Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ghost Lawyering, Part II

The August ABA Journal contains a thoughtful article on the concept of ghost lawyering, which was the subject a a post here a couple weeks ago. The article details the travails of a New Jersey lawyer who was sanctioned for assisting a pro se litigator by drafting pleadings.

Last May, the ABA issued an opinion that might be of help to attorneys who practice in Model Rule States. The opinion states that ghost lawyering is permissible under the ABA Model Rules, so long as local rules do not prohibit the practice.

The article goes on to discuss the concept of attorneys who draft documents that are filed by other attorneys. This is of particular interest to me, as the largest part of my practice consists of doing exactly that. The article quotes New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics, as saying that lawyers who draft pleadings and briefs for other lawyers don't violate the ethics rules, since the filing attorney takes responsibility for the work. One would hope that Professor Gillers opinion would carry weight with any Board of Professional Responsibility that examines the issue.

Basically, it comes down to this - as lawyers we need to consult the rules of the jurisdiction to make sure that we're on the right side of the (blurry and sometimes shifting) line. My personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong with the practice. Certainly not with respect to my practice of authoring documents that other lawyers file, but also not with respect to the pro se litigants. It is our duty as lawyers to help those in need of legal services. Ghost lawyering for a pro se filer can, in some circumstances, enable someone to put their case before a court when otherwise they would not be able to. To my way of thinking, that is a good thing.

I am going to use a feature of the new blog hosting site I am using and put up an opinion poll on Ghost Lawyering to see what people think of it. You can read the ABA Journal article online at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/scary_parts_of_ghostwriting/. The article contains a link to the New Jersey decision sanctioning the attorney who engaged in ghost lawyering for the pro se litigant, then vote in the poll on the left hand side of this page to make your opinion known.


1 comment:

Derica said...

Thanks for writing this.