Limited Scope Engagements

/ 11.Jul, 2012

We have previously written on the importance of defining who you represent and for what purposes you represent them.  There are situations in which an attorney may wish to limit the scope of his or her representation.  This is referred to as a “limited scope engagement” or “discrete task representation.”  It is of particular importance that attorneys define the scope of their representation when they agree to represent for only part of a transaction.

Recently the Philadelphia Bar Association, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, has set forth some guidelines on how to handle limited scope representation.  The joint formal ethics opinion of the two bars number 2011-100, addresses limited scope representation and concludes that such representation is “permitted and encouraged by the Rules of Professional Conduct.”  The Committees note a “lawyer should secure the informed consent of his or her client to the terms of the engagement and fully inform the client as to the ramifications of this type of representation.”  As with every area where one is seeking a client’s informed consent, legal malpractice avoidance best practices would suggest you get it in writing.

One of the more interesting subsections of this opinion deals with the subjects of “ghostwriting” and whether a limited scope engagement need be disclosed to the court or opposing counsel.  The Committees conclude that undisclosed limited scope engagements are generally acceptable.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire