Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 05-03

September 30, 2005
HISTORY:
On May 6, 2005, the Utah Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee issued Utah Ethics Advisory Op. No. 05-03, 2005 WL 4748681 (Utah St. Bar). The Requestors of the Opinion filed a Petition for Review with the Board of Bar Commissioners pursuant § III(e)(1) of the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee Rules of Procedure and § VI(a)(1) of the Utah State Bar Rules Governing the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee. At a meeting of the Board of Bar Commissioners of the Utah State Bar on July 13, 2005, the Commission reviewed the conclusions and analysis of the majority view and the minority view of Opinion No. 05-03, and voted to issue a revised opinion, set forth below as Opinion No. 05-03. The initial Opinion No. 05-03 as originally issued by the Committee is appended in its entirety for historical reference only and should not be cited or used for purposes other than background.
1. Issue: May a lawyer who serves as a domestic relations mediator, following a successful mediation, draft the settlement agreement and necessary court pleadings to obtain a divorce for the parties?

2. Opinion: When a lawyer-mediator, after a successful mediation, drafts the settlement agreement, complaint and other pleadings to implement the settlement and obtain a divorce for the parties, the lawyer-mediator is engaged in the practice of law and attempting to represent opposing parties in litigation. A lawyer may not represent both parties following a mediation to obtain a divorce for the parties.
3. Analysis: The issue considered here was the subject of a prior opinion issued by the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee in 1992. We have been asked to revisit this issue again because of the expansion and apparent success of divorce mediators in resolving domestic relations matters for pro se litigants for whom the cost of retaining legal counsel may be a serious financial burden. 1
4. Utah Ethics Advisory Opinion 116 considered the following issue: “Under what circumstances may an attorney represent both parties in a divorce?”2 The answer given in Opinion 116 was “never,” based on the clear ethical mandates of Rules 1.7(a) and 1.7(b) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.3 These rules establish a duty of undivided loyalty of counsel to a client.4 Opinion 116 concluded that our rules preclude concurrent representation of clients with directly adverse interests in the matter. Opinion 116 included a lengthy discussion of policy arguments favoring dual representation and policy arguments opposing dual representation in divorce proceedings and concluded that: “The concurrent representation of both parties in a divorce is an ethically unacceptable practice.”5
5. In the 12 years since Opinion 116 was issued, the applicable rules and the arguments bearing upon dual representation in divorce proceedings have not materially changed. The arguably successful and beneficial development of alternative dispute resolution and mediation in the interim does not change our conclusion here. Since the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee has no policy-making authority, the fact that parties to all lawsuits, including divorces, are increasingly turning to alternative dispute resolution with reportedly positive results to the public and Bar alike cannot alter the clear mandate of our Rules. Whatever the social, financial or other impacts of the alternative dispute resolution trend, and even assuming its worth and inevitability, the ethical rules we are charged to uphold have no “public policy” exceptions that would permit the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee to rewrite the rules to achieve a result some may believe is beneficial, even if that revision is a carefully reasoned, narrowly crafted exception.6
6. Several states have considered this issue and arrived at a similar conclusion to this opinion and Opinion 116.7 Other states have concluded otherwise. 8 However, the opinions of other bars, while instructive, are not controlling.
7. We reaffirm the conclusion in Opinion 116 because we believe that Rule 1.7(a) creates a per se bar to dual representation of a plaintiff and a defendant in litigation, even in the settlement phase of that litigation. The official comment to our Rule 1.7(a) makes this conclusion clear: “Paragraph (a) prohibits representation of opposing parties in litigation.”
8. Rule 1.7(a) recognizes that under certain limited circumstances a lawyer may represent a client adverse to another client. A lawyer may do so only when (1) the lawyer “reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client,” and (2) each client consents after consultation. The comment to Rule 1.7(a) provides that the “reasonable belief” that the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client is tested by the objective standard of a disinterested lawyer. The comment provides: “When a disinterested lawyer would conclude that the client should not agree to the representation under the circumstances, the lawyer cannot properly ask for such agreement or provide representation on the basis of the client’s consent.” The direction in the comment that Rule 1.7(a) prohibits representation of opposing parties in litigation is simply the recognition that a disinterested lawyer would not recommend that a single lawyer represent adverse parties in litigation.
9. We recognize the Utah Legislature and the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution have concluded that “mediation is not the practice of law.” However, when the mediator performs tasks that are the practice of law or are even law-related, such as the preparation of pleadings for use in litigation, the mediator is subject to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.9
10. One court in Utah has specifically addressed the issue of a mediator-turned-lawyer. In Poly Software International v. Su,10 litigants moved the trial court to disqualify plaintiff’s counsel where plaintiff’s lawyer had previously acted as mediator for the parties. The Poly Software court held that the lawyer who had previously been a mediator had received confidential information from both parties and was therefore unable to represent anyone in connection with the same or a substantially factually related matter unless all parties consented after disclosure. Poly Software stands for the proposition that, with consent of both parties, Rule 1.7 would permit the mediator to become the lawyer for one party, not both parties in the factually related matter.
11. We are unpersuaded that, once a mediation results in a settlement of existing property, custody and other disputes, the parties are not “adverse.” We believe it unlikely that two lay, adverse litigating parties can both be aware of their legal rights and all the other practical problems inherent in divorce proceedings, without an experienced lawyer advising them. Consequently, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that the settlement reached in mediation, where parties do not have counsel, may be based upon the ignorance of unrepresented parties or upon ill-advised concessions. If the mediator-turned-lawyer for both parties does not then advise both clients of all considerations and possible alternatives previously overlooked in the hopes of securing a deal, the lawyer would not be acting ethically.
12. In Opinion 116, the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee noted the substantial danger of improper influence exercised by a dominant spouse to prevent adequate disclosure of conflicts. 11 That observation remains just as true today. Divorced couples often make recurrent visits to the courts despite what once appeared as a mutually agreed-on decree. In fact, the recurrent disputes over property, custody, visitation, child support amounts and alimony termination is at least as significant as the number of so-called successful mediations.
13. Under Rule 1.7(a), this conflict cannot be waived by the opposing parties, even with the fullest kind of disclosure and consent. Rule 1.7 (a) permits the lawyer to request consent only if the lawyer reasonably believes that the proposed simultaneous representation of both parties will not adversely affect the lawyer’s relationship with either client. This test of Rule 1.7(a) is judged by the objective standard of a disinterested lawyer. As in Opinion 116 and here, we conclude that this standard cannot be met. Informed consent would require explaining to each of the clients that the lawyer would be obligated to explain to each their respective rights, what they may have given up to arrive at a deal, previously unresolved disputes may result during the drafting of a final agreement, the risk that the settlement could be undone, and the requirement that the mediator-lawyer have no further involvement for either party if that were to occur. A disinterested lawyer could not possibly conclude that a lawyer could fairly and zealously represent both clients and not impair the lawyer’s relationship with either client under these circumstances.12
14. Strong policy arguments favor the position of the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee in Opinion 116 and here. Opinion 116 explained these policy considerations:
Allowing dual representation tends to erode confidence in the courts as a tool for equitable resolution of disputes. The risk of the appearance of impropriety is great in divorce cases where the inherent adversity of the parties is so obvious. Furthermore, the court is presented with only one view of the facts in the divorce, substantially reducing the court’s ability to protect both parties.
Besides an appearance of impropriety, dual representation can foster impropriety by facilitating a fraud on the court, either with or without the attorney’s collusion. The potential for fraud enlarges when one spouse dominates the marriage.
Additionally, the attorney representing both parties has a financial disincentive to inquire too closely into the details of the property settlement he is arranging, because he must withdraw from the case entirely if he discovers a conflict.13
15. Rule 1.7(a) does not allow these potential conflicts to be remedied simply by disclosure and consent. As was said in Opinion 116, “The danger to the parties and the courts outweighs the advantages of cost and convenience advanced as the reasons for adoption of a rule allowing dual representation.”14
Footnotes
1. The actual question put to the Committee was whether it was permissible for an attorney who serves as a domestic relations mediator to draft the parties’ settlement agreement and pleadings (complaint, findings of fact, conclusions of law, and divorce decree) so that the settlement reached in mediation could be entered as a judgment of the court. When the mediator drafts a settlement agreement and pleadings, the mediator is acting as an attorney and, if purporting to act for both parties, the mediator is attempting to represent the petitioner and respondent simultaneously—opposing parties in litigation.
2. Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 116, 1992 WL 685249 (Utah St. Bar) (hereinafter Opinion 116).
3. (a) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless:
(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and
(2) Each client consents after consultation.
(b) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client or to a third person or by the lawyer’s own interest, unless:
(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not be adversely affected; and
(2) Each client consents after consultation. When representation of multiple clients in a single matter is undertaken, the consultation shall include explanation to each client of the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.
Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 (2004).
4. The Utah Supreme Court has observed that “[T]he [R]ules [of Professional Conduct] establish the general impropriety of an attorney representing separate clients with adverse interests.” State v. Brown, 853 P.2d 851, 858 (Utah 1992).
5. Opinion 116, at *5.
6. Tanasse v. Snow, 929 P.2d 351, 355 (Ut. Ct. App. 1996).
7. N.C. Ethics Op. 286 (Jan. 14, 1981); Va. Ethics Op. 511 (Sept. 8, 1983); N.H. Bar Assn. Ethics Comm. Formal Op. 1989-90115 (July 25, 1990).
8. New York, for example, concluded that dual representation may be possible where “the parties are firmly committed to the terms arrived at in mediation, the terms are faithful to both spouses’ objectives and consistent with their legal rights, there are no remaining points of contention, and the lawyer can competently fashion the settlement agreement and divorce documents,” New York State Bar Assn. Op. 763 (Jan. 3, 2001); Mass. Bar Assn. Ethics Op. 85-3 (Dec. 31, 1985).
9. It is beyond the purview of the Committee to define the practice of law. Historically, the preparation of pleadings in litigation by a representative of a party has been considered the practice of law. Utah State Bar v. Peterson, 937 P. 2d 1263, 1268 (Utah 1997). Even if the preparation of such pleadings by a non-lawyer mediator would not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, their preparation by a lawyer-mediator would constitute a law-related activity. Unless the lawyer discontinued the practice of law, the lawyer would be required to comply with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 02-04, 2002 WL 459018 (Utah State Bar).
10. 880 F. Supp. 1487 (D. Utah 1995).
11. Opinion 116 at *2.
12. It has been brought to the Committee’s attention that Rule 101(e) of the Utah Rules of Court Annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution currently authorizes the mediator to prepare a settlement agreement and “any documents appropriate for resolution of the action.” A proposed amendment to this rule would not permit the mediator to prepare legal documents for the parties. It is common for mediators to assist the parties in preparing a term sheet or a memorandum of understanding to set forth the essential terms of the mediated resolution of the dispute. This activity is undertaken as a mediator, not as the lawyer for either party. We see no problem with a lawyer-mediator engaging in this task. We conclude that under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct a mediator may not ethically create pleadings to implement the mediated settlement.
13. Opinion 116, at *2.
14. Id. at *5.
UTAH STATE BAR
ETHICS ADVISORY OPINION COMMITTEE
Opinion No. 05-03
May 6, 2005
1 Issue: May a lawyer who serves as a domestic relations mediator, following a successful mediation, draft the settlement agreement and necessary court pleadings to obtain a divorce for the parties?
2 Opinion: When a lawyer-mediator, after a successful mediation, drafts the settlement agreement, complaint and other pleadings to implement the settlement and obtain a divorce for the parties, the lawyer-mediator is engaged in the practice of law and attempting to represent opposing parties in litigation. A lawyer may not represent both parties following a mediation to obtain a divorce for the parties. It may be posible after the mediation has terminated, in limited circumstances, for the lawyer mediator to act as the lawyer for one party in drafting a settlement agreement and in obtaining a divorce decree after disclosure and consent of both parties consistent with Rule 1.7.
