Tag Archives: limited scope

Pick any two …

455px-Project-triangle.svgMany years ago, I first heard the following:

“You can pick any two of the following: fast, good or cheap.”

The idea is that customers buying goods or services would like to have it all: high quality, delivered quickly and at a low price.

“Pick any two” reflects the reality from the perspective of the manufacturer or service provider.   Providing any combination of two of these three characteristics can be done relatively easily, but only by sacrificing the third element.  In other words:

  • You can have it delivered fast and at a high quality, but it won’t be cheap.
  • You can have it delivered fast and cheap, but it won’t be high quality.
  • You can have it delivered at a high quality and cheaply, but it won’t be fast.

A more nuanced way of looking at it is that speed, quality and price must be balanced.  If you want more of one (or two) of these elements, then the result is a trade-off against the remaining one.

We see this balancing act at play in the delivery of legal services at our firm.  Here is how we approach the problem.

Firstly, high quality is always our top priority.  Among other things, this is a function of being professionals: we simply won’t agree to provide lower quality legal services.  Of course, clients want that as well.  We’ve never had a client ask for lower quality legal advice and representation.

Our main focus is to balance the other two issues: speed and price.  We work with our clients to help them choose whether speedy delivery of services or a lower price is more important.

Our experience most often is that clients want the high quality legal services as quickly as possible.  The challenge is to identify how fast is necessary.  If the matter has to be prioritized ahead of already existing commitments to our other clients, then this means that we have to “find” the time elsewhere by reallocating our resources.  In practical terms, this means working overtime to meet the client’s needs.  This is reflected in a higher price.

Sometimes the choice is already made.  When a client comes to us with an imminent court date or a real estate transaction closing on a tight timeline, the “any two” have already been allocated.  The client receives high quality legal services quickly, but this is reflected in the price.

There are several ways to control costs for clients.

First, we can sometimes bundle some legal services together so that they are priced lower that the components would be if purchased separately.  The best example of this is in our estate planning services.  We offer bundled pricing for the most common estate planning documents: a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive.

Another approach is so-called “unbundling” of legal services.  Here the lawyer and client  agree to limit the scope of the legal services being provided.  Essentially, this means limiting the quantity of what the lawyer does.  In this model of delivering legal services, lawyer and client examine the range of tasks necessary to deal with a legal problem and decide which tasks the lawyer will deal with, and which the client will handle.  This allows the client to have better control over his or her budget for legal expenditures.

Overall, maintaining high quality and getting the best balance between speed and price is our day-to-day focus at Patriot Law.

Legal services provided on a “limited scope”

When you are involvedHandshake in a legal dispute – be it a divorce, the breach of a contract or a wrongful termination from employment – the path to resolution can be lengthy. Many lawyers (and clients, for that matter)  think of legal services being delivered in this type of situation over a significant span of time, where the lawyer advises and represents the client throughout the process of resolving a dispute.  But not all clients want, or can afford, legal services provided in this way.

Some clients would prefer it if they could retain a lawyer to help with just one  aspect (or a few aspects) of their legal problem, while the client does the rest.  Alternatively, the client would prefer to actively control the conduct of the case, and determine if, when and in what circumstances legal advice or skills is necessary.   In order words, the client wants a more limited range of legal services to be provided by the lawyer.

This type of delivery of legal services is referred to by lawyers using various terms:  “limited scope” legal services, “brief legal services” and “unbundled legal services”.  The concept is that a client decides to retain the lawyer to perform only certain very specific legal services.  The client is responsible for everything else.  Another way to think of it is that a person is generally self-represented, but retains a lawyer to assist with those portions of the matter where the lawyer can most effectively assist the client, but within the client’s limited budget.

Here are just a few of the things that a lawyer can do on a limited scope basis:

  • Meet with a client to provide an initial assessment and explanation of the client’s general legal situation.  The client is obtaining an understanding of the law as it applies to his or her factual situation.
  • Write a “demand letter”.  The client uses the lawyer’s skills of knowledge, persuasion and determination to attempt to resolve a dispute at the earliest possible point.
  • Assist a client in drafting court documents.  The client is tapping into the knowledge and experience that a lawyer has in properly presenting evidence to be used in a court process.
  • Assist a client in a specific court appearance.  The client is leveraging the lawyer’s skill in advocating on behalf of the client in an environment (the court room) in which few non-lawyers are comfortable.
  • Research a point of law.  The client gets a thorough review of the law that applies to the client’s facts, summarized so that the client can thoroughly understand the law – or a part of the law – that applies to his or her individual circumstances.  This helps with effective decision-making.

It is important to note that the high degree of competence, diligence and ethical behavior required by lawyers are not reduced in any way when legal services are delivered on a limited scope basis.  All that is different is the scope – the range and duration – of the services to be delivered by the lawyer.

Not all lawyers are comfortable with providing limited scope legal services, just as not all clients are well suited to receiving limited scope legal services.  What is important to understand, however, is that it is an option that is appropriate for some clients in some circumstances.

If you think that limited scope legal services might be right for you, talk to your lawyer about it.  If your lawyer does not do limited scope work, then ask for a referral to a lawyer who does this type of work.  When enough clients start asking for limited scope legal services, lawyers will meet the demand.

At Patriot Law Group, we offer the option of limited scope legal services when they are appropriate to both the situation and the client.