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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: PublicationsThe Changed Legal Services Landscape

Increase Your Client Base Through Limited Scope Representation


By Emmy Pasternak, Lawyer Referral and Information Service

It may seem contradictory to state that providing limited scope representation (also known as unbundled services) as an option for clients can actually expand your business base but, as Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) Family, Real Estate, and Personal Injury attorney Dolores Chong has found, “Unbundling is a great value for the client and a source of work and referral for the attorney.” Through limited scope representation (LSR), an attorney can leave discrete tasks to the client and handle the aspects of a case that are outside the client’s realm of expertise.

Civil practice areas particularly well suited to LSR are Family, Landlord/Tenant, Small Claims Court Counseling, and Business. A client may prepare documents but need an attorney for a court appearance. A contract prepared by a client for a business matter can be reviewed by an attorney rather than the attorney preparing the entire document. Services that begin as limited scope may lead to requests for representation in the future and referrals of additional clients to the attorney. A 2010 survey conducted through the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services found that sixty-two percent of respondents felt that, when considering whether to hire an attorney, it was somewhat or very important for the attorney to provide the option of LSR. This sentiment was not limited to those of poor or modest means. Fifty percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or more provided the same answer.

Unbundling is a great value for the client and a source of work and referral for the attorney.In 2004, the California courts authorized LSR in Family Law and civil proceedings. In 2009, the State Bar of California issued a resolution endorsing and encouraging limited scope services through certified lawyer referral programs.

In February, the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services issued Resolution 108 supporting LSR. This latest push for attorneys and legal referral services to offer and expand upon current limited scope offerings stems from the economic realities that clients and the courts are facing. Self-represented litigants slow court proceedings and can frustrate judges and court personnel. Cuts to court funding that resulted in closed court rooms and reduced hours at self-help and ACCESS centers have created a backlog of cases that is only made worse by litigants who are ill informed on filing paperwork, deadlines, and the rules of court. “…making unbundled legal services work for all who need them,” according to former California Chief Justice Ronald George can, “close the justice gap.”

As Chong has found, “It’s a win-win situation. For discrete matters that may be too difficult for the client because the legal issues are complex the client can obtain affordable representation. The attorney receives business, but more importantly, a satisfied client will refer more work to the attorney.”

If you are interested in learning more about the experience requirements for LSR referrals through The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service, please contact Yvonne Ng, LRIS Membership Coordinator, at

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