VSB Standing Committee on Legal Ethics Seeking Public Comment on Legal Ethics Opinion 1874

Additional Info

View proposed LEO 1874 (pdf)

Pursuant to Part Six: Section IV, Paragraph 10-2(C) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics (“Committee”) is seeking public comment on proposed advisory Legal Ethics Opinion 1874, Limited Scope Representation—Reviewing Pleadings for Pro Se Litigants—Substantial Assistance and “Ghostwriting.”

In this proposed opinion, the Committee reviews a proposal by a law firm providing pre-paid legal services to members/clients who request that the law firm review and provide legal advice on a Warrant In Debt with a Bill of Particulars that the Member has prepared for pro se filing in a General District Court and a petition for a change of custody that the Member has prepared for filing pro se in a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.  The law firm agrees to review and provide advice on these documents, provided the client/member authorizes the law firm to transmit to the court, a letter that the client/member received assistance by the law firm, following guidance provided in past Legal Ethics Opinions issued by the Committee.

In this proposed opinion, the Committee concludes that no disclosure to the court is necessary and the law firm owes no ethical duty to ensure that the court is informed of the law firm’s assistance to the pro se litigant, unless the court has adopted a standing rule that requires such disclosure.  In the absence of such a standing rule, the law firm is not breaching any Rule of Professional Conduct by providing this type of assistance to a pro se litigant.  The Committee proposes to overrule prior Legal Ethics Opinions 1127, 1592, 1761 and 1803 to the extent that they are inconsistent with this opinion.

Inspection and Comment

The proposed advisory opinion may be inspected at the office of the Virginia State Bar, 1111 East Main Street, Suite 700, Richmond, Virginia 23219-3565, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Copies of the proposed advisory opinion can be obtained from the offices of the Virginia State Bar by contacting the Office of Ethics Counsel at 804-775-0557, or can be found at the Virginia State Bar’s website at http://www.vsb.org/site/regulation/pending-leo.

Not later than May 2, 2014, any individual, business, or other entity may file or submit to Karen A. Gould, the Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar, at publiccomment@vsb.org, a written comment in support of or in opposition to the proposed advisory opinion. 

Updated: Apr 14, 2014