Monday, November 27, 2006
by Mike Frisch
The Arizona State Bar's Ethics Committee opines that a lawyer may provide limited legal assistance to a client so long as the limited representation is otherwise consistent with all other rules of professional conduct. The exact nature and scope of the representation must be in writing, unless the attorney is doing the same work on a repeat basis, and even if the services are performed at no charge. The Committee surveys ethics opinions from a number of jurisdictions on the propriety of "ghost writing" pleadings for a limited-service client without disclosure to the court, finding that the practice is not prohibited by Arizona's ethics rules.
This Arizona opinion provides a useful guide to the diverse authorities on this question and strikes a fair balance to a middle ground between full service representation as opposed to no representation at all.
In a follow-up opinion linked here, the Committee addressed issues of disclosure to opposing parties of the limited-scope representation, of the possibility of providing such representation at a deposition, and of its propriety for simply "coaching" (approving it at least outside of court). This opinion emphasizes that limited representations have not yet been generally approved for courtroom "appearances" (except for an experimental program for specified matters in family law courts).
Even with that limitation, and in light of the pilot project in certain family law matters, Arizona must be included on the survey of states that allows some limited-scope representation and ghost writing of briefs--an issue on which Alan posted previously here and here [on "helping self-help" or "unbundling"] and that is of great interest to self-help organizations he noted such as SHLEP. According to a recent comment and link from the SHLEP site, Alaska also facilitates certain unbundlings, as detailed on the state bar's website here.