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  • Limited scope services can assist in providing access to justice and in recognising the role of lawyers where clients are undertaking some parts of legal services themselves.
  • Effective limited scope services involve a clear retainer and a client with competence to undertake the remaining components of the service.
  • However, limited scope services are not recognised by legal profession legislation or ethics rules, nor court rules in Australia. This position needs to be revisited so as to support limited scope services and to provide guidance on when and how limited scope services should operate.

What are limited scope services?

Limited scope services, also called unbundling, is a form of delivering legal services that involves breaking down a legal matter into various tasks with a lawyer only providing representation for some or one of those tasks.  The client accepts the responsibility for undertaking the remainder of the legal matter until reaching the desired resolution.  Examples of limited scope services, or unbundled legal work, are: making limited court appearances; drafting some court documents but not being the solicitor on the record; drafting a contract but not negotiating its terms; reviewing a contract but not drafting the contract; and providing an opinion on strategy.

Unbundling has been used to assist with access to justice and the provision of legal services to clients with limited economic resources for many years.  The client simply cannot afford to retain a lawyer for all steps in addressing their legal issue and therefore seeks assistance with only some of those steps.  In that context the client acts for themselves on those parts of the legal matter for which the lawyer does not act.

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