Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid

Standard 7.14 on Practitioner's Responsibilities in Limited Representation

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A practitioner may limit the scope of representation provided to a client if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client knowingly consents.


General considerations

A significant amount of the representation offered to clients in legal aid practice is limited in scope, often in the form of legal advice, brief service or assistance to pro se litigants. It is generally permissible under pertinent ethical rules to limit the scope of representation of a client, if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client knowingly consents.

In practice, limited representation is often offered through projects that are established by a provider, such as a hotline or an advice clinic, or under a case acceptance policy that identifies substantive issues for which only limited representation will be offered. Because in many circumstances, the decision to offer limited representation is made in the context of provider-adopted policies, it is the provider, not the individual practitioner that determines that the limitation is reasonable in the circumstances for that type of assistance. These Standards, therefore, do not set out separate considerations for the practitioner in providing limited representation in such systems. The practitioner should be aware, however, of the factors that are set out in the Standards and Commentary related to limited representation: Standard 3.4 on Limited Representation, Standard 3.4-1 on Representation Limited to Legal Advice and Standard 3.4-2 on Representation Limited to Brief Service.

Practitioner responsibilities for limited representation of individual clients

With some clients, the practitioner will consider for that particular client whether full or limited representation is appropriate. In such circumstances, it is the practitioner who has the responsibility to determine if the limited scope representation is reasonable. The practitioner should consider the complexity of the legal issues and the processes necessary to resolve or respond to the problem and the risk to the client if the matter is not resolved favorably. A number of personal factors will also influence the degree to which the client may be able to proceed successfully with only limited assistance from the practitioner. They include the client's language capability, level of education, employment circumstance, physical mobility, emotional stability, cultural values and self confidence.

A practitioner who offers only limited representation to a client should apprise the client of the limitations of the representation, including actions that the client needs to take and the practical risks for the client if the actions are not taken.