This Article discusses Limited Representation of Counsel Agreements in Massachusetts. It is not meant to provide legal advice, but for informational purposes only.
If you need help navigating through the legal process and can’t afford to hire a lawyer, there is a benefit of consulting with and hiring an attorney to help with parts of a lawsuit.
What is Limited Representation of Counsel?
Limited Representation of Counsel is when a client hires a lawyer to provide legal advice on certain parts of a case that are agreed to by the client and the lawyer. The attorney could act as a consultant to the client. The client needs to sign a Limited Representation of Counsel Fee Agreement with an attorney where both agree to the cost per hour and exactly what tasks a client requests the attorney to do for that client. Most attorneys when participating in a Limited Representation of Counsel Fee process, require a retainer. The amount of the retainer will need to be stated in this agreement. Examples of the types of legal services stated in a Limited Representation of Counsel Agreement are: a lawyer could provide legal advice via phone, e-mail and in person, suggest options for alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law, give guidance in drafting initial court documents such as a Complaint or a Petition, legal research and analysis, draft legal documents such as Interrogatories (legal questions), Request for Production of Documents, Request for Admissions or Motions and attending a court hearing.
Court Appearance Permitted
The Probate and Family Courts in Massachusetts allow a lawyer to represent a client at a hearing on a limited basis. The attorney needs to file a Notice of Limited Appearance when they arrive with the client for a hearing. At the end of that hearing, the lawyer would file a Notice of Withdrawal of Limited Appearance.
However, if the client requests that the lawyer to attend another hearing, it is permitted, but a new Notice of Limited Appearance at the beginning of the hearing and a Notice of Withdrawal of Limited Appearance will need to be filed at the end of the second hearing.
Client Retains Control over the Case
The client retains control and responsibility over the case. However, in an agreement for Limited Representation of Counsel, the client agrees to provide documents to counsel and cooperate with the lawyer and his or her support staff.
The Limited Representation of Counsel agreements state that the client has a right to consult with another lawyer on tasks in a case that the client determines that he or she does not want to hire the attorney in the limited represenation of process agreement to do. An example is if a client seeks counsel for legal advise on how to draft interrogatory (legal questions), but not on how to present their case in court, they may want to obtain another opinion for that matter or modify the Limited Representation of Counsel Agreement to have the first lawyer also advise them on that court appearance.
What are the Limitations of Limited Represenation fo Counsel?
The limitations in the Limited Representation of Counsel is not having an attorney take on all aspects of a lawsuit. Having legal advice on all parts of a lawsuit is better as that attorney can draft pleadings, Motions and other court documents properly, can make logical arguments to the court and be at a client’s side during a court proceeding vs. representing oneself.
What are the Benefits Of Limited Representation of Counsel?
If a client can not afford an attorney to represent him or her in a case, such as family law, it is better to obtain some help from a lawyer, than no help at all. It is very difficult to represent oneself in court without legal training. An experienced attorney with knowledge on the subject area is a huge benefit as that lawyer can help a client navigate through the legal process especially in a family law matter which is often emotional as it involves family and personal issues.
What to Look for When Seeking an Attorney for Limited Representation of Counsel?
A client should make sure that the attorney has taken the training for limited representation of counsel. The lawyer should be experienced in the subject matter that the client is seeking legal services on such topics in family law such as divorce, alimony, asset division, parenting time, child support, paternity, guardianship issues involving children, termination of alimony due to matters relating to the Alimony Reform Act, etc.
Limited Representation of Counsel allows clients to obtain legal services from an experienced attorney who does not represent a client on all parts of a case, but as a consultant on limited parts of a case. The lawyer can go to court to represent a client for one day and withdraw at the end of the day. It is better to have legal advice for part of a case for a client who is unable to afford an attorney in all parts of a case.
By Attorney Debra L. Smith, 134 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
(617) 924-6728; Lawdeb@aol.com.
(C) Copyright 2014. Debra L. Smith. All rights reserved.