Illinois high court endorses limited-scope legal representations

Illinois Supreme Court allows limited scope legal representations
  • Illinois Supreme Court allows limited-scope legal representations.
  • Limited-scope legal representations, or unbundled legal services, allow people with limited resources to seek redress.
  • The concept is gaining widespread acceptance in the United States after becoming popular around the world.

A National Law Review story from 2013 explains how the Illinois courts have embraced limited-scope legal representation as a way to ensure clients from all socioeconomic strata have the ability to pursue claims.

The piece, Improving Access to Justice — “Unbundling” Legal Services in Illinois  — notes potential legal clients who earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty line can qualify for legal aid in some cases. Those for whom fiscal issues are of no concern can hire the best legal representation possible. Those who fall in the middle, though, may find themselves without the resources to hire adequate legal representation even though they have a legitimate claim.

In 2013, recognizing this fact, the Illinois Supreme Court changed its rules, allowing attorneys in the state to offer “unbundled” services. These “limited-scope” representations allow attorneys to perform some services in a given case while the client handles other parts of the case himself/herself.

Announcing the changes, Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said, “These rules will improve access to Illinois courts for people with limited means. … The Rules enable an attorney to represent a client on a limited part of a lawsuit and then withdraw from the case.  The nature of some cases requires full legal representation, but many do not. This will allow lawyers to offer their pro bono services more efficiently, and provide a person with the possibility of hiring a lawyer to protect their interests without the burden of paying for complete representation.”

The high court’s actions involved two rules, Rule 13 and Rule 11.

Rule 13 changed to allow a limited-scope representation when the attorney and client enter into a written agreement stipulating what services the attorney will provide.

Rule 11 changed to require notice to both the client and the attorney, even in limited-scope cases.

The court also clarified another rule to allow attorneys to assist someone in drafting pleadings, motions or other statements to the court.

The Law Review article notes the changes “were meant to encourage attorneys to provide representation to people who could not otherwise afford representation.”

Attorney Lisa G. Douglas of North Little Rock said limited-scope legal representations enable anyone to pursue justice.

“This type of arrangement allows someone with limited means to seek justice, to right a wrong. It is not a second tier of service; it is a partnership between attorney and client,” she explained

If you or someone you know has a potential cause of action but is unsure of how to proceed, contact the Law Office of Lisa G. Douglas: 2300 Main Street, North Little Rock, AR 72114; (501) 798-0004, 24 hours a day; or online,www.lisagdouglas.com. -Rick Fahr