Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer

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If you are looking for a more affordable way to get legal help, you can hire a limited scope representation (LSR) lawyer to help with parts of your case. Read this article to learn more about LSR and how to hire an LSR lawyer. For general information about hiring a lawyer and deciding if you need a lawyer, read Hiring a Lawyer.

What Is LSR?

Unlike full representation, LSR is a type of legal representation where a lawyer only helps you with parts of your case. LSR is sometimes also called unbundling or “a la carte” legal services.

Your LSR lawyer can help you decide what parts of your case they will complete and what parts you will do yourself. Your LSR lawyer will only charge you for the parts of your case they help you with. They may charge you one flat fee for all the work they do, or they may charge an hourly fee.

The LSR lawyer may help you outside of court or in court. To help you with parts of your case in court, they must file a Notice of Limited Appearance.

What Can an LSR Lawyer Help Me Do?

An LSR lawyer can give you legal advice or assistance if you cannot afford full representation. You will have to do parts of your case yourself, and you can get help with parts of your case that are more difficult.

LSR lawyers can help you with any part of your case. Here are a few examples of the types of work LSR lawyers can do for you:

  • Give you legal advice or coaching to help you represent yourself in court or in a settlement process

  • Write letters or legal documents for you

  • Review legal documents that you prepared or settlement agreements you negotiated

  • Gather facts for your case

  • Represent you in court for all or part of your case

  • Help prepare, file, and serve paperwork

  • Help with dispute resolution, including mediation and negotiation to settle your case, and preparing paperwork to finalize agreements

  • Research specific legal issues to help you decide whether to bring your case to court, figure out what your rights are, or help you build your case

Those are some common examples, but there are other things you and an LSR lawyer may choose. You and your LSR lawyer decide what parts of your case they will do and what parts you will do. Your LSR lawyer can do one of the tasks listed above or a combination of them. You will have to complete the tasks your LSR lawyer is not doing.

When you and your LSR lawyer decide what tasks you will do, make sure that the agreement is reasonable. You should be able to complete all the tasks assigned to you by yourself. If you cannot complete one of the tasks, you may need to consider adjusting the agreement with your lawyer so that they either do it for you or help you do it. The State Bar of Michigan has a sample task checklist.

Your lawyer might also have resources to help you complete parts of your case that you would not normally be able to do on your own. You can also use Michigan Legal Help in your limited scope case. You can use articles to learn more about your legal issue, and Do-It-Yourself tools to draft forms. The more pieces of the case you take on yourself, the less you will have to pay the lawyer for their services.

How Can I Find an LSR Lawyer?

The State Bar of Michigan Lawyer Referral Service can help you find an LSR lawyer. They have a group of lawyers who are willing to take LSR cases. When you call, tell them you are looking for limited scope representation so they can match you with someone who offers that service. For a $25 administrative fee, a referral assistant will match you with a lawyer who will provide up to a 25 minute initial consultation. The fee will be waived in some instances.

You can also search for an LSR lawyer online yourself. Go to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.

Starting the Relationship with Your LSR Lawyer

One of the first contacts you will have with the lawyer will be a phone or in-person consultation. Some lawyers will do this when you first call them; others might set an appointment to talk in detail at a later date. Some lawyers give a free consultation, while others charge for it. Be sure to ask so you know what to expect.

During the initial consultation the lawyer will ask questions to learn more about you and your case. Tell the lawyer that you are looking for limited scope representation. Be prepared to have an honest discussion about what you can afford to pay and what you feel comfortable doing in your case. Being honest about what you can afford and speaking up about things you do not feel comfortable doing will help your case go smoothly.

Some of the things you should expect to discuss are:

  • The difference between LSR and full representation;

  • How the tasks will be divided and when each of you needs to have them finished. If your LSR lawyer does not write this down in your agreement, you can ask them to write it down to help you keep track of your responsibilities;

  • Who will be communicating with the people or lawyers on the other side of the case;

  • What issues are outside the scope of representation that the lawyer will not handle;

  • How much you will pay and how you will be billed; and

  • How and when your LSR relationship will end.

Documents You Will Get From Your Lawyer at the Beginning of the Case

After meeting and deciding who will handle which parts of the case, the lawyer should give you an engagement letter (sometimes called a retainer agreement). This should include:

  • The tasks your LSR lawyer will complete (also called the scope of representation)

  • How much you will pay the lawyer and how you will be billed

  • Other expenses you might have to pay, such as filing fees

  • How and when the relationship will end

You will be asked to sign the agreement to show that you understand the relationship and agree to pay the fees. If you have questions or if something in the letter is different than what you thought you were agreeing to, ask your LSR lawyer before you sign. You will also be asked to sign a consent to limited scope representation, saying you understand that your lawyer isn’t representing you in every part of your case. The State Bar of Michigan has a sample agreement and consent.

