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Standard

Limited scope retainer means the provision of legal services for part, but not all, of a client’s legal matter by agreement with the client.1

A lawyer who accepts a limited scope retainer must advise the client about the nature, extent and scope of the services that the lawyer can provide and must confirm in writing to the client what services will be provided, prior to completing the work. The lawyer should set out in writing the limitations of such limited scope retainer and caution the client on the risks.2

A lawyer who provides legal services under a limited scope retainer should be careful to avoid acting in a way that suggests that the lawyer is providing full services to the client.3


Footnotes

1 Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, Code of Professional Conduct, Halifax: Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, 2012, rule 1-1.1(i).
2 Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, Code of Professional Conduct, Halifax: Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, 2012, rule 3-2.1A; Lenz v Broadhurst Main, 2004 CanLII 5059 (Ont SC); 669283 Ontario Ltd. v Reilly, (1996) OJ 273 (Ont Gen Div).
3 Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, Code of Professional Conduct, Halifax: Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, 2012, rule 3-2.1A, commentary.
4 Lawyers' Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, Real Property Standard 1.3: Opinion of Title and Certificate of Legal Effect

Additional Resources

  • Kimbro, Stephanie L., "Limited Scope Legal Services: Unbundling and the Self-Help Client", ABA 2013
  • O'Brien Edmonds QC, Erin, “Joint Property”; and Rumscheidt, Peter "Joint Property: Don't let your plans go up in smoke" (Papers delivered at the Canadian Bar Association Nova Scotia Annual Professional Development Conference, 27 January 2012).
  • Canadian Bar Association, Alberta Branch “The Limited Scope Retainer
  • Winter, Ivo, “Deed Preparation” (Paper delivered at the 2013 RELANS Conference, Halifax, 2 December 2013).
  • Pinnington, Dan: “Unbundled Legal Services: Pitfalls to Avoid” LawPro Magazine, 11:1 January 2012, p. 6
  • Matthews QC, Timothy C., “Joint Accounts, Presumption of Resulting Trust and Presumption of Advancement” (Paper delivered at the Canadian Bar Association 2008 Professional Development Conference, Halifax, 11 January 2008).
  • Avis (Re), 2011 CanLII 21681 (NL LS), online: Adjudication Tribunal.

Practice Notes

Notwithstanding a limited scope retainer a lawyer must comply with the Land Registration Act and Land Registration Administration Regulations, the Real Estate Professional Standards and applicable legislation when registering or preparing a deed or other document and submitting the certificate of legal effect.4

The lawyer must conduct the required searches and must ensure that any judgments which attach to the parcel are properly documented on the parcel register at the time the deed is registered.5

A lawyer who is only retained to prepare a deed or other document affecting real property such as an easement or release should review with the client the implications and effect of executing such a document.

A lawyer who prepares any document including a certificate of legal effect must consider the duty and obligation imposed on the lawyer when doing so. A lawyer who submits any Land Registration Administration Regulation Forms must carefully consider the lawyer’s duties and obligations before submitting such forms.

The Lawyer must always consider if the limited scope retainer is “reasonable” in the given circumstances. A lawyer should not curtail the scope of the services in an effort to minimize legal fees when to do so would compromise the standard of competence. A lawyer must therefore assess in each case in which a client desires abbreviated or partial services whether, under the circumstances, it is possible to render the services in a competent manner.6

End Notes

4 Lawyers' Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, Real Property Standard 1.3: Opinion of Title and Certificate of Legal Effect

5 Land Registration Act, SNS 2001, c 6, ss 65 - 69

Walker QC, Catherine S. / Judgments under the Land Registration Act: Back to Basics (January 2013) in CBA-NS 2013 Annual Professional Development Conference (January 31, 2013)

Land Registration Administration Regulations, NS Reg 207/2009, s 23 (1)(h)

Lawyers' Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, Real Property Standard 3.5: Judgments

Lawyers' Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, Real Property Standard 4.3: Name Standards

6 Nancy Carruthers, “Ethically Speaking:The Ethics of Limited Scope Retainers”, The Advisory 10:1 (January 2012) 11.

Approved by Council on February 26, 2016