3 Analysis: The issue considered here was the subject of a prior opinion issued by this Committee in 1992. We have been asked to revisit this issue again because of the expansion and apparent success of divorce mediators in resolving domestic relations matters for pro se litigants for whom the cost of retaining legal counsel may be a serious financial burden.1
4 Utah Ethics Advisory Opinion 116 considered the following issue: “Under what circumstances may an attorney represent both parties in a divorce?”2 The answer given in Opinion 116 was “never,” based on the clear ethical mandates of Rules 1.7(a) and 1.7(b) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.3 These rules establish a duty of undivided loyalty of counsel to a client.4 Opinion 116 concluded that our rules preclude concurrent representation of clients with directly adverse interests in the matter. Opinion 116 included a lengthy discussion of policy arguments favoring dual representation and policy arguments opposing dual representation in divorce proceedings and concluded that: “The concurrent representation of both parties in a divorce is an ethically unacceptable practice.”5
5 In the 12 years since Opinion 116 was issued, the applicable rules and the arguments bearing upon dual representation in divorce proceedings have not materially changed. The arguably successful and beneficial development of alternative dispute resolution and mediation in the interim does not change our conclusion here. Since our Committee has no policy-making authority, the fact that parties to all lawsuits, including divorces, are increasingly turning to alternative dispute resolution with reportedly positive results to the public and Bar alike cannot alter the clear mandate of our Rules. Whatever the social, financial or other impacts of the alternative dispute resolution trend, and even assuming its worth and inevitability, the ethical rules we are charged to uphold have no “public policy” exceptions that would permit this Committee to rewrite the rules to achieve a result some may believe is beneficial, even if that revision is a carefully reasoned, narrowly crafted exception.6
6 Several states have considered this issue and arrived at a similar conclusion to this opinion and Opinion 116.7 Other states have concluded otherwise.8 However, the opinions of other bar associations, while instructive, are not controlling.
7 We reaffirm our conclusion in Opinion 116 because we believe that Rule 1.7(a) creates a per se bar to dual representation of a plaintiff and a defendant in litigation, even in the settlement phase of that litigation. The official comment to our Rule 1.7(a) makes this conclusion clear: “Paragraph (a) prohibits representation of opposing parties in litigation.”
8 Rule 1.7(a) recognizes that under certain limited circumstances a lawyer may represent a client adverse to another client. A lawyer may do so only when (1) the lawyer “reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client,” and (2) each client consents after consultation. The comment to Rule 1.7(a) provides that the “reasonable belief” that the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client is tested by the objective standard of a disinterested lawyer. The comment provides: “When a disinterested lawyer would conclude that the client should not agree to the representation under the circumstances, the lawyer cannot properly ask for such agreement or provide representation on the basis of the client’s consent.” The direction in the comment that Rule 1.7(a) prohibits representation of opposing parties in litigation is simply the recognition that a disinterested lawyer would not recommend that a single lawyer represent adverse parties in litigation.
9 We recognize the Utah Legislature and the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution have concluded that “mediation is not the practice of law.” However, when the mediator performs tasks that are the practice of law or are even law-related, such as the preparation of pleadings for use in litigation, the mediator is subject to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. 9
10 One court in Utah has specifically addressed the issue of a mediator-turned-lawyer. In Poly Software International v. Su,10 litigants moved the trial court to disqualify plaintiff’s counsel where plaintiff’s lawyer had previously acted as mediator for the parties. The Poly Software court held that the lawyer who had previously been a mediator had received confidential information from both parties and was therefore unable to represent anyone in connection with the same or a substantially factually related matter unless all parties consented after disclosure. Poly Software stands for the proposition that, with consent of both parties, Rule 1.7 would permit the mediator to become the lawyer for one party, not both parties in the factually related matter.
11 We are unpersuaded that, once a mediation results in a settlement of existing property, custody and other disputes, the parties are not “adverse.” We believe it unlikely that two lay, adverse litigating parties can both be aware of their legal rights and all the other practical problems inherent in divorce proceedings, without an experienced lawyer advising them. Consequently, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that the settlement reached in mediation, where parties do not have counsel, may be based upon the ignorance of unrepresented parties or upon ill-advised concessions. If the mediator-turned-lawyer for both parties does not then advise both clients of all considerations and possible alternatives previously overlooked in the hopes of securing a deal, the lawyer would not be acting ethically.
12 In Opinion 116, we noted the substantial danger of improper influence exercised by a dominant spouse to prevent adequate disclosure of conflicts.11 That observation remains just as true today. Divorced couples often make recurrent visits to the courts despite what once appeared as a mutually agreed-on decree. In fact, the recurrent disputes over property, custody, visitation, child support amounts and alimony termination is at least as significant as the number of so-called successful mediations.
13 Under Rule 1.7(a), this conflict cannot be waived by the opposing parties, even with the fullest kind of disclosure and consent. Rule 1.7 (a) permits the lawyer to request consent only if the lawyer reasonably believes that the proposed simultaneous representation of both parties will not adversely affect the lawyer’s relationship with either client. This test of Rule 1.7(a) is judged by the objective standard of a disinterested lawyer. In Opinion 116 and here, we conclude that this standard cannot be met. Informed consent would require explaining to each of the clients that the lawyer would be obligated to explain to each their respective rights, what they may have given up to arrive at a deal, previously unresolved disputes may result during the drafting of a final agreement, the risk that the settlement could be undone, and the requirement that the mediator-lawyer have no further involvement for either party if that were to occur. A disinterested lawyer could not possibly conclude that a lawyer could fairly and zealously represent both clients and not impair the lawyer’s relationship with either client under these circumstances. 12
14 Strong policy arguments favor the position of the Committee in Opinion 116 and here. Opinion 116 explained these policy considerations:
Allowing dual representation tends to erode confidence in the courts as a tool for equitable resolution of disputes. The risk of the appearance of impropriety is great in divorce cases where the inherent adversity of the parties is so obvious. Furthermore, the court is presented with only one view of the facts in the divorce, substantially reducing the court’s ability to protect both parties.
Besides an appearance of impropriety, dual representation can foster impropriety by facilitating a fraud on the court, either with or without the attorney’s collusion. The potential for fraud enlarges when one spouse dominates the marriage.
Additionally, the attorney representing both parties has a financial disincentive to inquire too closely into the details of the property settlement he is arranging, because he must withdraw from the case entirely if he discovers a conflict.13
15 Rule 1.7(a) does not allow these potential conflicts to be remedied simply by disclosure and consent. As we said in Opinion 116, “The danger to the parties and the courts outweighs the advantages of cost and convenience advanced as the reasons for adoption of a rule allowing dual representation.”14
16 Representing One Party Following Mediation. It may be possible, under limited circumstances, for a lawyer-mediator, after a mediation has terminated, to represent one party to divorce litigation, in order to draft final court documents to effectuate the mediated settlement. This representation may only be undertaken if the mediator-turned-lawyer complies with Rule 1.7(b) and the lawyer’s duties as a mediator to the non-represented party.15 This could occur in the event of the following:
17 a. Full disclosure by the lawyer of the lawyer’s ethical responsibilities as a former mediator not to disclose confidential information revealed to the mediator by the non-represented party, and that such non-disclosure may limit the lawyer’s ability to represent the client fully;
18 b. Full disclosure of the potential conflict of interest by the lawyer to both parties, and an informed consent by both parties to the conflict after independent consultation, which shall include an explanation to each client of the implications of the representation and the advantages and risks involved;16 and
19 c. An independent good-faith assessment by the lawyer that the representation of the one client whom the lawyer undertakes to represent will not be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to the other party or to a third person or by the lawyer’s own self interest.
20 It may seem incongruous, and even ironic, that the mediator-turned-lawyer might undertake to represent the interests of only one party to a mediated divorce, but may not represent both parties. Rule 1.7(a) simply does not allow representation by one lawyer of both parties in the same lawsuit. On the other hand, the rules allow for the possibility of representation of one party to a lawsuit, even if the lawyer’s representation may be limited by the lawyer’s responsibility to a third person. The teaching of Poly Software is that confidential information may be obtained when acting as a mediator in the course of mediation, and the subsequent representation of one party in the same or a substantially factually related matter is possible with consent and full disclosure.17 It is expected that the lawyer-mediator would sufficiently alert the parties to the mediation of all of the potential pitfalls in this situation to permit the parties to make a truly informed decision whether to allow the mediator to act as a lawyer representing only one of the opposing parties in divorce litigation.
We respectfully dissent:
21 The majority has reached two results that we believe are wrong—one that imposes an unnecessarily narrow constraint on parties to resolve disputes that is not required under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct; and one that produces an illogical result inconsistent with the overall goals and aspiration of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
22 Contrary to the claim of the majority, their results are not mandated by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Indeed, we believe the majority has lost sight of at least one fundamental principle: The Rules are “rules of reason, . . . [to be] interpreted with reference to the purposes of legal representation and of the law itself”18 Because of an unnecessarily rigid interpretation of Rule 1.7, the opinion produces an inequitable result, one that is logically and internally inconsistent, and one that does not serve the best interests of a segment of the public that is looking to the legal profession for effective, low-cost legal services.19
23 Under a careful and reasonable interpretation of the Rules, we conclude that they permit an attorney-mediator, in limited circumstances, to undertake the subsequent joint representation of the mediating parties in obtaining final judicial approval of a fully successful settlement.
BACKGROUND
24 Increasing Role of Alternate Dispute Resolution. Parties with domestic disputes are increasingly turning to alternative dispute resolution approaches to resolving their disputes. Indeed, court rules may require certain domestic litigants to attempt mediation before arguing contested issues to the court.20 Some believe that the use of mediation is a superior way to resolve disputes when there are strong personal feelings or a need for an on-going relationship. Many believe that mediation may be a more affordable process than adversary litigation.
25 But, even mediating parties often need legal advice or information about their options under the law in order to make informed decisions. And, parties often need legal assistance in preparing the final agreement so that it will be enforceable. Similarly, when parties have a domestic dispute that must ultimately be presented to a court for a final judgment, they may need legal services in preparing required court pleadings. The desire for a consensual process, an informed process and an affordable process presents challenges regarding how mediators and lawyers might work together for the best interests of their clients.
26 Turning to the specific situation of a divorcing couple, Ethics Advisory Opinion 116 concluded that it is impermissible for one lawyer to “concurrently represent both parties in a divorce in any circumstances.”21 The current question concerning post-mediation representation requires a closer analysis of a situation that may not have been fully contemplated by Opinion 116.22
27 We also note that the new ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Model Rules”), adopted from the ABA’s Ethics 2000 project, address various issues that are implicated in the issues before us.23 In particular, Model Rule 1.12 includes, for the first time, the lawyer-mediator regarding subsequent representation and related conflicts of interest, and new Model Rule 2.4 addresses a lawyer serving as a third-party neutral, including as a mediator.
28 Mediation Is Not the Practice of Law. There is wide agreement that mediation, per se, is not the practice of law. The Utah Alternative Dispute Resolution Act defines “mediation” as a “private forum in which one or more impartial persons facilitate communication between parties to a civil action to promote a mutually acceptable resolution or settlement.”24 Similarly, Utah’s “Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider Act” identifies mediation as a form of “alternative dispute resolution”25 and defines a “dispute resolution provider” as “a person, other than a judge acting in his official capacity, who holds himself out to the public as a qualified neutral person trained to function in the conflict-solving process using the techniques and procedures of negotiation, conciliation, mediation.”26
29 It is generally agreed that a mediator—whether a lawyer or a lay person—may draft a “memorandum of understanding” that precisely reflects the parties’ agreement and does not go beyond it, without engaging in the practice of law. However, once a mediator adds to the parties’ agreement or selects language with its legal import in mind, the mediator may be engaged in the practice of law.27
30 A Mediator’s Preparation of the Parties’ Settlement Agreement and Court Pleadings Is the Practice of Law. The question presented suggested that any mediator might prepare the settlement agreement and court pleadings as a mediator. However, once the attorney-mediator begins drafting final settlement agreements or court documents, he is engaging in the practice of law as defined by the Utah Supreme Court. In the Utah State Bar v. Petersen case, the Court stated:
[W]ith the aid of forms he selected, he drafted such things as complaints, summonses, motions, orders, and findings of fact and conclusions of law for pro se clients; . . . Thus Petersen held himself out to the public as a person qualified to provide, for a fee, services constituting the practice of law.28
Clearly, the mediator-lawyer would not be engaged in the unauthorized practice if he were to prepare and file such documents. The only remaining question is whether the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct would prohibit him from doing so.
31 Parties in Mediation Should Have Access to Independent Legal Advice. Where parties have independent counsel, there is much less concern about the mediator drafting agreements for the parties. Mediation standards and guidelines unanimously and unequivocally recommend that parties consult with independent counsel—before, during or at the conclusion of the mediation. The lawyer can advise a party about legal standards and a range of options. During the mediation a lawyer can advise a party about the legal import of any proposed agreement. At the conclusion of the mediation, the lawyer can advise the party not only about his rights, but about the best ways to carry out the proposed agreement. A lawyer can prepare—or review—documents that will be filed in court to insure that they are complete and will accomplish what the parties have agreed. This benefit of having access to legal counsel exists even if counsel has limited the objectives of the representation (after consultation and with client consent) as provided for by Rule 1.2(b).
