Many low and medium income individuals and small business owners involved in a legal dispute are left with the choice of suffering without access to justice or attempting to represent themselves. As the number of self-represented litigants in Michigan continues to rise, so does the confusion, delay, and frustration of litigants, judges and the courts. Recently, the Michigan Supreme Court approved a set of guidelines for limited scope representation (“LSR”), sometimes referred to as “unbundling”, which would allow litigants to hire an attorney for distinct tasks rather than full representation. LSR will permit the client and attorney to collectively determine which portions of the case each is capable of handling.
The new LSR guidelines under the Michigan Professional Rules of Conduct 1.2(b) provide that: “A lawyer licensed to practice in the State of Michigan may limit the scope of a representation, file a limited appearance in a civil action, and act as counsel of record for the limited purpose identified in that appearance, if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent, preferably confirmed in writing.”
Traditionally, litigants would hire an attorney to handle their case from start to finish, also known as full representation. However, the proposed changes to Rules 1.0, 1.2, 4.2 and 4.3 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, and changes to Michigan Court Rules 2.107, 2.117 and 6.001, will allow those seeking legal help or pro se litigants to obtain legal representation for only precise issues at any stage of the litigation. Litigants will now be able to retain counsel for only the most critical areas of the case. For example, litigants would be able to obtain an attorney for limited purposes such as facilitating settlement, drafting or reviewing legal documents, conducting legal research, making limited appearances in court, etc. LSR will expand the availability of legal services, while also allowing litigants to save money.
Overall, as the legal landscape continues to change, so too must the rules of representation to allow for the most affordable and fair access to justice. While LSR will most definitely benefit some litigants for the reasons outlined above, it will benefit attorneys by allowing them to represent clients for specific tasks who otherwise would be unable to afford full representation, and also make the court system more efficient. More than 30 states have already adopted specific LSR rules, and come January 1, 2018, so will Michigan. It should be interesting to see how the new LSR guidelines fare in Michigan.
Excerpts taken from Article by Sandro DiMercurio, Esq., Berry Moorman PC.
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