Limited Representation (Unbundled Legal Services)

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded
Read this in:
Spanish / EspaƱol


What is limited representation?

  • Sometimes called:
    • Limited scope representation
    • Unbundled service
    • Discreet legal representation
  • It is when an attorney helps you with part of your case, but not all of the case.
    • You and the attorney talk about all of the parts of your case.
    • The attorney helps you with one or more of the parts of the case.
    • You do the rest of the parts by yourself.

What are the parts of the case I will talk about with the attorney?

  • You and the attorney will look at these parts of the case. You and the attorney will decide what parts of the case the attorney will handle for you.
    • Finding information or facts
    • Getting information from the other side in your case, banks, agencies or other businesses
    • Filling out forms
    • Filing papers with the court
    • Going to court
    • Talking to the other side in your case
  • You and the attorney will agree on what part of the case you will handle and what part the attorney will handle.

What kinds of cases can use limited representation?

  • Limited representation works best if the case does not have a lot of technical or complex problems.
    • Some cases that are technical or complex are:
      • Divorce case where you need to divide pensions
      • Divorce case where you need to divide businesses
      • Divorce case where you need to divide more real property than the home you live in
      • Suing someone for money damages over $5000 (the maximum limit to file in small claims court which is a court set up for self represented people)
      • Custody cases when the parents cannot agree
      • Any case where the parties cannot agree, are not truthful about facts, or where one party threatens or harms the other.
    • Some types of cases that are not normally as technical or complex
      • Divorce with few assets
      • Child support cases
      • Custody when the parents can agree

How can I choose limited representation?

  • Ask the attorney if he or she offers limited representation.
  • Ask the attorney if your type of case is not too complex for limited representation
  • Talk about the parts of your case and what you want the attorney to do
  • Talk to the attorney about the cost of having the attorney do those parts
  • Decide if you can do the other parts by yourself
  • Ask the attorney if he or she will help you more if you decide you cannot do it by yourself
  • Talk about how much the attorney will charge for more help

Will the court let me represent myself, or have help with only some parts of my case?

  • You may represent yourself, but it may not be the best thing for you in your case.
  • Iowa law lets attorneys help with some parts of the case.
  • The attorney tells the court that the representation is limited.
  • When the attorney is done with his or her part of your case, he or she tells the court that part is done.

Why do people choose limited representation?

  • If a person has limited income or resources, he or she can still get some help or advice from an attorney.
  • If a person does some of the work, it saves the attorney time.
  • Attorneys charge for the time they work on a case.
  • If the attorney spends less time on a case, the total fees are less.
  • A person has more control of his or her own case when he or she does some of the work.
  • If the person tries to do some of the work but finds that the case is too difficult, he or she can ask the attorney to do more or all of the work.
  • If the person goes back to the same attorney for more help, the attorney will already know about the case.
Last Review and Update: Aug 24, 2011

Contacting the LiveHelp service...