DISCUSSION
32 The General Approach and Rationale of Opinion 116 Is Still Valid. In Opinion 116 the Committee considered whether an attorney could concurrently represent both parties in a divorce and decided that no such representation was possible.
33 The Opinion considered such representation to be governed by Rule 1.7(a) regarding concurrent representation of clients with “directly adverse interests.” That rule permits dual representation only when the representation of one client will not adversely affect “the relationship” with the other client. Moreover, the rule imposes a requirement on the lawyer that the lawyer “reasonably believe” that such dual representation will not adversely affect the relationship with either client. Thus, even if both clients consented to such representation, a lawyer would not be permitted to undertake it unless the lawyer “reasonably believed” there would be no adverse affect on the relationship with either client.
34 The Committee concluded that an attorney representing both parties in a divorce would have a disincentive to inquire closely into the parties’ financial circumstances and thus discover a conflict between them. It noted that the attorney might be disinclined to point out any inequities to a disadvantaged party and thus upset the dual representation.
35 We agree with these concerns and the conclusion that a lawyer, serving solely as counsel, may not undertake to represent both parties to a divorce. At the outset of such a representation, the lawyer would have too little information to reasonably conclude such a representation could be undertaken without harming the relationship with one or the other client.
36 However, we note that “mediation” is not “representation,” and the mediation process provides for sharing of information and development of proposed solutions, separate and apart from legal representation in a divorce. Therefore, it is possible that an attorney-mediator could reasonably conclude, after an entirely successful mediation, that he could then serve as lawyer and fairly represent the interests of both clients without adversely affecting the relationship with either client. However, the circumstances in which an attorney-mediator would fairly so conclude are limited and would need to be thoroughly understood.
37 The Role of Rule 1.2. The Committee has considered at various times the possibility of a lawyer’s providing limited legal services.29 Under Rule 1.2, parties engaged in divorce mediation have the option of retaining counsel for narrowly limited representation as appropriate in the individual case. Limiting the representation to the drafting of the settlement agreement and related court documents is a sensible approach:
Even drafting the stipulated judgment is a task often ceded to the mediator. By the end of the process, both parties usually have a high level of confidence in the mediator’s impartiality and may be more comfortable in the settlement agreement is prepared by the neutral mediator instead of either party’s consulting attorney.30
38 In this context, Rule 1.2 provides a major tool by which parties may limit the scope of the engagement of a lawyer. No one would argue that a lawyer who is a “stranger” to the transaction could not so limit her involvement to come in at the conclusion of the mediation. This, of course, makes perfect sense from a public-policy perspective, as long as the limitation is not so narrow as to render the lawyer’s role a nullity.31 But, it may be far more economical for this to be done by the lawyer who has absorbed all of the facts and circumstances leading to a successful mediation to do so. And that, in turn, furthers the general goals of providing mechanisms that allow parties to resolve their disputes in an effective and economical way.
39 Thus, pursuant to that rule, it is perfectly reasonable for the two now-resolved parties to say to their mediator-lawyer, “Will you now represent us in or common goal to have this matter made final by the legal system?” To the extent that this request is memorialized with the consent of the two parties that satisfies the requirements of Rule 1.7(a) (“each client consults after consultation”) and Rule 1.12 (“all parties to the proceeding consent after consultation”),32 we believe it would be well within the prerogative of the parties and their selected mediator-turned-lawyer to continue to assist the parties to negotiate the final legal formalities of filing papers and obtaining the appropriate court disposition.
40 Other Jurisdictions’ View of the Issue. Other states have considered the same issue posed here.33 Some states prohibit a mediator from doing anything that could constitute the “practice of law.”34 These states permit drafting a memorandum of understanding, but prohibit giving a legal opinion as to its effect. This broad approach of requiring mediators never to opine on the law is widely criticized by the national organizations for mediation. Given the Utah Supreme Court’s loose definition of the practice of law in Petersen, it is not necessary to prohibit a mediator from providing an opinion that could be construed as the practice of law or to prohibit a lawyer-mediator from providing such legal advice.
41 Early ethics opinions from Florida 35 and Massachusetts 36 permit the lawyer-mediator to draft the separation agreement following a fully successful divorce mediation under certain circumstances and with certain guidelines.37 A recent opinion by the New York State Bar specifies limited circumstances when such a practice is permitted and prohibits lawyer-mediators from advertising this possible service, given the limited circumstances in which it will be appropriate. 38
42 The 2001 New York State Bar opinion partially modified its prior opinion that a lawyer cannot represent both spouses in a divorce, concluding that, in some cases, at the conclusion of the mediation, a “disinterested lawyer” could conclude that he could competently represent both parties consistent with DR5-105(C).39 The New York committee stated:
[T]he lawyer may not represent both spouses unless the lawyer objectively concludes that, in the particular case, the parties are firmly committed to the terms arrived at in mediation, the terms are faithful to both spouses’ objectives and consistent with their legal rights, there are no remaining points of contention, and the lawyer can competently fashion the settlement agreement and divorce documents. In those circumstances, the per se ban of NY State 258 should be relaxed to permit spouses to avoid the expense incident to separate representation and permit them to consummate a truly consensual parting, provided both spouses consent to the representation after full disclosure of the implications of the simultaneous representation and the advantages and risks involved.
43 The New York opinion notes that full disclosure must include informing the parties that the absence of separate representation creates a risk that the agreement might be successfully challenged. The opinion goes on to say that “because the disinterested lawyer test cannot easily be met” the lawyer may not do this as a regular practice. The lawyer may not indicate that the lawyer will routinely do this in advertising or in retainer agreements. The opinion also notes that where the lawyer-mediator does draft and file divorce papers, “If the lawyer does not make a formal appearance in the divorce proceeding, the lawyer must ensure that his or her role is disclosed to the court.”
44 The only Utah case of which we are aware that touches on a related subject is Poly Software International, Inc. v. Su.40 This case involved a mediator’s attempt to represent one of the mediating parties in a subsequent related matter that was opposed by the other party to the mediation.. The mediator-turned-lawyer was disqualified by U.S. District Judge David Winder under Rule 1.12 because there was no consent. Poly Software has no application to the post-mediation representation of one or both parties by the mediator-lawyer where there is full consent.41
45 The main opinion’s claim that, “Poly Software stands for the proposition that, with consent of both parties, Rule 1.7 would permit the mediator to become the lawyer for one party, not both parties in the factually related matter” is, quite simply, incorrect. On this issue, Judge Winder’s decision addressed only the conditions under which the former mediator can represent a mediating party when the other party will not consent. One can draw no inference from Poly Software concerning the breadth or narrowness of post-mediation representation if the parties consent.42
ANALYSIS
46 Our analysis is founded primarily on a reading and interpretation of Rule 1.7, in connection with Rules 1.2 and 1.12.43 Rule 1.7(a) addresses “direct adversity” where the lawyer can represent both parties only if “each client consents after consultation” and “the lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client.” Because the parties to a divorce will, at least initially, oppose one another in a litigated matter, and because their interests are then “directly adverse,” Rule 1.7(a) applies.44 The question under Rule 1.7(a), like the question before the Massachusetts and New York bars, is whether a mediator-lawyer could, at the conclusion of a totally successful mediation, “reasonably believe” he could undertake to represent both parties.
47 We start with Rule 1.7(a), first assuming that, even after a completely successful mediation, husband and wife are deemed to be technically “adverse.” Here, it must be assumed that their agreement at the end of the mediation has resolved all the issues before the parties. Further, we are specifically dealing with a situation in which the mediator is a lawyer. Notwithstanding that during the mediation he has not represented a party, he is, nonetheless, engaged in a law-related activity. By our prior ethics opinions, he carries the “baggage” of adherence to the Rules of Professional Conduct with him as he carries out those activities.45 In particular, under Rule 1.1, he is required to be competent in such endeavors. Thus, we must assume that a mediated result that is acceptable to the parties has been supplied with competent mediation guidance. Accordingly, it would be inconsistent with the conditions put before us to assume that there are still unresolved issues and that the parties are still at odds on one or more issues.
48 The Rule 1.7 Comment. In analyzing whether Rule 1.7(a) precludes the kind of post-mediation assistance under consideration here, some have seized on an isolated sentence in the comment to Rule 1.7 as categorically prohibiting it: “Paragraph [1.7](a) prohibits the representation of opposing parties in litigation.”46 There are two independent arguments that show this does not dispose of the issue.
49 First, this statement must be read in the context of the rule it refers to. It can not trump the plain reading of 1.7(a), which quite clearly admits of situations where directly adverse parties can be concurrently represented under the “unless” clauses. If the rule were meant to exclude absolutely all representation of adverse parties in the same matter, it would not have been hard for the drafters to have explicitly said so. They did not. In this case, the apparent absoluteness of the comment must be read with and understood to be conditioned by the “unless” clauses of the black-letter rule. That is, it must be read: “Unless clauses (1) and (2) can be satisfied, p]aragraph (a) prohibits the representation of opposing parties in litigation.” It is not possible to take the “unless” clauses out of the black-letter rule by an out-of-context reading of an isolated sentence in the comment. If the parties consent and the lawyer-mediator concludes that his representations will not be adversely affected, then Rule 1.7(a) is satisfied.
50 Second, we consider the role of the term “adverse” in Rule 1.7(a). We believe that, after the parties have come to an agreement under the guidance of a competent lawyer-mediator, they may be considered no longer “adverse” under Rule 1.7(a). The two parties are, by definition, adverse going into a mediation. But, if the mediation has been completely successful, having had the assistance of a skilled mediator trained in the law, the parties will shake hands, agree that their differences are resolved, that all that is left to do is memorialize their agreement. And, because society has declared that divorcing parties must complete the procedure before a magistrate of some kind, they must submit appropriate paperwork to satisfy the legal requirements.
51 At this point, the parties have a single, common goal in the matter: They wish only to get the legal system to put its stamp of approval on what they’ve agreed to. Are they “adverse?” Not under a common interpretation of the word. An authoritative dictionary tells us that things (such as parties) are adverse if they are “[a]cting or serving to oppose; antagonistic” or that they are “[m]oving in an opposite or opposing direction.”47 Does this describe parties who have settled their differences? Not at all. Indeed, to continue to refer to them as “adverse” is rather an artificial and non-standard use of the term.48
52 ABA Model Rule 1.12. In its Ethics 2000 modifications to the Rules of Professional Conduct dealing with the restriction on the representation of clients by former adjudicators, the ABA expressly included mediators. That rule reads:
Former Judge, Arbitrator, Mediator Or Other Third-party Neutral
(a) Except as stated in paragraph (d), a lawyer shall not represent anyone in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer or law clerk to such a person or as an arbitrator, mediator or other third-party neutral, unless all parties to the proceeding give informed consent, confirmed in writing.49
This makes it crystal clear that the former mediator may subsequently represent a party to the mediation if all parties to the proceeding give informed consent, confirmed in writing;50 there is nothing inherent in this rule that would limit the representation to one party.
53 For those who would find that the mediator-turned-lawyer could represent one of the settling parties (with appropriate consent) in the post-mediation proceedings, but not both, we find such a result perplexing, at best. The legal profession would be telling the outside world that it is perfectly all right for the parties to agree that their former mediator can now line up with one of the parties, while the other party must either go without representation or must obtain (and presumably pay for) a lawyer to come to the process for the first time. But, should we tell the same two parties that they are incapable of agreeing that they are comfortable to have the mediator who led them through the thicket of issues to hand-hold them through the rest of the process? We think this result is indefensible—from both logical and public-policy perspectives. It’s no wonder that the public sometimes looks at lawyers and wonders where their common sense is.51
54 In addition, denying the settling parties in a divorce the opportunity to consent to post-mediation representation by their lawyer-mediator is inconsistent with the latitude granted under Rule 1.12. How could one logically deny these parties the flexibility afforded under Rule 1.12 and not other types of once-adverse-but-now-settled parties to avail themselves of the continuing services of their lawyer-mediator?
55 The Lawyer-Mediator May Undertake Limited Representation of Both Parties. We have reviewed the ethics opinions from other states as well as the ABA’s proposed Model Rules from Ethics 2000. We believe that the best reading of the applicable rules is that, in limited circumstances, the mediator may undertake to represent both parties in a divorce, following an entirely successful mediation.
