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Ethics experts offer primer on limited representation

With legal services unaffordable for thousands of litigants, many attorneys limit the scope of their representation to specific tasks, providing clients with much-needed expertise and reducing the burden pro pers place on the courts. However, such “limited scope” representation can pose ethical pitfalls for lawyers.

According to ethics experts, lawyers who offer such services must ask the client the right questions, identify the issues, make necessary disclosures and develop procedures to facilitate the proper handling of the matter. To help them do that, the State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct has issued a primer on the ethics of limited scope representation.

The primer spells out the nature of the fee agreement in limited scope representation, as well as four particular attorney duties: competence, avoiding prejudice to the client’s interest upon withdrawal, loyalty and confidentiality, and the duty to the administration of justice.

The primer recommends that all attorneys considering or engaging in limited scope representation determine whether their practice area can accommodate limited representation on particular matters and if so, they should establish procedures that reduce the cost of representation and foster compliance with the lawyer’s duties.

The primer can be found at http://www.calbar.ca.gov/ethics.

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