Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 36

ASK THE ETHICS EXPERTS

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ETHICAL ISSUES IN

LIMITED SCOPE
REPRESENTATION
By Erika Stillabower

Q
A

I am a D.C. lawyer who wishes to provide more pro bono legal services. As a solo
practitioner, however, I am reluctant to commit to a representation that could
involve protracted litigation, but I understand that the D.C. Rules of Professional
Conduct permit "limited scope representation." What ethical issues must I consider
when offering to limit the scope of my representation to, for example, a mediation
or negotiation of a dispute before any suit is filed?

Limited scope representation has long been permitted under the D.C. Rules.
However, effective January 1, 2019, the D.C. Court of Appeals amended the
language of D.C. Rule 1.2(c) to align with the ABA Model Rule. Although the
amended rule is unlikely to substantively impact the way D.C. lawyers engage in
limited scope representation, the revised language and new Comment [6] should
be considered.

Amended Rule 1.2(c) states that "[a] lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is
reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent." Whether a limitation is reasonable under the circumstances is a question of fact left to the professional judgment of the lawyer who
contemplates providing limited scope services. However, D.C. Legal Ethics Opinion 330 (Unbundling Legal
Services)1 makes clear that a lawyer may ethically limit the scope of a representation only insofar as those
limits do not bar the provision of competent representation. The opinion also explains that all the duties
that generally attach to lawyer-client relationships apply to limited scope arrangements, including
diligence, loyalty, communication, confidentiality, and avoidance of conflicts of interest.2
New Comment [6] to Rule 1.2 reminds lawyers that Rule 1.5(b) requires a lawyer to communicate in
writing the scope of the lawyer's representation when the lawyer has not regularly represented a client and,
importantly, advises that "in all matters involving limited scope representation, it is generally prudent for
a lawyer to state in writing any limitation on representation, provide the client with a written summary of
considerations discussed, and to receive a written informed consent from the client to the lawyer's limited
representation." The Comment also cross-references the definition of informed consent (Rule 1.0(e)) and its
requirements.

1629 K St. Suite 300
N.W. Washington D.C. 20006

D.C. Bar Legal Ethics counsel Hope C. Todd, Saul Jay Singer, and Erika Stillabower are available for inquiries on the
ethics helpline at 202-737-4700, ext. 1010, or at ethics@dcbar.org.

NOTES
1 See dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/opinions/opinion330.cfm.
2 In addition to the ethics rules, lawyers who appear before tribunals must also comply with applicable court rules and
orders regarding limited scope appearances. On June 16, 2014, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued
Administrative Order 14-10 permitting limited appearances in the court's Civil Division, Probate Division, Tax Division,
Family Court, and Domestic Violence Unit pursuant to the order.

https://osioffices.com (202) 600-7777
manager@osioffices.com

36 WASHINGTON LAWYER

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MAY 2019

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http://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/opinions/opinion330.cfm https://www.osioffices.com https://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 42
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover4
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