56 We, like the New York committee, are persuaded that a lawyer could “reasonably believe” dual representation is possible where “the parties are firmly committed to the terms arrived at in mediation, the terms are faithful to both spouses’ objectives and consistent with their legal rights, there are no remaining points of contention, and the lawyer can competently fashion the settlement agreement and divorce documents.”52
57 We note that not every case settled through mediation will qualify under this standard and agree with the Massachusetts bar opinions that drafting the separation agreement involves “dual representation” that is fraught with challenges. While it may be the case that the mediation process was so thorough and the agreement reached so uncomplicated that the drafter’s efforts are truly those of a mere ‘scrivener or secretary,’ [citation omitted] this will not usually be the case.”53 We find this analysis persuasive, particularly insofar as it notes that there will usually be choices to make in the drafting of such an agreement, so that the lawyer-mediator must reasonably believe that he can discuss the choices with both parties as his clients in order to proceed.
58 We also believe that, at the point the mediator is asked to begin dual representation, “Rule 1.7(b) must also be considered, for there is an unavoidable risk . . . that [the lawyer’s] best efforts on behalf of one of the parties will ‘materially limit’ what can be done for the other.”54 Rule 1.7(b) regarding potential conflicts of interests requires that each client consent “after consultation” and that the lawyer fully explain “the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.” Here that would require explaining to the clients the challenges in drafting a final agreement, the risk that the settlement could come undone, and the requirement that the lawyer-mediator have no further involvement for either party if that were to occur.
59 Moreover, we observe that the lawyer-mediator who declines during mediation to indicate what typical outcomes are ordered by the court may not continue to avoid providing the parties with such information once he undertakes to provide them with dual legal representation. At that point, the lawyer must inform both parties of their legal rights and respond to their questions in order to comply with applicable ethical rules.55 For these reasons, there will be some settled cases in which the lawyer-mediator will not be able reasonably to conclude he can serve both parties as their lawyer at that point.
60 However, in some cases the parties’ agreement will so closely follow typical court orders that this will not be a problem. Similarly, parties may be so committed to their particular agreement that learning what a court would order in the absence of an agreement will not influence them at all.
61 We agree with the analysis of the New York committee that the attorney-mediator should not advertise that he will regularly serve the dual roles of mediator and lawyer for both parties, since this will not be typical. Such a statement could constitute a violation of Rule 7.1 as prohibited “false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.” Also, the lawyer-mediator who undertakes to prepare court pleadings on behalf of the divorcing parties should indicate his representation of both parties and his prior role as the mediator in these pleadings in order to comply with the obligation of candor toward the tribunal required by Rule 3.3. This will provide the court with the proper and accurate information with which to review the parties’ agreement and proposed judgment.
62 Opinion 116—Reprise. We believe that permitting the two spouses to give informed consent to the joint representation is not inconsistent with the basic analysis of Opinion 116. Opinion 116 was founded on the premise that the two divorcing parties had, at least potentially, unresolved issues between them and that it was not possible to postulate that the parties could reasonably consent to joint representation under those circumstances. Here, however, we have a situation where the issues have, by definition, been resolved by a lawyer-mediator and the remaining task is to deal with the legal formalities of making the result final. This, in our, judgment, is a situation that can be the subject of consent by the two settling parties.
63 Thus, we have two parties who, through mediation conducted by a lawyer, have reached a full concurrence on how to resolve the issues of their divorce and the only remaining hurdle is to memorialize the agreement in a fashion that will (a) capture the agreement of the parties, and (b) satisfy such legal requirements as will allow the agreement to be effected through appropriate legal proceedings. This was not the context in which the analysis of Opinion 116 was conducted. We, accordingly, would not overrule Opinion 116 except to the extent that parties who have reached a comprehensive settlement of the relevant divorce issues through the assistance of a competent lawyer serving as a mediator under Utah law may seek and consent to limited joint representation by the mediator-lawyer to obtain final disposition of the divorce proceedings.
CONCLUSION
64 We conclude that a lawyer-mediator could undertake to represent both parties and to prepare the ultimate Settlement Agreement and to prepare the necessary court pleadings for the parties’ divorce at the conclusion of a fully successful mediation only when:
* The lawyer could “reasonably believe that the representation” of both parties “will not adversely affect the relationship with” either in this directly adverse representation. Rule 1.7(a).
* The parties are firmly committed to the terms arrived at in mediation, the terms are faithful to both spouses’ objectives and consistent with their legal rights, there are no remaining points of contention, and the lawyer can competently fashion the settlement agreement and divorce documents.
* Both parties give fully informed consent.
* The lawyer-mediator makes known to the court the nature of his dual role.
Accordingly, five members of the Committee dissent, including:
Robert A. Burton
Keith A. Call
Gary G. Sackett
Linda F. Smith
Footnotes
1 The actual question put to the Committee was whether it was permissible for an attorney who serves as a domestic relations mediator to draft the parties’ settlement agreement and pleadings (complaint, findings of fact, conclusions of law, and divorce decree) so that the settlement reached in mediation could be entered as a judgment of the court. When the mediator drafts a settlement agreement and pleadings, the mediator is acting as an attorney and, if purporting to act for both parties, the mediator is attempting to represent the petitioner and respondent simultaneously—opposing parties in litigation.
2 Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 116, 1992 WL 685249 (Utah St. Bar) (hereinafter Opinion 116).
3 (a) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless:
(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and
(2) Each client consents after consultation.
(b) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client or to a third person or by the lawyer’s own interest, unless:
(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not be adversely affected; and
(2) Each client consents after consultation. When representation of multiple clients in a single matter is undertaken, the consultation shall include explanation to each client of the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.
Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 (2004).
4 The Utah Supreme Court has observed that “[T]he [R]ules [of Professional Conduct] establish the general impropriety of an attorney representing separate clients with adverse interests.” State v. Brown, 853 P.2d 851, 858 (Utah 1992).
5 Opinion 116, at *5.
6 Tanasse v. Snow, 929 P.2d 351, 355 (Ut. Ct. App. 1996).
7 N.C. Ethics Op. 286 (Jan. 14, 1981); Va. Ethics Op. 511 (Sept. 8, 1983); N.H. Bar Assn. Ethics Comm. Formal Op. 1989-90115 (July 25, 1990).
8 New York, for example, concluded that dual representation may be possible where “the parties are firmly committed to the terms arrived at in mediation, the terms are faithful to both spouses’ objectives and consistent with their legal rights, there are no remaining points of contention, and the lawyer can competently fashion the settlement agreement and divorce documents,” New York State Bar Assn. Op. 763 (Jan. 3, 2001); Mass. Bar Assn. Ethics Op. 85-3 (Dec. 31, 1985).
9 It is beyond the purview of the Committee to define the practice of law. Historically, the preparation of pleadings in litigation by a representative of a party has been considered the practice of law. Utah State Bar v. Peterson, 937 P. 2d 1263, 1268 (Utah 1997). Even if the preparation of such pleadings by a non-lawyer mediator would not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, their preparation by a lawyer-mediator would constitute a law-related activity. Unless the lawyer discontinued the practice of law, the lawyer would be required to comply with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 02-04, 2002 WL 459018 (Utah State Bar).
10 880 F. Supp. 1487 (D. Utah 1995).
11 Opinion 116 at *2.
12 It has been brought to the Committee’s attention that Rule 101(e) of the Utah Rules of Court Annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution currently authorizes the mediator to prepare a settlement agreement and “any documents appropriate for resolution of the action.” A proposed amendment to this rule would not permit the mediator to prepare legal documents for the parties. It is common for mediators to assist the parties in preparing a term sheet or a memorandum of understanding to set forth the essential terms of the mediated resolution of the dispute. This activity is undertaken as a mediator, not as the lawyer for either party. We see no problem with a lawyer-mediator engaging in this task. We conclude that under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct a mediator may not ethically create pleadings to implement the mediated settlement.
13 Opinion 116, at *2.
14 Id. at *5.
15 Mediations are often administered by alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) providers. Many such providers have codes or rules of ethical conduct for mediators. A mediator must abide by all such applicable codes or rules of ethical conduct. For example, the Center for Public Resources (“CPR”) has drafted a model rule for lawyers serving as third-party neutrals which it has proposed for adoption by the American Bar Association. CPR-GEORGETOWN COMMISSION ON ETHICS AND STANDARDS IN ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION MODEL RULE FOR THE LAWYER AS THIRD-PARTY NEUTRAL (2002). CPR Model Rule 4.5.4(a)(2) prohibits a lawyer serving as a third-party neutral from subsequently representing any party to an ADR proceeding (in which the lawyer served as a neutral) “in the same or a substantially related matter, unless all parties consent after disclosure.” CPR Model Rule 4.5.2 prohibits the lawyer serving as neutral from using (after an ADR proceeding) to the disadvantage of any party to the ADR proceeding any information acquired in the ADR proceeding, except in limited circumstances. Similarly, the American Arbitration Association restricts the lawyer-arbitrator from accepting representation of a party to the arbitration or using information acquired in any arbitration proceeding to the disadvantage of a party to the arbitration. AAA Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes, Canons I.C and VI.A (2004). These rules and codes place similar restrictions on lawyers serving as neutrals, as does Rule 1.9 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct with regard to legal representation of a client.
16 The Committee recommends that the disclosures include a recommendation to the party that will not be represented by the mediator-turned-lawyer to seek the advice of independent counsel before giving the consent. If disputes do arise between the parties in the course of the former mediator’s preparation of settlement documentation, the lawyer needs to assess whether the disclosures made were adequate and the consent of the unrepresented party is valid and enforceable. If they were not, the lawyer may be ethically required to withdraw from the representation in the preparation of the settlement documentation.
17 The Poly Software court found that the lawyer-mediator (Broadbent) was constrained by our ethical rules:
Poly Software argues that, because Wang was present whenever Su revealed anything to Broadbent, Poly Software does not gain access, by employing Broadbent in the present litigation, to any confidential information that it does not already possess. However, this argument ignores the fact that Broadbent’s professional expertise afforded him a perspective on the legal significance of the confidences that Wang himself could not possibly obtain or communicate to new counsel. In short his role as a mediator with experience in intellectual property litigation gives him an unfair advantage as an attorney in the present case.
Poly Software, 880 F. Supp at 1495.
18 Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, Scope 1.
19 The main opinion implies (at 5) that our conclusion is an attempt to “rewrite the rules” and make public-policy judgments that are not consistent with the Rules. To the contrary, our view is wholly compatible with the Rules. We fully understand the limited role of the Committee in interpreting the Rules. But, we also recognize that the Rules aren’t always crystal clear and do not directly address every possible ethical situation. It is the charge of the Committee to fill the interstices of the Rules’ framework when called upon to do so—admittedly driven in part by public policy where those considerations are not inconsistent with the Rules.
20 Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-38 (West 2004), regarding visitation enforcement; Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-109 (West 2004), regarding mediation in abuse/neglect petitions.
21 Utah Ethics Op. 116, 1992 WL 685249 (Utah St. Bar).
22 There is no discussion in Opinion 116 of a situation in which the parties have come to complete agreement with the mediation services of a lawyer.
23 It is important to take the ABA Model Rules into account here, because the Utah Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct is currently evaluating the adoption of those rules—either as written or in modified form—in Utah. Although we do not know the outcome of the process, we anticipate that many of the provisions in the new Model Rules will ultimately be adopted by the Court.
24 Utah Code Ann. § 78-31b-2 (West 2004).
25 Utah Code Ann. § 58-39a-2 (West 2004).
26 Id. § 58-39a-2(4).
27 See Utah State Bar v. Peterson, 937 P.2d 1263, 1268 (Utah 1997), regarding the definition of the practice of law; see also Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 02-10, 2002 WL 31922503 (Utah State Bar), concerning advice to a non-attorney mediator.
28 937 P.2d 1263, 1268 (Utah 1997).
29 See, e.g., Utah Ethics Op. 47 (1978) (attorney may provide legal advice, consultation and assistance to inmates regarding initial pleadings in civil matters, after which the inmate will proceed pro se); Utah Ethics Op. 74 (1981) (attorney may give advice to a party who is proceeding pro se); Utah Ethics Op. 98-14 (attorney representing a client in a divorce case may advise the client of the right to obtain a protective order pro se): Utah Ethics Op. 02-10 (lawyer may provide limited representation to a party engaged in divorce mediation).
