News Post

New Rules Permit Lawyers To Let Clients Handle Parts Of Their Own Case Under Supervision; Result Will Be Lower Legal Costs

Montgomery, Alabama, April 05, 2012 – Middle- and low-income Alabama litigants can now get legal help even if they cannot afford to pay a lawyer to handle the entire matter.

New rules approved by the Alabama Supreme Court and drafted by a committee of the Alabama State Bar will facilitate “limited scope representation,” which means allowing lawyers to handle part of a case — drafting a pleading, reviewing an agreement or attending one specific hearing — rather than the entire matter. Under the new rules, lawyers can help a client with one aspect of a case even if they cannot afford to have a lawyer handle the whole case.

State Bar President James R. Pratt, III, Birmingham (Hare Wynn Newell & Newton LLP) said, “The state Supreme Court’s approval of amended court rules to allow limited scope representation in civil matters is part of the legal profession’s drive, in collaboration with the courts, to clear obstacles to legal representation and make legal help more affordable for middle-and low-income Alabamians.”

Limited scope representation allowed under these rules can take on many different forms, such as providing limited advice as to court procedures and what a client can expect in a court case, preparation of pleadings, preparation or coaching for specific hearings, review of pleadings and/or settlement agreements, and appearing in certain specific hearings for a limited purpose. The practice of limited scope representation is viewed positively as a new opportunity to allow more consumers to avail themselves of important, albeit limited, legal assistance in on-going litigation. The process benefits clients, attorneys and the courts.

Pratt emphasized that not every type of matter will lend itself to using the limited scope rules.

He cited several examples of how limited scope representation could be employed by a client to reduce costs:

  • You can just consult a lawyer and get legal information and advice about your case when you need it;
  • You can hire the lawyer to represent you on certain issues or hearing in your case (such as child support and/or custody) while you do the rest yourself;
  • You can hire the lawyer to prepare the forms and other court documentation but file them yourself and represent yourself at the hearings;
  • You can hire the lawyer to coach you on how to represent yourself at the court hearings and help in the preparation of evidence that you will present in court; or
  • You can hire the lawyer to help you with the more complicated parts of your case, such as discovery and legal research, while you do the simpler tasks yourself.

According to the American Bar Association, more than 41 states have adopted limited scope representation rules. Pratt said the new rules permit solo and small firm practitioners, who comprise 66% of the state bar’s membership, to provide legal services to people who could not otherwise afford it and might never have sought such assistance.

The 17,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.