Sept. 20, 2017 – A friend of a friend calls you: could he have a few hours of your time to discuss his divorce proceeding?
You answer that this isn’t nearly enough time to set aside for working on a divorce. Then he says, “Oh, I plan to do the divorce myself. I just have a few questions about things I think might be sticking points. I don’t need you to file the case or go to court with me.”
Is this an appointment you can agree to?
Support for Limited-scope Representation
The recently revised Family Law in Wisconsin: A Forms and Procedures Handbook from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® can help you answer the question.
If you have family law experience and knowledge, the fact that this potential client doesn’t want filing-to-postjudgment assistance does not bar you from answering his questions.
As summarized in Family Law in Wisconsin, “Limited-scope representation, also referred to as unbundled legal services, allows clients and attorneys to enter into an agreement in which the attorney does some work for a legal problem or case, but does not take on full representation of the client.”
The book’s new section on limited-scope representation, by State Bar ethics counsel Aviva Meridian Kaiser, notes that such services can include “consultation and advice in an office setting, document preparation, limited representation in court, collaborative family law practice, or other dispute resolution.”
But the loosening of the strictures on the scope of representation, via the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s adoption of Rules Petition 13-10 and amendment of certain Wisconsin statutes and provisions in SCR Chapter 20, does not equal “anything goes.” As in many other areas subject to legal ethics rules, a reasonableness standard applies.1 Kaiser suggests that a lawyer’s agreement to handle only document preparation or review, an asset investigation, or one court appearance could be reasonable, depending on the circumstances.
Focus on Procedures and Forms Help Make the Most of Your and the Client’s Minutes
With its focus on procedures and forms, Family Law in Wisconsin will help you maximize the value of a representation, whether limited or full scope. For example, the Notice and Consent to Limited-scope Representation, Notice of Limited Appearance, Retainer Letter, and Scope of Representation Letter will allow you to quickly bring clients on board, and they appear beside dozens more forms that focus on the nuts and bolts of family law practice.
Does your potential client have questions about the what, when, and where of filing? Turn to Chapter 5, Starting the Action, which neatly summarizes initiation of a divorce. Within the chapter are several filing-related sample forms, for example, the Summons Without Minor Children and the Petition Without Minor Children, which you can use either to help educate the mostly self-represented client or as templates for your own forms if you’re doing the drafting. The book also contains the equivalent forms and discussions for marriages in which there are children under 18.
Expert Advice on Maximizing Cooperation
Many individuals seeking divorces hope to have essentially uncontested proceedings, even if they do not file jointly with their spouses. And very few want to spend more than is absolutely necessary on lawyer fees. So whether your client is seeking limited-scope or full representation, Chapter 8, Agreements/Stipulations, should be one of your primary resources.
The book’s Checklist: Marital Settlement Agreements will help you and the client ensure that no relevant provisions are omitted from his or her agreement. If the client wants you to draft the agreement, you can use the language in Form 8.3, Marital Settlement Agreement, as a basis. Note that the form “should be considered as only a starting point, since agreements between parties are quite varied and no two cases are alike. The provisions provided may be adapted or deleted, and new provisions may be incorporated according to the facts of the case.” Both the agreement and the checklist were adapted from documents created by now-retired attorney Allen Koritzinsky, also an original author of PINNACLE’s Family Law Casenotes and Quotes.
Kaiser and Koritzinsky are only two of the many lawyers and other professionals who have contributed to Family Law in Wisconsin in its more than 30 years in print. In the ninth edition, their work appears alongside that of lead authors Gregg M. Herman and Kelley J. Shock and contributors Randall D. Crocker and Shay A. Agsten (Chapter 14H, Impact of Bankruptcy on Divorce) and Rebecca W. Oettinger (Chapter 14I, Collaborative Divorce).
How to Order
Family Law in Wisconsin: A Forms and Procedures Handbook is available in both print and online via Books UnBound®, the State Bar’s interactive online library. The print book costs $219 for members and $269 for nonmembers. Electronic forms from the book are available online to print book owners and to Books UnBound subscribers.
Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the regular price. Annual subscriptions to Books UnBound start at $159 per title (single-user price, call for full-library and law-firm pricing).
For more information, or to place an order, visit the WisBar Marketplace or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.
1 See SCR 20:1.2, ABA Comment .