Limited Scope Representation in Nebraska -- FAQ for Attorneys

Limited Scope Representation in Nebraska -- FAQ for Attorneys

What is Limited Scope Representation?

Limited scope representation is a potential solution to the increasing number of people who cannot afford a lawyer and must represent themselves.  Although it is best for a client to have full service representation, limited scope representation permits the lawyer and client to limit the scope of services the lawyer will provide to accomplish the client’s objectives.  The lawyer and client enter into a detailed written agreement defining the scope of the legal assistance.  The agreement describes the tasks the lawyer will perform and tasks the client will perform.  Limited scope representation is not appropriate for every legal situation or every person.

Why should a lawyer offer limited scope representation instead of full service representation?

Lawyers can build a base of paying clients who can perform some tasks on their own and pay the lawyer for complex tasks that require the knowledge, skill, and experience of a lawyer.  Limited representation provides a convenient way for the lawyer and client to establish in advance the costs for legal services.  Typically, the client pays the legal fees in advance.  Limited scope representation provides an opportunity for a client who would otherwise go unrepresented to have adequate legal representation.

Forms

List of forms. 

Forms and web links are provided for informational purposes only.  The lawyer is responsible to ensure that written agreements are appropriate for the limited representation and consistent with the lawyer’s ethical responsibilities to the client.  All agreements concerning a lawyer's representation of a client must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct, local court rules and other law.

What is an example of Limited Scope Representation?

There are many examples of limited scope representation.  One example may be giving legal advice about the legal problem or court procedures.  The lawyer may give guidance how to introduce evidence or cross examine a witness. Other examples may be drafting pleadings, a settlement agreement, a qualified domestic relations order or child support calculation. A final example would be filing a limited appearance for part of the client’s case.  The allocation of tasks will be specifically detailed in the engagement letter and fee agreement.

Why isn’t Limited Scope Representation appropriate for every legal situation?

Many legal matters may require full representation to protect the client’s legal interests and to achieve the client’s objectives.  After consulting with the client, the lawyer must determine if limited representation is reasonable given the circumstances of the case.  The lawyer should consider the capabilities of the client to complete the designated tasks, the type and complexity of the legal problem, and self-help resources that may be available to the client.  The lawyer should review the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct,* specifically, §§3-501.2 and 3-504.2 to determine whether to offer limited scope representation.  Some important considerations:

  • An agreement for limited representation does not exempt a lawyer from the duty to provide competent representation.The lawyer must determine whether the limitations are reasonable under the circumstances.
  • When considering whether limited representation is reasonable, the lawyer must consider the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
  • The client must give informed consent to the lawyer’s limited representation.Informed consent must be given after the lawyer has communicated adequate information to the client.  This includes informing the client of the material risks of the limited representation and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.

What does the lawyer file with the court in a limited representation case?

The lawyer files a “Notice of Limited Appearance” in the proceeding.  The Notice must clearly define the scope of the lawyer’s limited representation. 

Notice of Limited Appearance ASD 3:11

When the limited representation is completed, the lawyer files a “Certificate of Completion of Limited Representation” with the court within 10 days of completion. The lawyer must serve a copy of the Certificate to the client and to opposing counsel or the opposing party, if unrepresented.  The lawyer’s representation ends when the Certificate is filed.  The filing is considered the lawyer’s withdrawal of appearance, which does not require court approval.

Certificate of Completion of Limited Representation ASD 3:12

Can opposing counsel communicate with a client in a limited scope representation engagement?

Yes, but only on matters outside the scope of the limited representation.  By filing the Notice of Limited Appearance, the lawyer and client consent to such communication.  The lawyer should inform the client about communications from opposing counsel that are permitted in a limited appearance proceeding.

Can a lawyer prepare court documents without entering a limited appearance?

Yes.  Rule 3-501.2(c) prohibits “ghost writing.” ** A lawyer may prepare pleadings, briefs, and other documents to be filed with the court without entering a limited appearance in the case.

  • All filings clearly indicate the filings are “Prepared by” and include the name, business address and bar number of the lawyer preparing the filings.
  • The lawyer must not sign the filing.
  • The litigant must sign the filing and be designated “pro se.”

 

 


References:
(1) Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct (2005) as amended 2008. Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond. §§ 3-501.0 to 3-508.5. 
(2)* Amendments to Rules Facilitate Unbundling of Legal Services, by Dennis Carlson. The Nebraska Lawyer, November/December 2008, p. 35-36.