If your LSR lawyer will be appearing in court, they will also file a Notice of Limited Appearance. This form tells the judge and the other side of the case what tasks your LSR lawyer will be completing and when the representation ends. The Notice of Limited Appearance can be changed later if you and your LSR lawyer agree to change your agreement.

How LSR Works During Your Case

Keeping Track of Your Tasks

LSR cases can cover many kinds of legal issues, and the division of tasks varies from case to case. The most important thing to do is to keep track of the jobs you are assigned and complete all of them on time.

Using a checklist is a good way to keep track of the different tasks you and your LSR lawyer will need to do. A checklist can also help you understand what each part of your case involves and how it will be completed. You can ask your LSR lawyer to add this checklist to the paperwork they create at the beginning of your case. If your lawyer does not do it for you, you can also create a checklist with due dates and ask your lawyer to look it over to make sure it includes everything.

If you have any questions about your responsibilities, especially about deadlines, contact your LSR lawyer right away. Legal matters have strict deadlines, and missing a deadline can mean that you will not be able to file your claim or participate in the case at all.

Communicating with the Other Party

If the other party in your case has a lawyer (called the opposing counsel) you will need to decide whether you or your LSR lawyer will communicate with the opposing counsel. In full representation cases, opposing counsel can only talk to your lawyer and should not communicate directly with you. In LSR cases, opposing counsel can talk to you until they get written notice that you have an LSR lawyer. After they find out you have an LSR lawyer, opposing counsel is supposed to talk to your LSR lawyer, but your LSR lawyer can give opposing counsel permission to talk to you directly.

If the other party does not have a lawyer, the agreement you have with your LSR lawyer should cover who is responsible for communicating with the party.

Make sure you understand who will communicate with the other party, whether they have a lawyer or not. If you are the one responsible for communicating, make sure you tell your LSR lawyer about any information you get from the other party or their lawyer. Do not assume they will tell both of you.

Service: Getting Notice of Court Papers Filed by the Other Side of the Case

The other side of the case has to serve both you and your LSR lawyer with all court papers as long as your lawyer’s limited appearance is in effect. Your LSR lawyer can ask the judge to order the other side of the case to only serve you, but the judge has to agree to this and sign an order before it is in effect.

If your lawyer is not appearing in court for you and did not file a Notice of Limited Appearance, you will be the only one to get copies of all the court papers from the other side. If your representation has ended and your lawyer withdraws from the case, you will be the only person to get the court papers from the other side.

No matter who is getting the court papers in your case, make sure you tell your lawyer about any new information in your case, including court papers you receive.

Service: Sending Notice of Court Papers to the Other Side of the Case

If your agreement with your lawyer says that you are responsible for serving the other side with court papers, you will need to know whom to serve:

  • If the other side is representing themselves, serve them directly.

  • If the other side has a full representation lawyer, serve the lawyer.

  • If the other side has an LSR lawyer that has filed a Notice of Limited Representation, serve both the person and their LSR lawyer. Serve all papers this way until

    • the LSR Lawyer withdraws from representation, or

    • the judge signs an order that says you should serve only the person.

Changing your LSR Agreement

If you need more help with your case or a new issue comes up, you can ask your LSR lawyer for more help. If they say yes, you will need to sign a new agreement that describes the new tasks they will complete. If the LSR lawyer is representing you in court, they may have to file an Amended Notice of Limited Appearance.

You can find a different LSR lawyer or a full representation lawyer if you do not want the same lawyer to help you with these new parts of your case.

Ending the Relationship with Your LSR Lawyer

If your agreement did not include your lawyer going to court, your relationship with the lawyer will end when they perform all of the tasks they agreed to do in the engagement letter. They should send you a letter to confirm that their work for you is finished. If you do not agree that all the work has been completed, contact the lawyer immediately.

If your LSR lawyer went to court in your case, they will need to take additional steps to end the representation. After they finish the tasks they agreed to complete, they need to file a Notice of Withdrawal from Limited Scope Appearance with the judge. They will probably ask you to sign it, agreeing that the work is finished. If you sign the withdrawal it is effective immediately. If you do not agree that the work is done, do not sign the agreement. If you disagree, you can file an objection. You have 14 days from the date your lawyer files the withdrawal to file an Objection to Withdrawal from Limited Scope Appearance (coming soon).

Ending the Relationship with Your LSR Lawyer Before Work is Completed

You can end your relationship with your lawyer at any time during your case, but it is a decision to consider carefully. A new lawyer will need time to catch up with your case, and they may not be able to reach a different outcome than your current lawyer. If you decide to end the relationship with your LSR lawyer, your LSR agreement may include specific steps you must take to do that. If your LSR agreement does not include specific steps, you can send a letter to your LSR lawyer letting them know that you are ending the LSR relationship. If you want proof that you sent the letter you can send it by certified mail.

For more information about hiring a lawyer, read Hiring a Lawyer.