A limited scope retainer is a contract for unbundled or a la carte legal services. 

A limited scope retainer

A limited scope retainer is a contract for unbundled legal services. It spells out the specific legal services for which the client is retaining a lawyer to complete. The lawyer may charge the client on a block fee or hourly basis. The Retainer Agreement is tailored to meet the legal needs of each client and is typically completed over a short period of time. Once all tasks in the retainer are completed, the client is required to enter into a new limited scope retainer for further work on the file. You may think of a limited scope retainer as placing an order at an a la carte restaurant.

A limited scope retainer may not be appropriate where an opposing party is exceptionally adversarial and legal issues are complex. In such cases, a client’s interests may be best served by retaining a lawyer for full legal representation. Additionally, clients who do no have adequate time or capacity to represent themselves should consider a general retainer.

To summarize a limited scope basis is when a law firm will help you draft court documents for your file but you will be responsible to represent yourself at the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Common legal services offered under a limited scope retainer include the following:
  • Legal opinions – a general legal opinion concerning your family law matter and/or ongoing consultations

  • Drafting services – drafting of the written materials for your case (e.g., demand letters, pleadings, written submissions)

  • Coaching services – preparing you for mediation, conferences and/or trial

  • Litigation services – advocating on your behalf as your agent at limited court appearances

  • Legal research – researching the law as it relates to moving your matter forward before a court

Limited scope retainers offer the following advantages:

[1] Alexander, Russell. Guide to Separation, Divorce and Family Law. 2020 Russell Alexander. Canada. P.16-18

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