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Limited Scope Representation

The information contained in this resource is a compilation of statutes and court decisions in the State of Ohio and it is intended as a summary of the law to assist judges lawyers, and the general public. The information does not represent binding statements of law by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

“Limited scope representation” (LSR) allows a lawyer to limit the scope of legal services provided to a client, either in or out of court.  Limited scope representation can also be called “unbundling of legal services” or “a la carte legal services” because the lawyer is only performing a specific set of legal tasks as determined by the client. The limited representation must be reasonable, communicated to the client, and must be performed at the same level of competency by the lawyer as they would if they were engaging in full scope representation.

Benefits of Limited Scope Representation

Limited scope representation benefits clients, lawyers, and courts. Clients gain access to legal services they would not otherwise have been able to afford; lawyers earn income from representation that they may not have otherwise earned; and courts benefit from greater case management efficiency.

Clients/Public Lawyers Courts
  • Gives clients access to legal services that they may not otherwise have access to or be able to afford.
  • Narrows the lawyer's focus on what clients need the most.
  • Less expensive than full scope representation.
  • Can delegate confusing or difficult parts of a case to a lawyer.
  • Allows lawyers to get paid up front avoiding accounts receivable issues.
  • Gives lawyers more control over their work.
  • Allows lawyers to help people who would not otherwise be able to afford legal services.
  • Eases backlog of self-represented cases which can be more time consuming.
  • Allows courts to utilize court resources and process cases more efficiently.

Self-representation is largely driven by economics and the lack of affordable legal services. In an adversarial system with complex rules, self-represented parties forced to proceed alone are disadvantaged. Ineffective self-representation also hampers a court’s ability to properly decide cases on their merits and expeditiously process cases, creating backlogs.

There is an imbalance between civil justice needs and the resources available to meet those needs. According to the Legal Services Corporation’s 2022 Report on the Justice Gap: The Unmet Civil Needs of Low-Income Americans, most low-income households dealt with at least one civil legal problem in the previous year. “Lawyers can make a huge difference in one’s life. Yet, most low-income Americans do not get any or enough legal help for their civil legal problems – and the cost of legal help stands out as an important barrier. Americans with low incomes did not receive any or enough legal help for 92% of the civil legal problems that had a substantially negative impact on them in 2021.”

It is important to remember that the justice gap affects not just the poor but also the middle class. These are often vulnerable individuals who struggle with consumer issues, shelter and housing, lending, health care, employment, workplace discrimination, access to government benefits, divorce, child custody, and protection from domestic violence and abuse – matters that impact everyday life. They live in both metro and rural areas. Often, both sides lack legal representation.

Civil legal aid organizations have been unable to keep pace with the demand for legal services from people with limited resources. Appropriations for legal aid services have fallen as has revenue from Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Even in the criminal justice system where the right to counsel for indigent defendants is guaranteed, staffing levels for publicly funded defense lawyers cannot keep up with demand. The scarcity of services available threatens to make the social welfare, civil rights, and criminal justice protections that our justice system offers meaningless to the average person. We should all be concerned when so many people cannot exercise their legal rights and cannot effectively navigate the justice system.


This resource was developed in collaboration with the Ohio State Bar Association under the guidance of the Office of Court Services of the Supreme Court. Many individuals shared ideas and provided input into this resource, including Melissa Benson (The Legal Aid Society of Columbus), Desiree Blankenship (Ohio State Bar Association), Susan Choe (Ohio Legal Help), Mag. Serpil Ergun (Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court), Camille Gill (Ohio Access to Justice Foundation), Rachel Harris (Ohio Legal Help), Eric Johnson (Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson), Hon. Denise McColley, Ret. (Henry County Family Court), C. Allen Nichols (Akron Bar Association & Foundation), Maggie Ostrowski (Ohio State Bar Association), Barbara Rogachefsky, Esq., Hon. Elizabeth Gerken Schuller (Napoleon Municipal Court), Amy Stone (Supreme Court of Ohio), and Fran Wellington (Ohio State Bar Association).

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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