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While Limited scope representation is not appropriate for every case, there are a variety of ways it can be used. For example, it may be used in the following ways:

  • Coaching for court appearances or in preparation for mediation
  • Preparing or reviewing legal documents, pleadings, forms
  • Providing limited legal advice
  • Filing motions and attending the court hearing on the motion
  • Representation for the initial case or proceeding or representation on a limited matter
  • Reviewing or negotiating a settlement agreement
Benefits Concerns
  • Allows you to receive payment earlier eliminating accounts receivable issues.
  • Allows you to have more control over work.
  • You can help people who cannot otherwise afford representation.
  • Eases backlog of self-represented cases which can be more time consuming.
  • Allows you to meet the client where they are.
  • Courts may want you to continue the representation.
  • Limited scope representation may expose you to increased malpractice liability.
  • The occurrence of reputational damage due to a client’s conduct.
  • The possibility of client confidentiality issues arising.
  • There might not be enough time or resources for you to verify the truthfulness or accuracy of a pleading.

What is Permissible?

Limited scope representation is specifically contemplated and permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Prof.Cond.R. 1.2(c) provides that you and a client can engage in limited scope representation where “reasonable.” The limitations of representation must be communicated to the client – preferably in writing.

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. As you evaluate a potential limited scope representation engagement, include the following questions in your analysis:

  • Am I competent for this engagement? Prof.Cond.R. 1.1 requires lawyers to be competent in the areas of law in which services are being offered. You should not use LSR to explore new areas of law where you have no prior experience.
  • Do I have any conflicts that would prevent representation of this client in this matter? The standard conflict check is still required. [Prof.Cond.R. 1.7-1.9]

Exception: There is a special conflict analysis for lawyers providing short-term limited legal services in conjunction with a court or nonprofit organization (i.e., pro bono clinics). See Prof.Cond.R. 6.5.

PRACTICE TIP: You should consider the complexity of the case, the client's expectations, their ability to understand and navigate the court system, and whether the case is within your field of practice when determining if a case is appropriate for limited scope representation.

Questions to consider when determining if limited scope representation is appropriate for a case:1

  • Can this case be divided up into specific steps and tasks that I can separately perform?
  • Does the potential client have reasonable expectations about their ability to handle the parts of the case not being undertaken by me?
  • Does the potential client possess the ability to understand basic legal terms and follow my instructions?
  • Is the potential client able to communicate and speak effectively on their own behalf in court?
  • Does the potential client have access to a computer for e-filing and preparing typed documents?
  • Does the potential client have a reasonable chance of prevailing if I agree to limited representation?

1 Akron Bar Association, Limited Scope Toolkit,
(accessed May 31, 2023).

Determining Reasonableness
What constitutes "reasonable" will depend on the specific facts of each matter and will not apply to each type of case. For example, while limited scope representation may be appropriate in some domestic relations cases, it will not be reasonable for all.

Ohio Ethics Guide: Limited Scope Representation, Ohio Board of Professional Conduct

Reasonableness of the limitation can be determined by examining two factors:

  1. Complexity of the Legal Problem:
    • Is the issue substantively, strategically, and procedurally capable of being divided into discrete tasks that can be assigned to either me or the client?
    • Are there complex legal issues requiring a requisite level of legal education and skill?
    • Are the parties clearly identified?
    • Will there be procedural or process hurdles from the outset?
  2. Capacity of the Client:
    • Does client have realistic expectations of their own skills and capabilities to perform certain tasks by self representation?
    • Does the client have the mental, physical, and emotional capacity to handle certain stages of the legal matter on their own?
    • Is it likely that the client can appear independently in court/follow instructions from both the court and me?
    • Does the client have the technological skills necessary to meet filing and other requirements?
Reasonable Unreasonable
Lawyer and client agree to a brief, one-time consultation where the client’s objective is limited to securing general information about the law and the legal problem at issue was common and uncomplicated. The time allotted to the consultation was not sufficient to yield advice upon which the client could rely.

Comment 7 of Prof.Cond.R. 1.2

PRACTICE TIP: If you are unable to answer in the affirmative to any of the questions posed in this analysis, you should carefully consider whether limited scope representation would be unreasonable under the circumstances and should be declined.

The Rules of Civil Procedure
The Rules of Civil Procedure contemplate limited scope representation and provide an avenue to document the beginning and ending of your appearance in the record in Civ.R. 3(B).

  • “Notice of Limited Appearance” (Sample): If your role is limited in litigation, you must disclose the scope in this notice. The notice should state that the limited appearance is authorized by the party for whom the appearance was made.
  • “Notice of Completion of Limited Appearance” (Sample): Your appearance can then terminate without leave of the court upon this filing, assuming no objection.

Communicating with the client
Prof.Cond.R. 1.4 provides the minimum requirements for a lawyer’s communication with the client. However, you should communicate early, effectively, and often with your client about the nature of the limited scope representation engagement.

The initial client interview is particularly important for you to identify the client’s needs and expectations. This will help the lawyer determine if limited scope representation is appropriate and to explain what limited scope representation means to the client. [See flowchart developed by the State Bar of Michigan to help clients understand the limited scope representation process.] You may find it beneficial to create an intake form that helps identify the key issues, provides reminders to ask specific questions, and memorializes the scope of representation agreed upon.

