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Types of Legal Representation

Arizona Civil Legal Needs Community Survey

Civil legal organizations in Arizona are seeking your input to increase their ability to meet the civil legal needs of Arizona's lower income residents. Please complete this survey to assist in improving civil legal services in Arizona.

Encuesta de Necesidades Legales Civiles de Arizona

Las organizaciones legales civiles en Arizona buscan su opinión para aumentar su capacidad de satisfacer las necesidades legales civiles de los residentes de bajos ingresos de Arizona. Por favor complete esta encuesta para ayudar a mejorar los servicios legales civiles en Arizona.
In Arizona, there are multiple types of legal representation: limited scope, fixed rate, ghostwriting, and full service representation.  Prior to hiring a lawyer read through the different types of representation that may be available to you based on your legal needs.  If you are looking for a lawyer referral or free or reduced cost legal services, visit the Legal Aid Resources page for more information.

Related Videos

To Hire or Not To Hire a Lawyer

Legal Aid Resources in Arizona

Forms of Legal Representation by a Lawyer

What is limited scope representation?

Limited scope representation is when a case is broken up into segments and you pay an attorney for the parts they help you with.  The attorney and client sign a contract stating what the attorney is assisting with for the case. This method may be cheaper than full representation and places the responsibility of handling the case back on the client. 

Limited scope representation is also called:

  • Limited Appearance Representation
  • Unbundled Legal Services
  • Unbundled Services
  • Discrete Task Representation
  • Discrete Legal Representation

What are the benefits of limited scope representation?

Limited scope representation has many benefits.  These include:
  • Costs are greatly reduced if you only have an attorney play a small role
  • Difficult or confusing parts of a case can be delegated to an attorney
  • Control of the case is in your hands
  • Education on case specifics and court processes from a legal expert
  • If you get stumped by something, you have an attorney who knows your case that you can ask (and pay) to take on extra tasks. They are NOT required or obligated to agree to help

What are the risks of limited scope representation?

There are potential risks in limited scope representation, especially if it is a technical or time sensitive legal matter. YOU are the one responsible for keeping track of your case.  This includes:
  • Making sure things are submitted on time to the court
  • Knowing the court protocols (submitting evidence, introducing witnesses, presenting the facts of the case)
  • Learning what statutes and rules apply to your trial/hearing

Who can offer limited scope representation?

Limited scope representation can be provided by any licensed attorney in Arizona. The decision to offer limited scope representation is up to the lawyer and the needs of the case.  Lawyers are not required to offer these services, but if they decide to do so, the extent of the representation is decided between them and the client.

Can I get limited scope representation for any court matter?

Yes, but limited scope representation works best for cases that are not technical or complex.  These could include:
  • Non-contested family law matters (example: divorce, paternity, custody...)
  • Civil claims seeking damages above $3,500
  • Traffic violations
  • Probate matters
  • Life-care planning
  • Name changes
  • Set asides

What parts of the case does the attorney handle?

You and the attorney will look over the entire case and then decide what parts they will handle for you.  These could include:
  • Gathering information or doing research
  • Filling out forms
  • Going to Court
  • Filing paperwork
  • Speaking with the opposing counsel

Do I have to meet with my lawyer in person?

No, the lawyer who provides limited scope representation can communicate to you through:
  • E-mails
  • Over the phone
  • Text messages
  • Written notices/forms/briefs/memos

Establish lines of communications

Limited scope representation can cause confusion on who should be contacted or where documents should be sent.  To avoid these pitfalls, make sure that:
  • Opposing counsel knows who they should contact on specific matters
  • To whom and where pleadings, notices, correspondence should be sent
  • Everyone involved knows who may accept items on your behalf

How does the court know who is in charge of what?

After reaching an agreement with an attorney a Notice of Limited Scope Representation is filed with the court.  This is shared with everyone involved in the matter.

Do I get the same attorney-client relationship with limited scope representation?

Yes.  Under limited scope representation you are protected under the same rules as if you hired a lawyer full-time.  Be careful, because this is not true for all forms of representation.  If you have hired an attorney as a "Ghostwriter" to prepare forms, you do not have the same protections.

What happens when the attorney is done representing me?

