OPINION NO. 08-01
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Issued April 8, 2008
1. Issue: May an attorney provide legal assistance to litigants appearing before a tribunal pro se and prepare written submissions for them without disclosing the nature or extent of such assistance? If so, what are the attorney’s obligations when full representation is not undertaken?
2. Opinion: Under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, and in the absence of an express court rule to the contrary, a lawyer may provide legal assistance to litigants appearing before tribunals pro se and help them prepare written submissions without disclosing or ensuring the disclosure to others of the nature or extent of such assistance. Although providing limited legal help does not alter the attorney’s professional responsibilities, some aspects of the representation require special attention. (more…)
Issued December 18, 2002
¶ 1 Issue: May a lawyer review pleadings prepared by a non-lawyer mediator for simple, uncontested divorces and advise the mediator on how to modify the pleadings for filing in court?
¶ 2 Conclusion: (1) As lawyer for the mediator, a lawyer may advise the mediator on the issues likely to arise in the course of the mediation, but may not advise the mediator how to prepare the divorce agreement and court pleadings for particular parties who are clients of the mediator. This would constitute assisting in the unauthorized practice of law and would violate Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5. (2) An attorney may provide representation to a party engaged in a divorce mediation that is limited to advising the party and assisting with pleadings, but may not so limit the representation without first fully informing the party of the proposed limitation and obtaining the party’s informed consent. (more…)
(Approved December 4, 1998)
Issue: Is it unethical for a lawyer in a divorce case to advise a client that she may obtain a protective order pro se or to allow the client to appear pro se in the protective-order case, while the lawyer continues to represent the client in the divorce proceeding?
Opinion: Because a protective-order proceeding is a separate legal action from a divorce proceeding and is clearly delineated as such by state statute, an attorney who represents a client in a divorce proceeding is not automatically counsel for that client within the protective-order proceeding. Further, an attorney representing a client in a divorce proceeding is not ethically bound to represent the same client in a protective-order proceeding filed between the same parties. The lawyer may advise the client of her right to obtain a protective order and to do so pro se. (more…)
(Approved July 28, 1997)
The Opinion is the result of a specific inquiry from a Utah attorney who has proposed to provide legal services as outlined in the Facts section in the body of the Opinion. The Opinion addresses the ethical considerations of a lawyer who plans to perform certain estate-planning legal services in conjunction with a non-lawyer estate-planning professional who is not employed or retained by the lawyer. In general, we find that the lawyer must perform an independent role as legal advisor to the client, assuring that the estate plan and associated documents are legally appropriate to accomplishing the client’s objectives. (more…)
(Approved August 30, 1996)
Issue: What are the ethical implications of federal funding reductions and practice restrictions to Utah Legal Services lawyers?
Opinion: A Utah Legal Services lawyer must give all clients adequate notice of legislative changes and the effect they will have on a client’s representation. Funding reductions and practice restrictions may necessitate withdrawal from pending matters and intake restrictions on new matters. The attorney must make reasonable efforts to arrange for substitution of lawyers to handle pending matters, such as referring them to the Utah State Bar’s statewide pro bono coordinator.
Analysis: Congress has imposed dramatic funding cutbacks and imposed certain practice restrictions as part of the fiscal-year 1996 appropriations bill signed into law on April 25, 1996. Some of the practice restrictions are: a ban on advocacy before legislative or administrative rule-making bodies; a ban on initiating, participating or engaging in new class actions; a ban on collecting attorney fees; a ban on welfare reform litigation; a ban on abortion representation; a ban on prisoner representation; a ban on representation of certain aliens; and a requirement to make pre-litigation disclosures. (more…)