As of October 1, 2013, the State of Connecticut has launched a pilot program in the family courts to determine whether hiring an attorney on a limited basis is feasible (e.g., for custody or alimony hearings, depositions and/or settlement conferences).
Limited scope representation is defined by the state as a situation where an attorney represents or assists a party with part, but not all, of his or her legal matter. The party and the attorney are required to execute an engagement letter pinpointing which aspects of the case the attorney will and will not handle.
I believe the goal of limited scope representation to be three-fold:
- To make attorneys more accessible to clients
- To provide assistance of counsel to parties who cannot afford to hire an attorney for their entire case
- To attempt to streamline the sizeable flux of self-represented parties in the courts
In some Connecticut jurisdictions, as much as 80% of all divorce cases have at least one self-represented party.
Potential clients should interview attorneys to determine whether the attorneys are willing to participate in the limited scope representation program. One potential downside is, according to the Rules of Practice, if a party hires an attorney on a limited scope basis, the opposing party must deal directly with the hired attorney solely on issues the attorney is representing the client with regards to, and deal with the client directly on any remaining matters. The client would also need to file an appearance as a self-represented party on any such remaining matters.
I’m curious to see whether cases can be compartmentalized in this manner. Whether limited scope representation may work for a given person is determined both by how much money a person has to devote to attorney’s fees, and whether the person feels capable of performing the legwork, speaking to a judge in open court, and representing themselves on the remaining aspects of his or her case.
Traditionally, once an attorney enters an appearance in a case for a client, the attorney cannot withdraw the appearance without permission of the court unless another attorney or the party him or herself enters an appearance on their own behalf. Limited scope representation allows an attorney, who may otherwise be hesitant to take on an entire case, to file a notice with the court that then removes the attorney’s appearance from the file, once their limited engagement is complete. This enables attorneys to get involved in a case on a temporary basis and not feel obligated to commit to that case indefinitely.