Practical Ethics Article May 12, 1999
Most lawyers have drafted documents such as letters and contracts for a client knowing that the client intended to send these documents to another person. Ordinarily, such actions would not seem to present an ethical issue. A question has arisen, however, whether a lawyer may draft pleadings for a client who wants to represent herself pro se. The issue arises primarily where the Court is unaware that the litigant is receiving assistance.
This issue may have broad implications for people who do not have the economic resources to hire an attorney to represent them in court. Many low and moderate income individuals may want limited assistance, because that is all they can afford. In addition, organizations who provide legal assistance to these individuals may want to try to stretch limited resources further by providing unbundled services to the many rather than full services to the few. Accordingly, the legal profession may well want to support and encourage these practices.
The propriety of the lawyer’s actions will probably depend upon the particular facts involved. Informal Opinion 1414 (ABA 1978). For purposes of this article, we will look at several hypothetical situations and then discuss more general principals.