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As the number of cases involving self-represented litigants continues to rise, courts strive to help parties without counsel navigate the court process to maintain an efficient administration of justice. While these issues affect every court, they are particularly apparent in courts where the volume is especially acute, the disputes are of a personal nature, the amounts in controversy are less, matters are of an emergency or administrative nature, or are uncontested.

Cases with unrepresented parties often require additional resources and may take longer to resolve due to the lack of understanding of the legal process. Limited scope representation can assist courts in managing their cases more efficiently.

The benefits of limited scope representation to courts are:

  • Reduces the number of cases involving self-represented litigants.
  • Parties with limited scope representation require fewer court resources than those with no representation.
  • Reduces the access to justice gap that disproportionately affects litigants with economic hardships.
  • Allows court dockets to be managed more efficiently.

Limited scope representation is permitted by Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(c) where the representation is “reasonable.” Lawyers providing limited scope representation owe the same duties of competence, diligence, loyalty, promptness, communication, and confidentiality to limited scope representation clients that they owe to full-service clients. See also Prof.Cond.R. 1.1, Prof.Cond.R. 1.7-1.9, and Prof.Cond.R. 6.5.

A lawyer performing limited scope representation should file a Limited Scope of Appearance with the court depending on the nature of the legal services to be performed. This notifies the court that a lawyer is working with the party. When the representation concludes, the lawyer should file a Notice of Completion of Limited Scope Appearance. It is important for courts to recognize the end of an limited scope representation engagement and not try to persuade a lawyer to continue the representation.

How Courts Can Offer Access to Limited Scope Representation
Courts can offer access to limited scope representation services in a variety of ways such as creating resource or self-help centers, offering legal clinics or hotlines, or establishing a list of local lawyers willing to engage in limited scope representation to provide to unrepresented parties. Courts can also offer a space in the courthouse for legal aid lawyers to utilize on a regular basis.

Legal Resource/Self-Help Centers
Courts can create legal help centers or offices to help people steer through the court process on their own. These help centers provide general education, basic information and instructions, and form review during regular business hours. Services can be delivered in person, by phone, or virtually. [Ohio Board of Professional Conduct Advisory Opinion 2017-07]

Courts can enhance the level of service by offering guided interviews for document preparation, resource referral, and electronic filing features at their self-help centers.

Legal Clinics or Hotlines
Courts can offer regular legal clinics or hotlines where litigants can connect with lawyers offering limited scope representation. These clinics can be staffed by lawyers willing to offer pro bono, free, or fixed rate services. They can also use legal interns operating under the supervision of a licensed lawyer, or legal aid organizations. Courts can sponsor free continuing legal education seminars for lawyers willing to provide pro bono services.

Ways Courts Can Encourage Lawyers to Provide Limited Scope Representation2

  • Make positive comments about limited scope representation;
  • Conduct trainings for local lawyers;
  • Raise awareness to the public about limited scope representation;
  • Discuss limited scope representation in connection with pro bono services when speaking publicly;
  • Advocate for the creation of a list of lawyers willing to practice limited scope representation;
  • Advocate for a resolution in favor of limited scope representation and publicize the resolution;
  • Honor limited scope agreements between lawyers and clients;
  • Attempt to bifurcate hearings when appropriate to save the lawyer time;
  • Acknowledge that clients might not communicate their lawyer’s advice completely or accurately;
  • Monitor local rules to ensure that they are consistent with encouraging limited scope representation;
  • Engage with the clerk of courts to ensure that there is an understanding of how to document the litigant’s representational status;
  • Communicate with bar associations to craft practical solutions when issues arise;
  • Hold meetings between bar associations and legal service programs to discuss limited scope representation;
  • Award attorneys’ fees for limited representation services when appropriate;
  • Remain aware of the client’s economic situation.

2 20 Things Judicial Officers Can do to Encourage Attorneys to Provide Limited Scope Representation, The Bench, (2003).

General Resources
Ohio Ethics Guide: Limited Scope Representation, Ohio Board of Professional Conduct
Unbundling Legal Services: A Toolkit for Court Leadership, Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, 2015

Limited Scope Representation

Contact Information

Children & Families Section
Court Services
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3431

David Edelblute

Policy Counsel:
Kyana Pierson, Esq.

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