By: Robert J. Nahoum
You’ve been served was a summons and complaint or discovered that you have a default judgment entered against you. It’s a debt collector suing you on an old credit card or medical debt. You’ve done your homework on the internet and realized that you can’t simply ignore the case as that will only make things worse. The problem is – the amount the debt collector is trying to collect is less than what it would cost to hire an attorney to defend the case.
One of the options available to you is to hire a lawyer under a “limited scope engagement for unbundled legal services” to ghost write the court papers on an “as needed” basis.
What are “limited legal services”?
Rather than representing you all through your case, an attorney can help you represent yourself. You would pay the attorney for the portions of your case that he or she helped you with. Some of the services that may be offered by an attorney offering limited legal services are:
- Advise you of the appropriate legal action(s) to take in your circumstances;
- Advise you of the forms appropriate for your case;
- Preparation of pleadings and other legal documents;
- Review documents prepared by you;
- Explain the meaning of legal documents/language;
- Advise you how to conduct yourself in Court;
- Advise you on filing and serving documents or scheduling hearings;
- Advise you of your rights and responsibilities.
Limited scope engagements are different from the usual attorney/client agreements for several reasons. First, unlike the usual agreement, limited scope engagements are for limited legal services, rather than for the complete array of services that lawyers often provide to their clients in the pre-litigation and litigation phases of a lawsuit. Second, in limited scope engagements the client has agreed to do a number of different things than under the usual attorney/client agreement. Third, the total fee paid to the attorneys will be less than the attorneys’ normal full-service attorney’s fee, because the scope of the legal services that the attorneys have agreed to provide to the client is limited to drafting legal court papers for the client.
Under limited scope engagements the client will responsible for most, if not all, activities relating to his or her case. Some, but not necessarily all of these activities may include obtaining and completing the correct forms, filing completed forms with the Court, following case schedules, having papers served and appearing and arguing the case in a Court.
How much will limited legal services cost?
There is no set cost for limited legal services. Attorneys usually charge based on upon flat fees or their regular hourly rate for such services, but the actual charges may vary depending on the specific circumstances and services rendered.
Is It Legal?
The consensus of authority in New York concludes that the use of limited scope engagements is permissible so long as the fact that a documents was prepared by an attorney has been disclosed.
For authority supporting the use of limited scope legal services agreements for unbundled legal services see:
- NYCLA Committee On Professional Ethics, Opinion 742, April 16, 2010 – https://www.nycla.org/siteFiles/Publications/Publications1348_0.pdf
- The New York State Bar Association, Commission on Providing Access to Legal Services for Middle Income Consumers Report and Recommendations on “Unbundled” Legal Services December, 2002 – http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/legalservices/delivery/downloads/nymiddleincomereport.authcheckdam.pdf
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection lawsuit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.
The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C