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New Resources Help Lawyers Build Business and Increase

Access to Justice by Providing Limited Scope Representation

Chicago Bar Foundation


By Samira Nazem, CBF Director

of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy,

and Jessica Bednarz, CBF JEP

Director of Innovation & Training


he mantra of lawyers has long been

“in for a penny, in for a pound.”

However, in 2013 a series of rule

changes clarified the rules for “unbundling”

and created new opportunities for lawyers

to proverbially be “in for penny” by limit-

ing the scope of their representation to

discrete tasks, discrete issues, or discrete

court appearances within an ongoing legal

matter. Limited scope representation, often

referred to as “unbundling” or “a la carte

legal services,” allows lawyers to help poten-

tial clients for only a portion of a case, so

long as the agreement is reasonable under

the circumstances and the client has given

informed consent. Using these rules, law-

yers can focus their representation on the

most important or most complex parts of a

case, while their client handles the simpler

matters independently.

Limited scope representation is an

umbrella term that encompasses a variety

of legal services, both inside and outside

the courtroom. Some examples of limited

scope representation include:

• Preparing or reviewing a court docu-

ment for a self-represented litigant;

• Coaching a self-represented litigant to

appear in court independently;

• Drafting a demand letter or response


• Offering brief legal advice on how to

pursue a legal claim;

• Negotiating or reviewing a proposed

settlement agreement; and

• Appearing in court on one specific date

while the litigant is self-represented for

all other court dates.

To read the rules governing limited scope

representation or to access standardized

court forms for filing and withdrawing lim-

ited scope appearances, visit: http://www.


Increasing Access to Justice

One driving force behind the recent rule

changes is a growing crisis that has taken

place in the Illinois state courts over the last

several years. The number of unrepresented

litigants across the state has grown, and

hundreds of thousands of litigants now

appear in court without an attorney every

year. Nearly two-thirds of defendants in

civil matters are unrepresented, and for

some types of cases, that number exceeds

ninety percent. The large volume of self-

represented litigants poses challenges for

both courts and litigants alike. While

some are “DIY litigants” who prefer to go

it alone, the majority of unrepresented liti-

gants would rather have an attorney—they

simply can’t find or can’t afford one.

It is not just the poorest Illinois residents

who find themselves self-represented in

court; working and middle-class families

are increasingly struggling to find afford-

able legal representation. Many of these

families earn too much to qualify for

already overstretched pro bono and legal

aid resources available and too little to

retain an attorney for the entirety of the

case, leaving them with no choice but to

represent themselves in court. Limited

scope representation can be a big part of

the solution for the significant numbers of

families facing legal problems but lacking

the resources necessary to hire a private

attorney for the entirety of the case.

Creating Business Opportunities

Recent reports have shown there is a

huge untapped demand for limited scope

representation, and yet the practice is

largely ignored by private attorneys. This

is a missed opportunity for a rare win-win

arrangement that can benefit both clients

and attorneys. For clients, limited scope

offers predictability when paired with fixed

fees; empowerment through choice and

teamwork; and accessibility for those cli-

ents who have limited funds to dedicate to

legal services. For attorneys, limited scope

representation offers flexibility, control,

The CBA is now accepting applications for the

Limited Scope Panel from attorneys in these

three areas of law. If you have questions or are

interested in applying, contact Samira Nazemat

for more information.