Once the attorney has completed the tasks specified in the Notice of Limited Scope Representation, an attorney can withdraw in two ways:
  1. With Consent - An attorney files a Notice of Withdrawal with Consent that is signed by both them and the client.  Then it is served to everyone involved.
  2. Without Consent - Without the signature of the client, an attorney can file a motion to withdraw, which is served to everyone involved.
    1. You have 10 days to file an objection if you think they have not completed the tasks in your contract.  The court then conducts a hearing to decide if they did or did not fulfill the contract.
    2. If you do not object to their withdrawal, after 10 days the court will sign the order and the documents will be served to everyone involved.
After the withdrawal is granted by the court, your current contact information is shared with the other counsel, ensuring that they are communicating with the correct person(s).

Sample Documents

Packet of Limited Scope Representation Agreements

Notice of Limited Scope Representation

What is fixed rate representation?

Fixed rate representation is when the client pays one price for full legal representation in a single matter. The attorney is responsible for filings, appearances, motions, pleas, and any other issues that may arise. 

Fixed rate representation is also known as:

  • Fixed pricing representation
  • Flat fee representation

How does the attorney come up with the amount the representation would cost?

The attorney looks at the general factors of your case and then considers how long similar cases took; they then set a rate.  For instance, divorce without kids $500 and a divorce with kids $1,000.

What are the benefits of fixed rate representation?

The benefits of fixed rate representation are:
  • If your case is complex, involves a lot of research, or appearances, you can save money by not paying an hourly rate.
  • There are no surprises in regard to fees; you are given a set price.
  • Things can move pretty quickly.  The attorney wants to be as close to their estimated amount of hours on the case, not exceed it.

What are the risks of fixed rate representation?

The risks of fixed rate representation are:
  • You do not see a detailed bill of tasks, rates, or materials spent on your case, just the flat rate that you owe.
  • It is possible that you may overpay for services provided, if things get resolved faster than expected.
  • Your lawyer may rush through their work, sacrificing the quality of work.

Can I get fixed rate representation for any court matter?

Fixed rate representation is normally used in cases that are form intensive and not complex or will not expand in scope.  These include:
  • Criminal and misdemeanor cases
  • Immigration cases
  • Uncontested divorce
  • Personal bankruptcy
  • Drafting a will

If I hired my lawyer at a fixed rate, do they cover everything related to the initial case?

It depends on the circumstances of the case.  For example: You were cited for a DUI after an accident and hired a lawyer for $2,000 to represent you in court.  That lawyer is responsible for court related events (appearances, pleadings, filings...) regarding your DUI.  After the DUI case is settled with the State, the family of the other driver brings a civil suit against you.  You then have to either retain a new lawyer or make another financial agreement with your previous attorney.

How do I know what the attorney will handle in fixed rate representation?

You and your attorney will meet and discuss what is covered and what is not.  This will be written up in a legal contract that you and the lawyer will sign.  If you are unsure ASK your lawyer for clarification.  Do not assume something is included. You will risk having your case thrown out if a document was not filed on time or properly because of a miscommunication between you and your lawyer.

Do I have to meet with my lawyer in person?

No, the lawyer who provides fixed rate representation can communicate to you through:
  • E-mails
  • Over the phone
  • Text messages
  • Written notices/forms/briefs/memos

Do I get the same attorney-client relationship with fixed rate representation?

Yes.  Under fixed rate representation you are protected under the same rules as if you hired a lawyer full-time.  Be careful because this is not true for all forms of representation.

What is ghostwriting legal representation?

Ghostwriting is when a lawyer is hired and paid and agreed upon price to do legal research, prepare a document or documents for the court.  The lawyer does not sign, put their name on, or file the documents they prepare.

What are the types of things ghostwriters do?

Attorneys who perform ghostwriting services are often asked to take on the following tasks:

  • Research a legal issue
  • Draft settlement agreements
  • Write briefs
  • Draft motions and pleadings

What are the benefits of ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting allows for legal experts to complete forms and other court documents without having the expense of paying for a full time attorney.  This service allows you to:
  • Save money
  • Have a lawyer draft documents you may not be able to create on your own
  • Save time doing legal research you are not confident conducting yourself

What are the risks of ghostwriting?

