals and budget. When choosing the scope, consider how much of the homework can you (and will you) do? How much responsibility do you want to take for information gathering, exchange and analysis? For negotiations? For assessing settlement options/proposals? For attending and advocating for yourself in mediation?
Limited scope representation in settlement can be as narrow as advice only (meaning the attorney provides you information and you do the rest), and builds from there. For example:
– advice and agreement drafting/review;
– advice, agreement drafting/review, and negotiation;
– advice, agreement drafting/review, negotiations (including attending mediation);
– any settlement-related tasks.
Defined tasks make for clearer responsibilities and expectations.
Settlement and limited scope are well paired because of their flexibility. As the representation unfolds, the attorney and client can revisit and redefine the scope.
Before engaging in limited scope representation, a client should first consult with an attorney about the differences between full service and limited scope representation, what each involves, advantages and disadvantages, and cost. This is so you have a full understanding and can make educated decisions about your particular situation.