It’s the right time for Limited Scope Representation in Michigan
Currently, Michigan Legal Ethics standards do not allow attorneys to represent clients for parts of their cases. In other states, Limited Scope Representation enables clients to get help with just certain parts of their legal matters. For instance, in Missouri, a potential client could handle most of the document filing themselves and only work with an attorney for court appearances. According to the Missouri Lawyers Help article, 7 Things you should know about Limited Scope Representation, “LSR is an efficient way for clients who cannot afford the cost of hiring an attorney for full representation to obtain legal services for a particular portion of their cases. Yes. Limited Scope Representation is authorized by the Supreme Court of Missouri.”
It makes sense for Michigan clients, attorneys and judges too.
Former Michigan Bar Association President Lori A. Buiteweg wrote in a August 2016 Michigan Bar Journal article, “More than 30 other states have gone beyond ABA Model Rule 1.2(c)5 and created special rules, education, and forms to facilitate the ethical practice of unbundling by attorneys and effectively help persons who need limited assistance.6 “
Some cases especially lend themselves to LSR. “A good example is a simple divorce,” explains Oakland County Family Law Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler. “Some clients could do the EIC [Early Intervention Conference] without help. Or a pre-trial where they are just getting dates. But when it comes to an actual trial or a heavily-contested hearing they start to feel less comfortable handling it themselves so an attorney could help.”
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler says she is hopeful that Michigan legislators will consider redrafting the Rules of Ethics to allow Limited Scope Representation in Michigan. “People ask us for help with In Pro Per work all the time.”
In Pro Per vs. Limited-Scope Representation
According to the American Bar Association, “An attorney may assist a pro se litigant by giving advice or preparing documents as long as the attorney complies with the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. An attorney who assists a pro se litigant is not required to appear in any proceeding and is not required to disclose the assistance to the court or opposing counsel.”
The big difference is that attorneys can offer advice or review documents for In Pro Per clients, but cannot go into the court on their behalf to represent them in front of a judge.
LSR Benefits for all Parties
According to Buiteweg’s August 2016 article, LSR could be, “A Possible Panacea for Reducing Pro Per Court Congestion, Attorney Underemployment, and a Frustrated Public.”
Clients have options with LSR. In Pro Per Representation has the potential to be frustrating and intimidating. “We’ve seen clients who tried to go it alone and made a simple mistake and it cost them far more later for us to help them fix it,” recalls Wayne-Spindler.
The courts see lots of In Pro Per petitioners because people cannot afford full-representation so they have no choice. Some do just fine. But unfortunately, the courtrooms are full of under-informed and inexperienced people representing themselves. Judges and court staff spend time explaining procedure and waiting on individuals to come up with essential documents that lawyers would have had prepared and in-hand.
From an attorney’s perspective, Limited Scope Representation provides options
Although Kathryn and her team of experienced family lawyers are busy, there are some Michigan lawyers that are hungry for new work. Limited Scope Representation could encourage more business because people who can’t afford a full-service attorney may be able to pay for Limited Scope Representation. It’s a matter of quantity vs. quality. Although Limited Scope clients may pay less for services, there is the potential for many more clients.
Transition to Retirement
For some attorneys nearing the end of an illustrious career, they may be looking to step back from the hard-charging, dawn-til-dusk intensity of full-service practice. By taking on Limited Scope clients, the attorney could still practice selectively. The client would get the benefit of the seasoned attorney’s many years of court experience.
LSR May Allow Attorneys to Help More People
Despite media portrayals of attorneys as greedy and conniving, lawyers like Kathryn Wayne-Spindler truly enjoy helping people. Unfortunately though, sometimes the instinct to help people might be overruled by the necessity to pay the bills. When consulting with clients, Kathryn has to keep the balance sheet in mind. “Just like any other service provider, I have rent, salaries and insurance and all the other expenses involved in running a successful business.” LSR has the potential to allow lawyers to help more people that only need select services and have a limited budget.
Some clients get in over their heads with full-service representation. It’s unfortunate for the client and frustrating for the attorney who wastes resources on collections and billing. Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates uses a refundable-retainer system. This means we collect the estimated full cost of the attorneys’ fees at the beginning and refund anything that’s left over when the case is settled. Since we don’t have a choice about what services we provide, we sometimes have to aim on the high-side with retainer estimates to make sure we don’t get stuck working for free. The high initial outlay of cash can scare some people away. With Limited Scope Representation, a client could potentially come in with a certain budget and connect with the attorney on how much can be accomplished within that price range.
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler is a proponent of Limited-Scope Representation here in Michigan. We’ll keep you posted in future blogs regarding the progress toward aligning Michigan laws to allow LSR . For now, contact our office in Milford, Michigan at 248-676-1000 more information about In Pro Per assistance or full-service representation. The experienced attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates help clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston and Genesee counties. We handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Commerce; Walled Lake; Wixom; Waterford; New Hudson; South Lyon; Howell; Brighton; Ann Arbor; Linden; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; Clarkston and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates