Limited-Scope Representation

Key Innovators

Forrest (Woody) Mosten

Others Working on This

Charley Moore, Jess Birken, Erin Levine, Billie Tarascio, Megan Zavieh, Kimberly Bennett, and Blaine Korte


Limited-scope representation overlaps with—and is sometimes used interchangeably with—unbundled services, assisted DIY, and legal coaching. They are all variations on the idea of doing less work for clients (but not less than they need) as a way of lowering the cost of hiring a lawyer.

The popular reasoning behind limited-scope representation goes something like this:

Think of a traditional legal representation as a limousine, and your lawyer as the chauffeur.

Of course, most people don’t take limos everywhere. Most people don’t need or want to take limos everywhere. Most people are perfectly happy with a less expensive option, like a reasonably priced car, public transit, or a bike. In fact, if limos were the only transportation option, most people would have to walk and we’d have a massive access-to-transportation gap.

Well, traditional legal representation was pretty much the only option for a long time. And like taking a limo, traditional representation is expensive. Since there wasn’t any other option, lots of people had to try to resolve their legal issues without a lawyer and, not surprisingly, we have a massive access-to-justice gap.

While the access-to-justice gap is not just about cost, and not everyone with a legal problem wants to hire a lawyer at any price, many people would like help from a lawyer if they could get it without the full-service (limousine) option. That’s where limited-scope representation comes in.

Limited-scope representation aims to give legal consumers a similar option to people who need to get from one place to another but don’t want to pay for a limo. Here are some examples:

  • A lawyer might draft a document for the client, like a pleading, brief, or contract, as a “ghostwriter” for the client, who will otherwise represent themselves.
  • A lawyer might agree to “coach” the client by helping them understand their legal problem and their options.
  • A lawyer might make a limited appearance to argue a motion only (with the court’s permission).
  • A lawyer might offer a subscription arrangement to a client, agreeing to perform some limited services in exchange for a monthly fee. (These seem to be getting some traction among small businesses and non-profits.)

Published on January 17th, 2021. Last updated on March 23rd, 2021, by Sam Glover.