Ongoing client communication can be effectively managed by using written engagement letters and checklists. These documents work to ensure that the client understands the work that will be performed and has clear expectations from the beginning of the relationship. They also bring to light issues that may not have previously been discussed or thought of by the client and ward off confusion and misunderstanding in the future. Additionally, they help ward off potential claims of malpractice.

Engagement Letters should contain provisions stating:

  • You have fully explained the nature and risks of the limited services.
  • Your services are “limited by express agreement,” at “the client’s direction” as “specifically delineated by the task checklist.”
  • The client has read and understood the provisions defining the scope of the representation.
  • The client understands the potential consequences of self-representation.
  • The letter should provide for amendment if the client identifies a task or service that is outside of their abilities and for which you have agreed to accept representation.

These documents are sample resources and are not official publications of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Sample Engagement Letter, Appendix A, Ohio Board of Professional Conduct
Sample Engagement & Fee Agreement, Akron Bar Association
Sample Limited Scope Notice of Appearance, Akron Bar Association

Checklists are living documents and should be updated regularly to accurately reflect the representation. Your checklist should:

  • Divide the matter into discrete tasks.
  • Clearly identify who is responsible for the task (lawyer, client, or both).
  • Be reviewed on an ongoing basis to identify outstanding tasks and to mark tasks as completed.
Sample Attorney & Client Task Assignment, Ohio Board of Professional Conduct
Sample Attorney & Client Checklist, Akron Bar Association
PRACTICE TIP: Communications with clients should include the following:
  • Explanation of differences between limited scope representation and full-service representation.
  • Explanation of checklist and all tasks assumed by client vs. those assigned to lawyer.
  • Exploration of whether limited scope representation is reasonable, considering this matter and this client.
  • Risks of self representation.
  • Benefits of full-service vs. limited scope representation.
  • Review of all issues and remedies that are readily apparent, even if they fall outside of agreed-upon scope. Discussions about issues outside of the scope should be documented.
  • Agree to the method and frequency of communication during the limited scope representation.

Ghostwriting occurs when a lawyer drafts or completes a legal document for a client without signing it or otherwise acknowledging that they authored it. Civ.R. 11 does not require a lawyer preparing pleadings for a self-represented litigant to sign nor is there any Ohio case law holding a lawyer responsible for violation of Civ.R. 11 for doing so.

PRACTICE TIP: You should include your name as the preparer of any document and follow Civ.R. 11 even during limited scope engagements.

Changing the Scope of Representation
During the engagement, the client may become overwhelmed with or otherwise wish to discontinue the tasks they originally agreed to assume. It is not uncommon for the client to seek to expand the scope of the lawyer’s representation.

If you agree to expand the scope of the engagement, make sure to update both the written agreement and the checklist. The client should acknowledge the changes in writing. (Sample Change of Scope Letter) Make sure to also address any necessary changes to the communication expectations or timeline.

Ending Representation
It is important to document the end of the legal representation to ensure that the client (and the court) fully understands the status of both the matter and your involvement. If you are engaged in litigation, file the Notice of Completion of Limited Appearance.

These documents are sample resources and are not official publications of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Sample Notice of Completion of Limited Scope Appearance, Ohio Board of Professional Conduct
Sample Notice of Completion of Limited Appearance, Akron Bar Association
Sample Closing Letter, Oklahoma Bar Association
PRACTICE TIP: You should send a Disengagement letter (Sample), along with a completed checklist to the client. The checklist should show the items you were assigned and that you completed.

If the client requests additional services after the Notice of Completion has been filed, you will need to file a new Notice of Limited Appearance with the court.

Communicating with the Court
Lawyers can communicate with the court about the scope of their representation through the Notice of Limited Appearance and the Notice of Completion of Limited Appearance. These filings put the court and the parties on notice that your appearance is limited, while documenting the scope of the representation and the authorization of the client.

Advertising Limited Scope Representation Services
It is likely that potential clients will be unfamiliar with the term “limited scope” or “unbundled legal services.” You may want to utilize your website or informational materials in your office waiting room about limited scope representation. The initial client interview is also an opportunity to explain the advantages and disadvantages of this type of representation. Having a fee schedule may help clients determine the scope of services they need or can afford. Offering limited scope legal services may be a way to grow your practice and increase your client base.

Add your name to lawyer referral lists maintained by your local bar association, legal aid organization, or court of lawyers willing to engage in limited scope representation.

Provisions of Prof.Cond.R. 7.1–7.3 apply to the advertisement of limited scope representation. A lawyer’s advertisements or communications about limited scope representation should:

  • Not be false, misleading, or non-verifiable.
  • Convey enough information for prospective clients to understand the scope and conditions of the offered services.
  • Be clear and accurate about what fees and costs may be charged.
  • Avoid using terms like “cut-rate”, “low-cost” or “discount.”
Informational Flyer, Colorado Bar Association
FAQs for Prospective Clients, Nebraska Supreme Court
Marketing Materials, State Bar of Michigan

General Resources
Tips on Delivering Limited Scope Legal Services, The Oklahoma Bar Journal, August 2019
Unbundling Legal Services: A Guide for Lawyers, Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, 2015
Limited Scope Representation: A Practical Guide for Attorneys, Louisiana State Bar Association
Limited Scope Toolkit, State Bar of Michigan
Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation, Practising Law Institute
Oklahoma Limited Scope Legal Services
Nebraska Limited Scope Representation Toolkit, Supreme Court of Nebraska

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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