The New York County Lawyers’ Association has issued an ethics opinion approving the practice of lawyers ghostwriting court papers for pro se litigants as permitted under the state’s 2009 Rules of Professional Conduct. Allowing lawyers to prepare papers for pro se litigants without disclosing their involvement to either the court or adversaries is permitted under Rule 1.2, which allows lawyers to take on clients under retainers that reasonably limit the scope of their representation, NYCLA’s Committee on Professional Ethics concluded in Opinion 742, issued April 16.

Disclosure of a lawyers’ involvement, the opinion stated, might result in lawyers having to expand their commitment beyond the bounds of a “limited scope” retainer with the result that clients would be “forced to spend more money than [they] have or lawyers would end up work[ing] free of charge.” Either way, the result would undercut the goal of increasing access to justice for those unable to pay for the full services of a lawyer.

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