30 Franklin Garfield, Unbundling Legal Services in Mediation, 40 Fam. Ct. Rev. 76, 82 (2002).
31 See, e.g., Utah Ethics Advisory Opinion 02-01, 2002 WL 231939 (Utah St. Bar).
32 Existing Utah Rule of Professional Conduct 1.12(a) encompasses judges and arbitrators, but not mediators. The new ABA Model Rule 1.12(a) expressly includes mediators, and this technical modification is currently proposed to be adopted in the near future in Utah. Nothing in the current Utah rule or corresponding comment is inconsistent with the inferential extension of the operation of Rule 1.12 to mediators, and that is corroborated by the change to Model Rule 1.12.
33 Fla. Ethics Op. 86-8 (Oct. 15, 1986), Mass. Bar Assoc. Ethics Op. 85-3 (Dec. 31, 1985), N.Y. State Bar Assoc. Ethics Op. 736 (Jan. 1, 2001), Ariz. Ethics Op. 96-01, Va. Ethics Op. 511 (Sept 8, 1983), N.C. Ethics Op. 286 (Jan. 14, 1981).
34 N.C. Ethics Op. 286 (Jan. 14, 1981); Va. Ethics Op. 511 (Sept. 8, 1983); Guidelines for the Ethical Practice of Mediation and to Prevent the Unauthorized Practice of Law, N.C. Bar Assoc. Dispute Resolution Section (April 14, 1999).
35 Fla. Ethics Op. 86-8 (Oct. 15, 1986), www.flabar.org/, states that lawyers can engage in mediation, and sets forth various standards and precautions. The lawyer-mediator “may prepare a settlement agreement. . . that reflects the decisions made by [the parties] during the mediation. The lawyer should advise the parties to consult independent legal counsel before signing any such agreement.”
36 Mass. Bar Assoc. Ethics Op. 85-3 (Dec. 31, 1985), massbar.org/publications/ethics_opinions, concludes: “An attorney may also represent both parties in drafting a separation agreement, the terms of which are arrived at through mediation, but must advise the parties of the advantages of having independent legal counsel review any such agreement, and must obtain the informed consent of the parties to such joint representation.”
37 Arizona considered this question and was unable to decide what guidance to offer the members of its bar who are mediators in Arizona Ethics Op. 96-01.
38 N.Y. State Bar Assoc. Op. 736 (Jan. 3, 2001), www.nysba.org/Content/NavigationMenu/-Attorney_Resources/Ethics_Opinions.
39 Both the New York and Massachusetts opinions interpret Disciplinary Rule 5-105(C) of the Code of Professional Responsibility which “permitted a lawyer to undertake concurrent representation only where it was ‘obvious’ that he could ‘adequately’ represent each client’s interests. . . . Today Model Rule 1.7(a) has replaced DR 5-105.” HAZARD & HODES, THE LAW OF LAWYERING, § 11.6, at 11-16 (2003).
40 880 F. Supp. 1487 (D. Utah 1995).
41 Poly Software would be relevant if, after consent is given, a conflict between the parties were to develop and consent withdrawn. The mediator-turned-lawyer could not continue to represent any party, given Poly Software’s citation to Rule 1.9 and the mediator’s acquisition of confidential information.
42 The main opinion makes the Logic 101 error of arguing that p implies q leads to the conclusion that not-p implies not-q.
43 For clarification, Rule 1.7 of the new ABA Model Rules is constructed somewhat differently from the current Utah Rule 1.7, but there appear to be no material differences in application.
44 See HAZARD & HODES § 11.4 , at 11-9, and § 11.7, at 11-31.
45 See, e.g., Utah Ethics Op. 04-05, 2004 WL 2803336; Utah Ethics Op. 01-05, 2001 WL 829237 (Utah St. Bar); see also ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 5.7, Responsibilities Regarding Law-related Services (2002), a version of which seems likely to be adopted by the Utah Supreme Court.
46 Rule 1.7, cmt., “Conflicts in Litigation.” There is no further explanation or expansion of this isolated remark.
47 American Heritage Dictionary 25 (4th ed. 2000).
48 We also note that the new ABA Model Rule 1.7 and the associated comment are slightly different from the current Utah Rule 1.7:
(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:
(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;
(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;
(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and
(4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 (2004). ABA Rule 1.7 comment [23] states: “Paragraph(b)(3) prohibits representation of opposing parties in the same litigation, regardless of the clients’ consent.” Again, if this taken out of context, it seems to address the situation we have in front of us. But, as before, it must be read in the context of the now-changed ABA Model Rule. Paragraph (b)(3), to which comment [23] refers, deals with the “the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation.” The foundational premise of the matter before us is that there is no longer any “assertion of a claim by one client against another client.” To the contrary, the two putative clients are, by definition, no longer asserting claims against one another, and subparagraph (b)(3) does not apply, nor does the part of comment [23] that refers to (b)(3). Hence, even under the re-engineered version of the Model Rules, the mediator may, with the parties’ informed consent, provide the limited representation described.
49 ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.12(a) (2004) (emphasis added). The written confirmation is an addition to the Model Rule that is not included in the current Utah Rule 1.12. The reference to paragraph (d) is “An arbitrator selected as a partisan of a party in a multimember arbitration panel is not prohibited from subsequently representing that party.”
50 The requirement for a written confirmation is not presently in Utah Rule 1.12, but this is likely to be adopted in Utah. Even if not required, it is a recommended practice—particularly in a case of this type.
51 Indeed, the policy that underlay Opinion 116 is hindered by prohibiting a neutral mediator who obtained confidential information from both parties from providing candid legal counsel to both parties while permitting such candid lawyering for only one party. The main opinion here could encourage the precise imbalance of power that Opinion 116 sought to avoid. The mediator lawyer might be motivated to take up the case of whichever party got “the better deal” and now, being answerable as attorney only to that party, would deny candid legal counsel to the other. Far better, if the mediator is to assume the lawyering role, for the mediator to be candid with both parties. Then, if the deal falls apart, the lawyer-mediator has not manipulated the case in an inequitable way.
52 N.Y. State Bar Assoc. Op. 736 (Jan. 3, 2001).
53 Mass. Bar Assoc. Ethics Op. 85-3 (Dec. 31, 1985).
54 HAZARD & HODES, § 11-7, at 11-31.
55 Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2,

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 03-01

Issued January 30, 2003
¶ 1 Issue:
May a Utah Assistant Attorney General serve as a hearing officer or other adjudicator for a Utah government agency on a matter for which the Office of Attorney General, which employs the attorney, may eventually undertake an advocacy role?

¶ 2 Conclusion: Yes. Under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer’s employment by the Office of Attorney General does not, by itself and without the lawyer’s personal involvement in the matter before him, preclude the lawyer from serving as a hearing officer for a governmental agency in a matter the Office of Attorney General may later undertake as an advocate for the agency.
¶ 3 Background: From a roster the Utah State Office of Education maintain,1 an attorney in the Utah Attorney General’s office was randomly selected to serve as a hearing officer in a due-process hearing arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).2 Petitioners were the parents of a disabled child. Respondent was the affected school district. The child’s parents were opposed to any Assistant Attorney General serving as a hearing officer because they claimed a potential conflict of interest between the Assistant Attorney General’s role as an impartial hearing officer and loyalty to his employer, which eventually might represent the school district in an advocacy role. Accordingly, Petitioners requested the Assistant Attorney General to recuse himself as a hearing officer.
¶ 4 On October 10, 2002, the hearing officer issued a “Decision on Petitioners’ Motion to Recuse Hearing Officer,” granting the Petitioner’s Motion to Recuse, though he concluded “Respondents’ arguments [against recusal] are far more persuasive and logically correct” than Petitioner’s arguments. Notwithstanding what he viewed as Respondent’s superior arguments, the hearing officer recused himself because, among other reasons, he felt there is “a lack of clear guidance on the conflict of interest issue, and the current lack of any safe harbor from an ethics complaint.” The hearing officer subsequently requested an Ethics Advisory Opinion from the Committee on this issue.3
¶ 5 Analysis: At the outset, we stress our opinion on the issue stated is necessarily limited to the scope of our jurisdiction—namely, whether an Assistant Attorney General who serves as a hearing officer under the facts summarized above will be in violation of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. We do not opine on how the IDEA, its supporting regulations and case law, the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct or public policy may bear on the issue. Our analysis and conclusion are, therefore, intentionally narrow and should not be construed otherwise.
¶ 6 The primary rule applicable to this issue is Rule1.12 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.4 By its terms, Rule1.12 prohibits an Assistant Attorney General from serving as a hearing officer and later representing either party in any subsequent dispute. The rule likewise prohibits any law firm an Assistant Attorney General may later join from representing either party in the same matter, unless he is screened and apportioned no fee, and the firm provides notice to the appropriate tribunal. Rule1.12 does not, however, preclude the Assistant Attorney General from serving as a hearing officer when no other lawyer in the Attorney General’s office will represent either party before that Assistant Attorney General when acting as a hearing officer. An Assistant Attorney General’s employment with the Attorney General’s office does not, by itself and without personal involvement in the matter as an Assistant Attorney General on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office, violate Rule1.12.
¶ 7 The word “lawyer” in subparagraph (a) of Rule1.12 applies only to an individual attorney and not his law firm. This is clear from subparagraph (c), which permits a law firm to undertake representation of a party involved in a matter in which an Assistant Attorney General served as an adjudicative officer provided he is screened and apportioned no part of the fee. Under Rule1.12, the conflict of interest is not necessarily imputed to an entire law firm.
¶ 8 Our analysis and conclusions are consistent with accepted authority. Official commentary on Model Rule1.12 summarizes the intent of the rule: “A lawyer who has served as an adjudicative officer or judicial clerk may not represent anyone in connection with a matter in which the lawyer personally and substantially participated.”5 The import of that statement, as the comment clarifies, is that disqualification under the Rules of Professional Conduct is required only if there is substantial and personal conflict in the same matter.6
¶ 9 Likewise, our prior opinions on similar subjects follow the same logic. In Opinion 95-02A,7 we held that a lawyer may represent criminal defendants in the same judicial district in which a law partner sits as a justice court judge, provided the lawyer does not appear before his partner. In our Opinion 142, we stated that “In these circumstances [e.g., when the Attorney General’s offices is representing various state agencies], the conflict of interest rules apply only on an attorney-specific basis, and conflicts in the Office of the Utah Attorney General should not be imputed to all attorneys in that office.”8
¶ 10 Quoting ABA Formal Opinion 242, we noted in Opinion No. 24,9“One who assumes to act as a judge on one day and as an advocate the next in the same judicial system is confronted with inherent difficulties that ought to be avoided and deprecates the employment of such a system.” Notwithstanding the broader ethical implications of this statement, Opinion No. 24 concluded there was no “disqualification [under applicable Utah rules] in your serving as pro-tem judge for misdemeanor matters in County B by reason of your full-time employment as a criminal-felony deputy county attorney in County A.”10The essence of these opinions is that the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct do not preclude a lawyer from simultaneously serving in potentially incompatible roles, for instance as an adjudicator and an advocate, provided the precise matter at issue is not the same and the likelihood of conflicting loyalties is not direct and substantial.
Footnotes
1. There is apparently no shortage of qualified hearing officers on the roster, many of whom are not government lawyers, and who would, presumably, not be objectionable to anyone.
2. The IDEA is codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. The IDEA requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education and related services to students with disabilities. Anyone alleging a violation of IDEA must exhaust administrative remedies before filing a complaint in federal court. IDEA, its implementing regulations, and state rules provide for an administrative hearing before an impartial and unbiased hearing officer. The decision of the hearing officer is appealable to either state or federal court. Hearing officers by statute and regulation are limited to hearing complaints relating to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to the child.
3. We also received a companion request for an opinion on the same set of facts and circumstances from the school district that was the respondent in the proceeding that gave rise to the original request for an ethics opinion. The two requests were consolidated by the Committee, and this Opinion resolves both requests. The Committee also acknowledges receipt and consideration of filings submitted by counsel for the child who was the petitioner in that hearing.
4. All three participants in the IDEA proceeding agree that Rule 1.12 is the key to the analysis:
Former judge or arbitrator.
(a) . . . [A] lawyer shall not represent anyone in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer, arbitrator or law clerk to such a person, unless all parties to the proceeding consent after consultation.

(c) If a lawyer is disqualified by paragraph (a), no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in the matter unless:
(1) The disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
(2) Written notice is promptly given to the appropriate tribunal to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule. Utah Rules of Professional Conduct1.12 (2002).
5. ABA Comm. on Evaluation of Professional Standards, Ann. Model Rules of Professional Conduct, 189 (4th ed. 1999).
6. See, e.g., Mississippi Comm’n on Judicial Performance v. Atkinson, 645 So. 2d 1331 (Miss. 1994) (setting bail for accused while acting as municipal judge and thereafter seeking to have bail reduced while acting as practicing lawyer representing accused amount to conduct prejudicial to administration of justice, warranting public sanction).
