Limited scope consultation – also referred to as “limited scope representation” in some case or “unbundled legal services” – is best initially explained by what it is not. Most people think of attorneys acting as the “attorney of record” in a case, which generally means, among other things, the attorney’s name is on the filings, the attorney appears in court on your behalf, the attorney drafts most if not all the paperwork, and the attorney negotiates with the other side. Which is expensive. And not always the dynamic a client wants or needs, particularly when the process is relatively amicable and/or the issues are straightforward. With limited scope consultation, you as the client remain “self-represented” and choose what legal services you want the lawyer to perform, which can be as simple as providing legal advice and guidance when needed, but can also include assisting in drafting legal paperwork and other tasks.
One of the major benefits of limited scope consultation is that it can keep your legal costs far lower than they would be otherwise, because you are only having the attorney perform specific tasks on your behalf. In some cases, a client only needs sporadic “check-in” consultations with the lawyer. In other cases the lawyer drafts or edits the legal paperwork. In any case, the client decides what services they want and need with the input of the consulting attorney. Many divorces are successfully resolved for clients with this model, particularly for those clients who have basic competence and confidence in managing their affairs and communicating with the other party. And because this model can minimize the attorney’s role and allow the client to communicate and advocate on their behalf (with the attorney’s input), while being self-represented, this approach can often help avoid the pressure-cooker/arms-race that can occur when attorneys for both parties take over the process.
Absolutely. I do request a retainer in limited scope consultations (and any unused funds are of course returned to the client at the end of the arrangement), and also offer single-session consultations. In any case, you as the client direct the specifics on what help you want, including placing a cap on hours/fees.
A limited scope counsel/representation can be arranged however you like, which can include making a court appearance (and the specifics of this arrangement can be amended as the case develops). This means, yes, a limited scope attorney can appear in court or your behalf should that arise. Furthermore, a limited scope arrangement can be converted into full “attorney of record” representation at any time.
Every case is different (yes, one of those cliche lawyer statements), but common types of situations where limited scope consultation might be a beneficial option include: where you are not sure if you or the other spouse want to move forward with divorce yet; where the other party is also self-represented; where you and the other spouse are both working together to get things done but you need limited advice and support; or where you feel confident in your communication and/or writing ability and are looking for an attorney to “fill in the gaps” and/or provide guidance on the law and process, and assist in writing, communication, and other areas.