Lawyers Journal

Is LAR right for you?

Limited representation does not mean limited liability.

It's the lawyer's responsibility to make sure the client understands all of the potential of the client's actions. Only when the client knows the likely benefits and risks of any action can he or she make a decision in his/her best interest. A lawyer must advise of possible consequences even if the client does not ask. A client who is resistant to discussions of particular topics - such as money - is not likely a good candidate for LAR.

You must have a realistic picture of the client's ability to self-represent.

Clients who do not understand and who may be unable to give informed consent to the limitation on scope, are probably not good candidates for LAR. Clients need sufficient proficiency in English, and the sophistication and skill to handle complex issues. It's up to you, as the professional, to determine whether or not a client is up to the task.

LAR is not meant for test-drivers.

What is your legal expertise? Don't be tempted to use LAR as a learning experience in matters of law outside your expertise, in which you may be unable to advise the client on possible outcomes. See first item above.

Limited scope must be fully documented.

The most critical part of an LAR agreement is delineating when and how the engagement ends. Attorneys with clients who seek additional (usually, emergency) services above and beyond the LAR engagement, and who go on to perform those services without an updated agreement, risk trouble for themselves and their clients. The working relationship with the client must be such that the client respects the "limited" in LAR. Files must also demonstrate the discussion over any changes in scope.

LAR cannot predict every outcome.

If a case goes to trial, it is incumbent upon the LAR attorney to explain to the client that it's not possible to accurately predict how a judge may rule in a particular case. Additionally, the LAR attorney must take into account clients' expectations of what occurs in court, which may be shaped by court dramas on TV and in movies.

Checklists and flow charts - love them or hate them?

To function properly, the LAR process benefits greatly from checklists delineating the attorney's and client's duties, as well as flow charts to document progress. Checklists and flow charts should be tailored to your specific needs.

How do you feel about taking credit cards?

General-representation attorneys are wary of this when used for up-front retainers because it may signal that the client has limited funds on hand. However, payments for LAR services are generally smaller per increment, and thus easier to control.

Task-based or hourly? And then what?

You can charge an hourly rate or a task-based flat fee, but if you choose an hourly rate, you should take into account that your responsibilities for LAR work are the same as your responsibilities for full-service work. If you do draft or research work outside the client's presence, have a minimum number of hours in trust that can be replenished.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association