7. Utah Ethics Adv. Op. 95-02A, 1996 WL 73352 (Utah St. Bar). Utah ethics opinions are also available on the Utah State Bar website at:

http://www.utahbar.org/opinions/index.html.

8. Utah Ethics Adv. Op. 142, 1994 WL 579850 (Utah St. Bar).
9. Utah Ethics Adv. Op. 24 (1976 Utah St. Bar).
10. Opinion No. 24 was issued when the Utah Code of Professional Responsibility governed attorneys’ behavior. The principle is the same under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 02-03

(Issued February 27, 2002)
¶ 1 Issue:
What are the ethical obligations of an insurance defense lawyer with respect to insurance company guidelines and flat-fee arrangements?

¶ 2 Opinion: An insurance defense lawyer’s agreement to abide by insurance company guidelines or to perform insurance defense work for a flat fee is not per se unethical. The ethical implications of insurance company guidelines must be evaluated on a case by case basis. An insurance defense lawyer must not permit compliance with guidelines and other directives of an insurer relating to the lawyer’s services to impair materially the lawyer’s independent professional judgment in representing an insured. If compliance with the guidelines will be inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations, and if the insurer is unwilling to modify the guidelines, the lawyer must not undertake the representation. Flat-fee arrangements for insurance defense cases are unethical if they would induce the lawyer improperly to curtail services for the client or perform them in any way contrary to the client’s interests. Obligations of lawyers under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, including the duty zealously to represent the insured, cannot be diminished or modified by agreement.
Insurance Company Guidelines
¶ 3 Opinion Request Concerning Insurers’ Guidelines. The Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee has received a request for an ethics advisory opinion concerning insurance company guidelines for counsel who are employed to defend litigation brought by a third party against an insured. The requestors state that insurance companies doing business in Utah have incorporated in their defense-counsel retainer agreements certain billing protocols or guidelines governing attorneys’ procedures and payments that raise ethical issues.
¶ 4 Prior Opinions. Although issues pertaining to insurance company guidelines have been the subject of considerable discussion elsewhere,1 they have not been addressed directly by this Committee.2 When ethical concerns about insurance company guidelines have been raised in ethics opinions from other jurisdictions, the opinions are generally consistent with the summary set forth in ABA Opinion No. 01-421:
A lawyer must not permit compliance with “guidelines” and other directives of an insurer relating to the lawyer’s services to impair materially the lawyer’s independent professional judgment in representing an insured.
Although most of the ethics opinions on insurance company guidelines take a general approach, a few—while acknowledging that certain guidelines may be appropriate—have taken issue with particular guidelines. For purposes of illustration, portions of selected ethics opinions from other jurisdictions are set forth in Appendix A. We do not intend to imply agreement with the conclusions of these opinions. Rather, we wish to describe more fully the kinds of concerns that have been raised elsewhere, many of which are raised directly in the request before us.
¶ 5 Montana Supreme Court Decision. The Montana Supreme Court has issued an opinion that addresses these topics, but only after having determined that the insured is the sole client of the defense lawyer. Under that structure, the court noted that defense counsel (a) does not have a “blank check” to escalate litigation costs, (b) should consult with the insurer, (c) must charge reasonable fees, and (c) can be held accountable for its work. The Montana court then held that “defense counsel in Montana who submit to the requirement of prior approval [obtaining consent of the insurer prior to taking certain actions] violate their duties under the Rules of Professional Conduct to exercise their independent judgment and to give their undivided loyalty to insureds.”3
¶ 6 The Insurer-Defense Attorney Relationship. We do not decide whether, under Utah law, the insurer may or may not be a co-client of defense counsel. This is a legal question about which the Committee is not authorized to issue an opinion.4Courts in other jurisdictions have addressed the issue,5but the Utah Supreme Court has not determined whether a lawyer employed to represent an insured party in the defense of litigation also represents the insurer. We recognize not only that the Utah Supreme Court has not addressed this matter but that, even if it is assumed that the insurer is not a client, there are significant legal issues pertaining to the relationship between defense counsel and insurer.6The formation of an attorney-client relationship is a matter of substantive law external to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct and in Utah, as in other states, depends upon the facts of the particular case including the intent and conduct of the parties.7As noted in the Scope comment to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct:
[F]or purposes of determining the lawyer’s authority and responsibility, principles of substantive law external to these Rules determine whether a clientlawyer relationship exists. Most of the duties flowing from the clientlawyer relationship attach only after the client has requested that the lawyer render legal services and the lawyer has agreed to do so. But there are some duties, such as that of confidentiality under Rule 1.6, that may attach when the lawyer agrees to consider whether a clientlawyer relationship shall be established. Whether a clientlawyer relationship exists for any specific purpose can depend on the circumstances and may be a question of fact.
¶ 7 Our authority does not extend to the determination of legal question.8 Issuance of an opinion on the matters before us does not require that there be a determination of the legal question of whether a lawyer employed as defense counsel represents both insured and insurer. Accordingly, in this opinion, we address the lawyer’s ethical obligations in the event both the insurer and the insured are clients. We also address the lawyer’s ethical obligations in the event only the insured is a client. In the absence of controlling law to the contrary, who the lawyer represents may be determined at the outset by agreement of the insured, the insurer and the lawyer.
¶ 8 Insurance Company Guidelines. The requestors did not provide the Committee with copies of particular guidelines. Instead, they inquired generally about the ethical implications of guidelines, stating that certain tasks will only be paid at specified rates (e.g., written discovery will only be paid at paralegal rates) and that unless preapproval from an adjuster is obtained for certain tasks, defense counsel will not be paid (e.g., pleadings and motions, written discovery, retention of experts, legal research, travel, trial preparation, jury instructions, posttrial motions, appeals).9
¶ 9 The extensive scholarly literature on insurance company guidelines reveals a number of points that are relevant background for our consideration of ethical issues with respect to insurance company guidelines:
* Insurance company guidelines are not identical.
* Insurance companies may not use the same guidelines for every type of insurance defense.
* Considerations of freedom of contract, cost control in the interest of policyholders (including avoidance of unreasonable defense costs), and improving coordination and communications with defense counsel are important motivating factors for insurance companies in promulgating guidelines.
* Insurance company guidelines are similar in some respects to litigation management guidelines established by numerous corporate or governmental entities seeking to control litigation costs.
* There may be a degree of unobvious flexibility in insurance company guidelines, in that insurance companies may permit variance from written guidelines or may reconsider and reverse an initial decision against a particular action upon receiving a satisfactory justification from the defense attorney.
* Insurance company guidelines may include provisions that are unobjectionable from virtually any standpoint, such as:
(a) defining the financial relationship between the insurer and defense counsel (including hourly rates or other fees and permitted charges for expenses);
(b) coordinating the roles of defense counsel and employees of the insurer;
(c) establishing communications procedures between defense counsel and the insurer;
(d) stating the insurer’s objectives, both strategic and financial, with respect to litigation defense;
(e) outlining standard procedures the insurer prefers to follow in handling lawsuits;
(f) identifying which lawyers and nonlawyers will be responsible for the matter;
(g) requiring analysis of the case as a whole and of the need for particular services; and
(h) billing procedures, including frequency of billing and billing format, such as requirements that billings include sufficient information to permit an evaluation of the reasonableness of fees and costs.
On the other hand, many believe that insurance company guidelines may in practice result in an inadequate defense of the insured by requiring or inducing defense lawyers to curtail services for the insured improperly.
¶ 10 The Insurer-Insured Relationship. The insurer and the insured have significant rights and obligations pertaining to the defense of litigation brought against the insured by a third party. For example, in Ellis v. Gilbert,10the Utah Supreme Court stated:
The bare facts of life may as well be faced and reckoned with. If we look behind the facade it is to be seen that where there is insurance, the company actually takes over, employs counsel, investigates the case, interviews the witnesses, controls offers of settlement, and in fact, handles the entire matter.
In Peterson v. Western Casualty and Surety Co.,11while addressing the standard for showing diligence by insurer relying on alleged breach of cooperation clause by the insured, the Utah court noted that an insurance policy providing for interest on judgment “seems to be a recognition of the fact that the delay in payment of the judgment is chargeable to the insurance company, since it controls in the litigation.” In Berlant v. McAllister,12the Court described the insurerinsured relationship as follows:
To begin with we must know that the insurance carrier is obligated by its contract to pay all sums (up to the limits of the policy) which [the insured] may be, or shall become, liable to pay. This means that the carrier cannot be made to pay money until a judgment has been rendered against the insured []. However, this does not prevent the carrier from making a settlement of all claims against its insured before a judgment is rendered. The likelihood of losing the suit, the cost of defending it, and the possibility of settling for a sum less than the foreseeable costs and expenses are all matters which a carrier will consider in determining whether to settle a case or to defend it. The insurance contract provides that the insurer will, at its own expense, investigate, defend or settle any claims against the insured. It does not provide for any representation of its insured in an action against another party. Separate counsel always represents an insured plaintiff when he sues or an insured defendant when he counterclaims. The insurance attorney only represents the insured insofar as any claim is made against him for which the insurance company might be liable.
In Beck v. Farmers Insurance Exchange,13 the Court addressed obligations of the insurer as follows:
In a third-party situation [where the insurer contracts to defend the insured], the insurer controls the disposition of claims against its insured, who relinquishes any right to negotiate on his own behalf. . . . An insurer’s failure to act in good faith exposes its insured to a judgment and personal liability in excess of the policy limits. . . . In essence, the contract itself creates a fiduciary relationship because of the trust and reliance placed in the insurer by its insured. . . . The insured is wholly dependent upon the insurer to see that, in dealing with claims by third parties, the insured’s best interests are protected. In addition, when dealing with third parties, the insurer acts as agent for the insured with respect to the disputed claim. Wholly apart from the contractual obligations undertaken by the parties, the law imposes upon all agents a fiduciary obligation to their principals with respect to matters falling within the scope of their agency.
The Utah Rules of Professional Conduct do not in any way diminish or modify the rights or obligations of the insured or the insurer.
¶ 11 Ethical Obligations Cannot Be Modified by Agreement. A lawyer’s ethical duties under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct cannot be diminished or modified by an agreement between the attorney and the attorney’s client or between the attorney and a third party. This principle applies equally to agreements concerning insurance company guidelines and fee agreements with insurance companies. For example, an attorney’s obligations to provide competent representation to a client,14to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client,15to exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice,16and to supervise properly subordinate lawyers and nonlawyer assistants17cannot be limited by agreement. With respect to attorneys’ fee agreements, the comment to Rule 1.5 states: “An agreement may not be made whose terms might induce the lawyer improperly to curtail services for the client or perform them in any way contrary to the client’s interests.” Accordingly, notwithstanding any agreement pertaining to fees or pertaining to the manner in which litigation may be conducted, lawyers subject to the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct must at all times comply with them.
¶ 12 Consent For Third-Party Payment. Rule 1.8(f) provides:
A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
(1) The client consents after consultation;
(2) There is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the clientlawyer relationship; and
(3) Information relating to representation of a client is protected by Rule 1.6.
Rule 1.8(f) applies by its terms to a lawyer employed to defend litigation brought by a third party against an insured, whether or not the insurer is a client. Accordingly, an insured must consent to an insurer’s paying a lawyer employed to defend litigation brought by a third party against an insured. For purposes of Rule 1.8(f), the insured manifests this consent by entering into the insurance contract and accepting the representation offered. No new or separate consent is necessary.
¶ 13 Information Under Rule 1.4(b). Under Rule 1.4(b), the insurance defense lawyer must “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to enable the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” With respect to the insured as a client, the lawyer must inform the insured sufficiently to enable the insured to make informed decisions regarding the representation. The lawyer could accomplish this by sending the insured a letter at the outset of the representation informing the insured of relevant information. Although doing so would be a prudent practice, we do not hold that a lawyer must provide a written explanation. In ¶ 17 of this Opinion, we discuss the kinds of information that might be included in a letter to the insured at the outset of the representation.