There are some pitfalls and ethical considerations when asking a lawyer to ghostwrite for you.
  • A lawyer does not have to tell you or the court if they have a conflict of interest in the case.
  • Lawyers bear no legal responsibility to the client.
  • The client has to be able to understand and defend the information contained in any ghostwritten materials or research.
  • No potential oversight of the attorney by the court.

Who can someone ghostwrite for?

Ghostwriting representation does not only happen for the general public.  Attorneys with time constraints or large workloads can ask fellow lawyers to ghostwrite documents.  Businesses can also employ ghostwriters to conduct research, draft memos, or write briefs when a need arises.

Do I have to meet with my lawyer in person?

No, the lawyer who provides ghostwriting services can communicate to you through:

  • E-mails
  • Over the phone
  • Text messages
  • Written notices/forms/briefs/memos

Do all attorneys offer ghostwriting services?

No, it is up to the attorney or firm.  Ghostwriting is not done often; limited scope representation occurs more often and is preferred by the courts.

Do I have the same attorney-client protections under ghostwriting?

It depends.
  • Confidentiality is still fully maintained.  An attorney is not allowed to disclose that they were hired for ghostwriting purposes without permission of the client.
  • Depending on the scope of work the attorney does as a ghostwriter, they may or may not have to check for conflicts of interest in the case. 
    • For instance, if a Will is drafted during a legal clinic, most likely, an attorney is not going to consult their database to ensure that they have not assisted your ex-spouse in the past.

Do I have to tell the court if I hired a ghostwriter?

Yes, if asked by the court or by opposing counsel, you must let them know that a ghostwriter was involved in the case.

If this is allowed, why don't more people do it?

While this process is allowed, the risks do not always outweigh the benefits.  Depending on the amount of work you want a lawyer to do they may opt for ghostwriting; they do not have to make appearances or commit to the case.

What is full service representation?

Full service representation is the traditional method of legal assistance, where you pay an hourly rate to the attorney or law firm.  Often you are provided a free consultation, around 30 minutes long.  This is where you tell the lawyer about your case. Then they provide advice and recommendations on the next steps in your legal matter.  When you hire a lawyer they are responsible for overseeing legal research, document filings, court appearances, etc...

What are the benefits of hiring a lawyer for an entire case?

There are many benefits in having a lawyer represent you for an entire case.  Lawyers are able to:
  • Speak to the facts of the case and law
  • Do relevant legal research
  • Responsible for ensuring the correct forms and documents are filed on time
  • Comfortably speak in front of judges and/or juries
  • Negotiate on your behalf for payments or sentencing with opposing counsel
  • Navigate court processes like entering evidence, questioning witnesses, and voice challenges
  • Tell you all your options

Are there things I should ask before I hire a lawyer?

Prior to hiring a lawyer you may want to ask:
  • Will you be representing me or will my case be given to someone else in your firm?
  • What experience do you have with cases like mine?
  • How many of these cases have you handled?
  • Are there other ways of resolving this matter?
  • What are your rates?
  • How will I be billed?
  • What do your fees cover?
  • What do your fees not cover?
  • How often will we meet or talk?
  • What papers, pictures, or documents do you need from me?

What is included in lawyer fees?

Lawyer fees typically pay for the time spent on your case.  The time of a lawyer includes things like writing briefs, researching the facts, preparing witnesses, and appearing in court on your behalf.

What is not included in lawyer fees?

Lawyer fees often do not cover:
  • Court filing fees
  • Fees associated with serving documents
  • Transcript or court record costs
  • Travel expenses
  • Cost of mailing or copies
  • Paralegal hours
These are all items that should be detailed in conversations and contracts between you and your lawyer.

Can I hire a lawyer to represent me for free or get a discount?

Depending on your annual income, Arizona has many options for free or reduced cost legal services.  You can review your options and find explanatory videos on the Legal Aid Resources page.

Do I have to meet with my lawyer in person?

No, the lawyer can communicate to you through:
  • E-mails
  • Over the phone
  • Text messages
  • Written notices/forms/briefs/memos

Will there be people other than my lawyer working on my case?

It depends.  Paralegals, administrative assistants, and other clerical staff may be asked to help with parts of your case.  The time that these professionals spend on your case may not be included in your fee agreement.  Before signing a contract ask about who would be utilized and their fee rate.