Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) allows an attorney to assist a self-represented client with specific issues on a limited basis. This might include preparing or reviewing documents, appearing in court or giving legal advice, hence the term unbundled services. This type of limited representation, compensated or pro bono, permits the attorney to withdraw representation after completing agreed upon services.
Although the attorney does not represent the client in every matter involved in the legal matter, the attorney owes the client the same duties of loyalty, competence and confidentiality for the limited representation as she would under full service representation. The client and the attorney should review the limitations of the legal assistance, and sign an agreement that documents the limited legal services to be provided.
Limited assistance representation is available in some of the Massachusetts courts including Probate and Family Court for the benefit of low and moderate-income clients who cannot afford the cost of full legal representation. Thus, litigants in cases of child support and custody, paternity, divorce and related issues can get partial representation by a qualified lawyer, who has to file with the court and agreement that describes the limitations of legal services, and that both lawyer and client sign. LAR has provided legal assistance to a substantial population of pro se litigants appearing in Massachusetts state trial courts and is designed to help speed up the legal process.
LAR also benefits the client and attorney by controlling their involvement in a case. Rather than making a costly open-ended commitment where the costs cannot be determined accurately in advance and payment can be uncertain, attorneys have the opportunity to represent previously unrepresented clients.
Limited Assistance Representation in the District Court can pertain to a defendant or plaintiff in a non-criminal action, pending or filed in any Division, with each court department determining its own LAR protocols and procedures. For an attorney to quality to file a limited appearance, the attorney must compete a LAR information session approved by the Chief Justice.
In many cases of family, debt collection, housing and other civil matters, self-represented clients can effectively handle most areas with attorney input at a key point in the litigation. For example, in a divorce case the key point of involvement might be a pre-trial conference or at a debt collection hearing, it could be a motion to dismiss.
Call us if you would like to explore the possibility of Limited Assistance Representation in your Massachusetts legal matter.