¶ 14 Limitation of Scope Under Rule 1.2. Many perceived issues concerning insurance company guidelines can be resolved with proper attention to limitations on the scope of the representation under Rule 1.2. Under that rule, the scope of the attorney’s representation may be limited by agreement.18The comments to Rule 1.2 specifically refer to the retention of a lawyer by an insurance company to represent an insured:
The objectives or scope of services provided by a lawyer may be limited by agreement with the client or by the terms under which the lawyer’s services are made available to the client. For example, a retainer may be for a specifically defined purpose. Representation provided through a legal aid agency may be subject to limitations on the types of cases the agency handles. When a lawyer has been retained by an insurer to represent an insured, the representation may be limited to matters related to the insurance coverage. The terms upon which representation is undertaken may exclude specific objectives or means.19
Limitations on the objectives or scope of an attorney’s services should be determined jointly by the attorney and the client. The comment to Rule 1.2 states:
Both lawyer and client have authority and responsibility in the objectives and means of representation. The client has ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by law and the lawyer’s professional obligations. Within those limits, a client also has a right to consult with the lawyer about the means to be used in pursuing those objectives. At the same time, a lawyer is not required to pursue objectives or employ means simply because a client may wish that the lawyer do so. A clear distinction between objectives and means sometimes cannot be drawn, and in many cases the client-lawyer relationship partakes of a joint undertaking. In questions of means, the lawyer should assume responsibility for technical and legal tactical issues but should defer to the client regarding such questions as the expense to be incurred and concern for third persons who might be adversely affected.20
¶ 15 If both insurer and insured are clients, both must agree to limitations on the objectives or scope of an attorney’s services. If only the insured is the client, the insured must agree. The lawyer could obtain the insured’s consent at the outset of the representation by sending the insured a letter informing the insured of the relevant limitations. For example, the claims asserted against the insured may include claims that exceed insurance policy limits, claims that are not covered by insurance, or interests of the insured (such as reputation) that the insurer has no obligation to protect. In these situations, special care should be taken to provide information necessary for the insured to understand and agree to any appropriate limitations and to implement means to provide additional representation the insured may desire.
¶ 16 Although doing so would be a prudent practice, we do not hold that a lawyer must provide a written explanation or obtain the client’s consent in writing. In the next paragraph, we discuss the kinds of information that might be included in a letter to the insured at the outset of the representation. The lawyer could inform the insured in the letter that the insured’s consent to the limitations on the objectives or scope of the lawyer’s services will be presumed unless the insured objects within a specified time period. The insured could manifest consent to the limitations by accepting the defense without objection.
¶ 17 Information That Could Be Provided at the Outset. Subject to any limitations on confidential information under Rule 1.6(a),21which may apply if the insurer is also a client, the insurance defense lawyer could provide the insured with information such as the following:
(1) the fact of the lawyer’s selection by the insurer to defend against the claim and appropriate information concerning the lawyer;
(2) the identity of the insurer;
(3) the identity of the lawyer’s client or clients (i.e., whether or not there are multiple insureds who will be clients and whether or not the insurance company will be the lawyer’s client);
(4) relevant policy information, including facts pertaining to the lawyer’s compensation by the insurer;
(5) to the extent they are not disputed by the parties, the insurer’s rights and obligations under the insurance policy with respect to defense and settlement of the litigation;
(6) to the extent they are not disputed by the parties, the insured’s rights and obligations under the insurance policy with respect to defense and settlement of the litigation;
(7) how the representation will be conducted, including any limitations on the objectives or scope of the representation22and the insurer’s normal practices in directing representations including by way of litigation or billing guidelines;
(8) how settlement proposals will be handled;
(9) that, unless the insured objects and subject to the requirements of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer intends to proceed in accordance with the directions of the insurer;
(10) issues pertaining to confidential information and obtaining consents to convey confidential information between insured and insurer;23
(11) issues pertaining to avoidance and resolution of conflicts of interest;24
(12) risks to the insured, including the implications of the insurer’s rights, obligations, and procedures and any other relevant risks, such as an excess judgment or noncovered claims; and
(13) the insured’s right to hire a lawyer at the insured’s expense, including for purposes other than defense of the claim.25
While the foregoing items are provided as non-exhaustive illustrations, we do not hold that a defense lawyer must address every item in every case. Under Rule 1.4(b), the insurance defense lawyer must explain the matter to the extent reasonably necessary to enable the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
¶ 18 Professional Independence Under Rules 1.8(f) and 5.4(c). Rule 1.8(f)(2) requires that a lawyer accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than that client assure that “there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship.” This rule applies to a lawyer employed to defend litigation brought by a third party against an insured, whether or not the insurer is also a client.
¶ 19 Rule 5.4(c) provides: “A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.” Rule 5.4(c) applies to a lawyer employed to defend litigation brought by a third party against an insured, whether or not the insurer is a client. Rule 5.4(c) expressly prohibits a lawyer from permitting a person who employs or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering the legal services. Rule 5.4(c) draws no distinction between advice and action and speaks directly to professional judgment in rendering legal services. This is not to say, however, that the scope of the lawyer’s representation may not properly be limited as provided in Rule 1.2. To the extent the scope of the lawyer’s representation properly is limited, the lawyer is not authorized to render services outside the scope of the representation. But agreements respecting insurance company guidelines or flat-fee arrangements with insurance companies cannot free the lawyer from the obligation to exercise independent professional judgment both in setting limits on the representation and in rendering services within the scope of the representation.
¶ 20 Summary of Analysis of Insurance Company Guidelines. With these principles in mind, we conclude that an insurance defense lawyer’s agreement to abide by insurance company guidelines is not per se unethical and that the ethical implications of insurance company guidelines must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. An insurance defense lawyer must not permit compliance with guidelines and other directives of an insurer relating to the lawyer’s services to impair materially the lawyer’s independent professional judgment in representing an insured.26Obligations of attorneys under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct cannot be diminished or modified by an agreement between the attorney and the attorney’s client or by an agreement between the attorney and an insurer. Before accepting a representation of an insured party that will be governed in part by insurance company guidelines, a defense lawyer must determine that compliance with the guidelines will not be inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations. If compliance with the guidelines will be inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations, and if the insurer is unwilling to modify the guidelines, the lawyer must not undertake the representation.
¶ 21 After accepting a representation of an insured party that is governed in part by insurance company guidelines, a defense lawyer must at all times comply with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rules 1.1 (competent representation), 1.2 (limitation of scope of representation), 1.3 (diligence and promptness), 1.4 (communication requirements), 1.8(f) (consent), and 5.4(c) (no direction or regulation of the lawyer’s professional judgment). If the lawyer determines that the insurer’s interpretation or application of the guidelines in particular circumstances is in any way inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, and if the insurer will not withdraw its interpretation or application of the guidelines, the lawyer must still act in conformity with the Rules.27
¶ 22 In any case where an insurer’s refusal to authorize services that the lawyer, in her independent professional judgment, believes are necessary to comply with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer should consider the following options:
(1) communicating with the insurer and the insured in an attempt to resolve the matter,28
(2) obtaining the agreement of the insured to pay for the services (perhaps with a reservation of rights to seek payment from the insurer at a later time);
(3) agreeing to provide the services without compensation (and perhaps reserving the right to seek compensation from the insurer at a later time); or
(4) withdrawing from the representation.
If withdrawal is necessary because of an irreconcilable conflict between the insured and the insurer, the lawyer should comply with all applicable provisions of Rules 1.7 and 1.16 and any applicable rules of court.
Flat-fee Arrangements
¶ 23 A Request on Flat-Fee Arrangements. The Committee has also received a separate request for an advisory opinion concerning ethical issues raised by flat-fee arrangements with insurance companies under which counsel is employed to defend a case or a group of cases for a flat fee. Because this request raises some of the same issues and analysis discussed in connection with insurance company guidelines for defense attorneys, we consolidate the two requests to issue a single opinion.
¶ 24 Applicable Rules and Prior Opinion 136. Rule 1.5 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct addresses ethical issues relating to attorneys’ fees. As we wrote in Opinion No. 136, “Fixedfee contracts . . . are not prohibited by Rule 1.5 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct” and, further, “The only specific types of fees expressly prohibited by Rule 1.5 are contingent fees in divorce and criminal defense cases.”29
¶ 25 In Opinion No. 136, we addressed the question of whether a client’s advance payment made as a “fixed fee” or “nonrefundable retainer” could be considered to be earned by the lawyer when received and, therefore, not required to be deposited in a trust account. We stated that fixedfee contracts or nonrefundable retainers are not expressly prohibited by Rule 1.5, and that the issue became whether such arrangements should be considered per se unreasonable under the Rule. We adopt a similar analysis here. Rule 1.5 does not expressly prohibit flat-fee arrangements. We conclude, therefore, that flat-fee arrangements, including flat-fee arrangements with liability insurance carriers, are not per se unethical. It does not follow, of course, that all flat-fee agreements are in compliance with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
¶ 26 Improper Curtailment of Services. The comment to Rule 1.5 provides:
An agreement may not be made whose terms might induce the lawyer improperly to curtail services for the client or perform them in any way contrary to the client’s interest. For example, a lawyer should not enter into an agreement whereby services are to be provided only up to a stated amount when it is foreseeable that more extensive services probably will be required, unless the situation is adequately explained to the client.
Thus, Rule 1.5 prohibits flat-fee arrangements with insurers if the proposed arrangement would improperly curtail services to be provided to the client that would normally be within the scope of the representation. For example, a flat-fee agreement that is so low as to induce the lawyer to shirk his duties to the insured would be unethical. A lawyer may, of course, provide the necessary services for little or no additional fee, but the lack of further funding (from the insurer, for example) will not justify cutting corners on the lawyer’s ethical obligation to the client. Such situations should be fully explained to the insured. On the other hand, a flat-fee arrangement that is so high as to result in a clearly excessive fee would also violate Rule 1.5(a).
¶ 27 Compliance with the Rules. Our conclusion that flat-fee arrangements with insurance carriers are not per se unethical does not free a lawyer from strict compliance with the applicable rules or standards of professional behavior. To provide some guidance to members of the Utah Bar, we will address some of the ethical considerations.
¶ 28 Rule 1.1 requires a lawyer to provide “competent representation to a client.” This includes the “thoroughness” and “preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” A lawyer is also required to act with “reasonable diligence and promptness” under Rule 1.3. It is often stated that a lawyer is to represent her client “zealously.”30A lawyer should strictly adhere to these ethical standards, regardless of the nature of the fee arrangement or remuneration paid to the lawyer. Lawyers entering into flat-fee arrangements with insurance companies must use extra caution to assure that the representation they provide to the insured complies with these ethical obligations. Lawyers may not compromise these standards even if the financial arrangement to which they agreed with the insurance company results in a more-than-expected time commitment or worse-than-expected financial result for the lawyer. This also means, of course, that the lawyer should avoid entering into any flat-fee arrangement if there is reasonable cause to believe that future time and financial pressures may prevent the lawyer from providing competent, thorough, diligent and prompt representation to the insured.
¶ 29 Under Rule 1.2, the lawyer must abide by the client’s decisions concerning the objectives of the representation (subject to certain guidelines) and must consult with the client regarding the means by which the objectives of the litigation will be pursued. A lawyer should not enter into a flat-fee agreement with an insurer that would prevent meaningful participation by the insured in determining the objectives of the representation and the means of pursuing them. This may require, as a matter of prudence, consultation with the insured prior to entering into the flat-fee arrangement.
¶ 30 The comment to Rule 1.5 provides, “Where someone other than the client pays the lawyer’s fee or salary . . . , that arrangement does not modify the lawyer’s obligation to the client. . . . [S]uch arrangements should not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment.” Rule 1.8(f) expressly requires the lawyer to maintain her “independence of professional judgment” when someone other than the client pays the lawyer’s fee. These rules apply to a lawyer’s representation of an insured, just as they do in all other relevant cases. A lawyer who enters into any type of flat-fee arrangement with an insurer must use caution to assure that she exercises independent professional judgment on behalf of the insured. This is particularly important in situations where the scope of the case has unexpectedly increased beyond the attorney’s original expectations in agreeing to a fixed fee.
