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 that the attorney is willing to offer.
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 litigation, clients have the choice of full service representation or limited scope.
Full service representation means representing a client in every aspect of the litigation process – from the start until an agreement is signed and uncontested divorce or other uncontested consent order obtained or until the judge or magistrate rules after a trial. Full service representation may or may not include representation in any appeal. This generally involves advice, negotiations, drafting (court and settlement documents), research, representation in court (hearings, trials, and conferences), representation in court-ordered mediation, and work required to meet court deadlines (discovery, naming expert witnesses, pretrial and other required statements). In full service representation, the attorney and client evaluate what litigation avenues to pursue – or not – based upon the client’s goals, access to information, likely benefits and success, and cost.
Full service representation is what representation in litigation historically was…until limited scope was recognized and accepted in Maryland.
Limited scope in representation is not as flexible as in settlement because the litigation process itself is so structured. Each court date and deadline builds toward the next date and deadline, the results of which accumulate toward and culminate with a trial and judge or magistrate’s decision, if no settlement is reached. Once a deadline passes or court date does not go the client’s way, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to fix.
Limited scope representation in litigation is based upon the foundation of making attorney representation accessible to clients who otherwise would have no attorney help – because some attorney help is better than none.
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 crucial are certain deadlines and court dates?
Where are your budgeted dollars best spent? What will certain tasks cost?
Limited scope representation in litigation can be as narrow as drafting a document or providing advice, without the attorney’s involvement being disclosed. It can be for settlement purposes only, so the attorney not participating in any litigation but trying to resolve the case and perhaps attending court-ordered mediation with the client. It can involve pursuing certain information in the discovery process, or attending a certain court date, or representing you at trial.
Defined tasks are crucial in limited scope representation in litigation. Before embarking on limited scope representation in litigation, consult carefully with an attorney to understand its advantages and disadvantages. Especially if attorney representation is something the client can afford. Money spent on an attorney to accomplish a good result is a far better investment than money saved on an attorney accomplishing a costly result.
Alternatively, a client can expand the limited scope representation as the case goes on and if the attorney agrees. Careful discussion with an attorney about the scope of the representation is key to your having a full understanding and making educated decisions about how you customize your case.