Monthly Archives: December 2013

What is Limited Scope Representation?

In describing what the Justice Café offers, I frequently get asked, “what does limited scope representation mean?”  Limited scope representation, also known as unbundled legal services, refers to an attorney taking responsibility for only a portion of a client’s case.  Rather than handle an entire matter, an attorney only performs specific legal services as requested by the client.

Forrest S. Mosten, Esq., a family law practitioner who teaches at UCLA School of Law and formerly taught at Mercer Law, is known as the “Father of Unbundling.”  He wrote the seminal book, Unbundling Legal Services, in 2000.  In his book, Mosten explains the concept of unbundled legal services with an analogy to a menu where services are available a la carte.

As Mosten explains, limited scope representation is based on a sharing of responsibility between consumers and service providers similar to when one prepares their taxes with an online program and has an accountant give the papers a final look.  In unbundling legal services, the lawyer and the client agree that the lawyer will perform some of the work involved in the client’s case and the client will be responsible for the remaining work.  Under Rule 1.2 of Georgia’s Rules of Professional Conduct, “A lawyer may limit the scope and objectives of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.”

Unbundling is a way for people to get legal services at affordable prices, while enabling lawyers to serve clients who are self-representing due to high lawyer fees.  Unbundled services represents a win-win-win scenario:

Attorneys can expand their market share–usually only relatively wealthy or very poor clients receive legal services.  By offering cheaper, a la carte legal services, an attorney can offer affordable legal services to more clients.

Clients can reduce their legal services costs, and only have to buy services they need.

Courts can benefit from an improvement in the administration of justice through a reduction in the number of uninformed self-represented litigants.

Limited scope representation falls into three general categories:

Consultation, such as giving advice and direction;

Document preparation; and

Limited representation in court.

The Justice Café offers unbundled services in which the client pays a reduced attorney fee of $75 an hour to have specific, agreed upon, legal tasks performed.  Its street level, storefront locations in Atlanta, Marietta, and Savannah create an inviting, less formal environment for clients.  We welcome you to visit any of our locations, call us at (678) 791-0734, or write to us via the “Contact Us” page of our web site at www.justicecafe.com if you have any questions or need our assistance.

by Luis Velez, Justice Café Executive Director

Why Have a Justice Cafe?

For lay people, successfully navigating the civil justice system can be a confusing, stressful, and expensive process.  Many people can afford to retain an attorney who will provide them with a full range of legal services.  For these individuals, competent representation makes navigating the system a lot less frustrating.  Unfortunately, too many people cannot afford to get the information or help they need to handle their civil law matter.

In 2009, The Supreme Court of Georgia Equal Justice Commission’s Committee on Civil Justice highlighted this issue when it commissioned Kennesaw State University to conduct a study regarding the civil legal needs of modest and moderate income Georgians.  The study’s results were sobering.  The study found that more than 60 percent of the households surveyed experience one or more civil legal needs per year.

Many of these civil legal needs relate to family law-related matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, etc.  In fact, according to Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts, in 2011, there were 277,296 civil cases filed in Georgia’s Superior Courts, of which 182,127, or 66 percent, were family law cases.  The number of civil cases in Superior Court actually dropped from the prior year, but the percent of family law cases went up by 6%.

Thus, family law-related matters represent a significant number of the cases heard in Superior Court.

Sadly, only a fraction of the people who have civil legal needs actually get to court.  In addition, despite the high level of legal needs among economically challenged Georgians and the complexity of the legal system, nearly 75 percent of individuals tried to resolve their problem on their own.  The study found that for many, poverty was a leading cause of keeping them from accessing the court system altogether or appearing in court without an attorney.

What’s the problem with so many unrepresented litigants?  According to the study, 95% of court personnel report that the large number of unrepresented litigants impedes the efficient functioning of the court system.  Also, the study found that 67% of those who got legal help were satisfied with the outcome of their case, whereas 60% of unrepresented litigants were unsatisfied with the disposition of their matter.  Clearly, having a trained attorney makes a difference.  The bottom line is that many Georgians do not have access to an attorney and, consequently, are at a disadvantage when they come in contact with the civil justice system, if they reach the courthouse steps at all.

Visit one of our three locations in Atlanta, Marietta, or Savannah and take advantage of this revolution in the provision of legal services. 

by Luis Velez, Justice Café Executive Director