¶ 31 It has been suggested that flat-fee arrangements should be prohibited to protect the interests of lawyers in maintaining profitable fee arrangements with insurance companies. It is not this Committee’s role to regulate the competing economic interests of lawyers and insurance companies. Rather, it is our role to interpret the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct and to encourage ethical behavior for the protection of those who receive legal representation. Nothing in the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits flat-fee arrangements, and it would be improper for us to impose such a restriction where the Utah Supreme Court has chosen not to do so. Our discussion of some of the relevant concerns will provide guidance to lawyers and should promote competent representation for insureds who receive legal representation. As in any other case, the disciplinary procedures of the Utah State Bar and other legal proceedings are available to insureds who believe their lawyers have compromised their ethical duties because of a flat-fee arrangement with the insurer.31
¶ 32 In rendering this opinion, this Committee is aware of the arguments concerning economic and market factors vigorously promoted in the literature by both the insurance industry and the insurance defense bar. We are also mindful of our limited role, which is to interpret the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct and provide guidance to the members of Bar. Our role is not to regulate the market for legal services or to influence the economics of purchasing or providing legal services. Lawyers and insurance companies are free to negotiate fee arrangements that suit their respective economic interests so long as no lawyer on either side violates the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. Insurance companies and lawyers may enter into fee arrangements that limit the amount of compensation the lawyer will be paid. We emphasize, however, that lawyers entering into such arrangements must use care to assure that their representation complies with all applicable ethical standards, even if the fee arrangement requires the lawyer to perform services for a reduced rate or even without compensation.
¶ 33 Conclusion: An insurance defense lawyer’s agreement to abide by insurance company guidelines or to perform insurance defense work for a flat fee is not per se unethical. The ethical implications of insurance company guidelines must be evaluated on a case by case basis. An insurance defense lawyer must not permit compliance with guidelines and other directives of an insurer relating to the lawyer’s services to impair materially the lawyer’s independent professional judgment in representing an insured. If compliance with the guidelines will be inconsistent with the lawyer’s professional obligations, and if the insurer is unwilling to modify the guidelines, the lawyer must not undertake the representation. Flat-fee arrangements for insurance defense cases are unethical if they would induce the lawyer to improperly curtail services for the client or perform them in any way contrary to the client’s interests. Obligations of lawyers under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, including the duty zealously to represent the insured, cannot be diminished or modified by agreement.
Footnotes
1.See ABA Comm. on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Formal Op. 99-413; Ala. Ethics Op. RO-98-02; Colo. Bar Assoc. Ethics Comm. Formal Op. 107 (Sept. 18, 1999); Disciplinary Bd., Haw. Sup. Ct., Formal Op. 37 (Mar. 27, 1999); Ind. State Bar Assoc. Legal Ethics Op. 3 of 1998; Iowa Sup. Ct. Bd. of Professional Ethics & Conduct, Op. 99-01 (Sept. 8, 1999); Mass. Bar Op. 00-4; Miss. Bar, Op. 246 (1999); Neb. Advisory Comm., Advisory Op. 00-1; Ohio Op. 2000-3 (June 1, 2000); Penn. Bar Assoc. Comm. on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Formal Op. 2001-200 (June 28, 2001); R.I. Sup. Ct. Ethics Advisory Panel Op. 99-18 (Oct. 27, 1999); Tenn. Bd. of Professional Responsibility, Sup. Ct. of Tenn., Formal Ethics Op. 2000-F-145; Tex. Ethics Op. 533 (Sept. 2000); Vt. Bar Op. 98-07; Va. Leo 1723 (Nov. 23, 1998); Wash. State Bar Assoc. Formal Op. 195 (1999); Wis. State Bar Comm. on Professional Ethics, Formal Op. E-99-1 (Sept. 10, 1999);In re Rules of Professional Conduct and Insurer Imposed Billing Rules and Procedures, 2 P.3d 806 (Mont. 2000). We have been advised that proposed ethics opinions critical of insurance company billing guidelines were rejected by the Florida Bar Association’s Board of Governors at its December 2000 meeting (proposed opinions 99-2, 99-3 and 99-4) and the Supreme Court of Georgia (proposed opinion 99-R2) (unpublished order Sept. 17, 2001).
2.Utah Ethics Adv. Op. 98-11, 1998 WL 779176 (Utah St. Bar), addressed the ethics of a retainer agreement proposed by the Utah State Office of Recovery Services (ORS) for an attorney who would represent both ORS, as statutory lien claimant with prior rights on recoveries, and individual claimants in recovering medical claims. In that context, the Committee held that the State of Utah could propose a retainer agreement, but cautioned that it was not holding that attorneys representing the State may draft retainer agreements that violate the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, noting that it would be unethical for the retainer agreement to (1) require the individual claimants to surrender the right to terminate the lawyer or (2) otherwise cause the attorney executing it to violate the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee found that the attorney could not agree to conditions that would violate Rule 1.7(b).
3.In re Rules of Professional Conduct and Insurer Imposed Billing Rules and Procedures, 2 P.3d 806, 817 (Mont. 2000).
4.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. Comm. R. Procedure § I(b)(1) (2001) (“Committee opinions shall interpret the Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the Utah Supreme Court but, except as necessary to the opinion, shall not interpret other law.”) and id. § I(b)(2) (“The following requests are outside the Committee’s authority: . . . (iii) Requests for legal, rather than ethics opinions.”).
5.See, e.g., Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. Willis, 717 N.E.2d 151, 161 (Ind. 1999); In re Rules of Professional Conduct and Insurer Imposed Billing Rules and Procedures, 2 P.3d 806 (Mont. 2000).
6.See, e.g., Paradigm Insurance Co. v. The Langerman Law Offices, 24 P.3d 593 (Ariz. 2001) (express agreement was not a prerequisite to the formation of an attorney-client relationship; when insurer has assigned attorney to represent an insured, lawyer had a duty to the insurer to benefit both the insurer and the insured when their interests coincided; lawyer had duty to a non-client and could be liable for negligent breach).
7.See generally Breuer-Harrison, Inc. v. Combe, 799 P.2d 716, 727 (Utah App. 1990) (a legal malpractice action):
In general, except where an attorney is appointed by a court, the attorney-client relationship is created by contract. . . . The contract may be express or implied from the conduct of the parties. . . . The relationship is proved by showing that a party seeks and receives the advice of an attorney in matters pertinent to the lawyer’s profession. . . . Such a showing is subjective in that a factor in evaluating the relationship is whether the client thought an attorney-client relationship existed. . . . However, a party’s belief that an attorney-client relationship exists, unless reasonably induced by representations or conduct of the attorney, is not sufficient to create a confidential attorney-client relationship. . . . In sum, “[i]t is the intent and conduct of the parties which is critical to the formation of the attorney-client relationship.”
(Citations omitted.)
8.See note 4, supra.
9.We do not, however, assume that the foregoing summary is a complete statement of insurance company guidelines.
10.429 P.2d 39, 42 (Utah 1967).
11.425 P.2d 769, 77172 (Utah 1967).
12.480 P.2d 126, 127 (Utah 1971).
13.701 P.2d 795, 799-800 (Utah 1985) (citations omitted).
14.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 & cmt; Rule 1.2 cmt. Refer to Appendix B.
15.Id. 1.3. Refer to Appendix B.
16.Id. 2.1 (“In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice”).
17.Id. 5.1; 5.3. Refer to Appendix B.
18.Rule 1.2 provides, in pertinent part: “(a) A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation, subject to paragraphs (b), (c), (d), and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. (b) A lawyer may limit the objectives of the representation if the client consents after consultation.”
19.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2 cmt. (2002).
20.The client has the ultimate authority to determine the expense to be incurred. In some situations, the client may determine that no expense will be incurred by designating certain actions that will not be taken.
21.Rule 1.6(a) provides: “A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client except as stated in paragraph (b), unless the client consents after consultation.”
22.For example, the defense lawyer could not represent both insured and insurer as to matters such as insurance coverage. In cases where the claim exceeds policy limits or includes non-covered claims, or where the insured desires services outside the scope of the representation to be paid for by the insurer, the defense lawyer should provide the insured with information concerning limits on the representation and available means of addressing such matters.
23.For example, the letter might include information necessary to inform the insured as to issues pertaining to submission of bills to the insurer or to outside auditing services. See Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 98-03, 1998 WL 199533 (Utah St. Bar).
24.For example, if both insured and insurer are clients, Rule 1.8(g) provides, in pertinent part: “A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients . . . unless each client consents after consultation, including disclosure of the existence and nature of all the claims . . . involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.” If both insured and insurer are clients, or if representation of a sole client insured may be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to the insurer, conflicts must be addressed as provided in Rule 1.7.
25.For example, unless the policy provides otherwise, the insurer will likely have no obligation to pay the defense lawyer to assert counterclaims or claims insureds may have against third parties, to protect interests of the insured other than defending against the amount of the claim (such as reputation or other interests), or to defend the insured against criminal charges.
26.In addition, a lawyer governed by the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct (such as a lawyer employed by an insurer) must not propose that a defense lawyer enter into an agreement if compliance with the agreement, including guidelines and other directives of an insurer relating to the lawyer’s services, would impair materially the defense lawyer’s independent professional judgment in representing an insured.
27.We believe that, in many cases, perceived conflicts may be resolved by consultation.
28.Under Rule 1.4(a), the insurance defense lawyer must keep the client or clients “reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.”
29. Utah Ethics Adv. Op. 136, 1993 WL 755253 (Utah St. Bar) (citing Rule 1.5(d)).
30.See, e.g., Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble.
31.See Fla. Bar Professional Ethics Comm., Op. 982 (1998) (a lawyer may accept a set fee per case from an insurance company to defend all of the insurer’s third party insurance defense work unless the lawyer concludes that her independent professional judgment will be affected by the arrangement); Conn. Bar, Professional Ethics Comm., Op. 9720 (1997) (flat-fee arrangement with insurer permissible; lawyer’s obligations to client remain); Ohio Ethics Op. 977 (1997) (flat-fee arrangement with insurer permissible if agreement is reasonable and adequate, not excessive or so inadequate that it compromises professional judgment; representation must be competent and zealous); Ore. Ethics Op. 199198 (1991) (flat-fee arrangement with insurer permissible provided lawyer fulfills ethical duties to insured); contra, American Insurance Assoc. v. Kentucky Bar Assoc., 917 S.W.2d 568 (Ky. 1996)
APPENDIX A & B
APPENDIX A
Hawaii:
[P]rovisions which prohibit activity which, in the lawyer’s professional judgment, are necessary in the representation of the client or provisions which provide a [disincentive] to perform those tasks are ethically unacceptable. As an example, unreasonable restrictions on preparation and discovery, and the limitation on compensable communication among attorneys in an office regarding a legal matter would, in all likelihood, affect an attorney’s independent judgment on behalf of the client.1
Indiana:
[I]f the negotiated financial terms result in a material disincentive to perform those tasks which, in the lawyer’s professional judgment, are reasonable and necessary to the defense of the insured, such provisions are ethically unacceptable. Especially troublesome are those provisions of the subject agreement which tend to curtail reasonable discussion between members of the defense team on a daytoday basis, and which seek to dictate the use of personnel within the lawyer’s office. Another example of a provision resulting in a material disincentive provides that if the senior litigator performs a particular service, e.g., argument of motions and other court appearances, conduct of depositions, or review of medical records or legal research, which could have been performed ‘suitably’ (in the carrier’s view) by an associate or paralegal, the service may be billed only at the hourly rate for the associate or paralegal. Similarly, the contract provides that once an associate attorney is assigned to a given matter, another associate may not be substituted without prior approval of the carrier. Such impairments of the responsible attorney’s exercise of professional judgment as to the assignment of the most effective member of the litigation team to a given task is ethically impermissible. Lastly, to require, or even permit, counsel to rely upon legal research by an unsupervised paralegal invites legal malpractice—a breach of counsel’s duty to the insured—and is intolerable. Such provisions, even though intended merely to achieve cost efficiency, infringe upon the independent judgment of counsel, and tend to induce violations of our ethical rules.2
Massachusetts:
For example, an insurer’s litigation guidelines may mandate that all deposition notices be drafted by paralegals, although the precise content of some deposition notices may require significant substantive and strategic legal input. If the lawyer has a reasonable basis to believe that the creation of a particular deposition notice presents too complicated a task for a paralegal to perform competently, then the lawyer’s ethical obligations, as described above, compel the lawyer not to delegate that task. In the event that the lawyer’s decision subsequently is challenged by the insurer who is paying his or her fees, then the Committee believes that the lawyer must consider whether the issue is significant enough to warrant withdrawing from the representation under Rule 1.16(a)(1).3
Ohio:
It is improper under DR 5107(B) [Avoiding Influence By Others Than The Client] for an insurance defense attorney to abide by an insurance company’s litigation management guidelines in the representation of an insured when the guidelines directly interfere with the professional judgment of the attorney. Attorneys must not yield professional control of their legal work to an insurer. Guidelines that restrict or require prior approval before performing computerized or other legal research are an interference with the professional judgment of an attorney. Legal research improves the competence of an attorney and increases the quality of legal services. Attorneys must be able to research legal issues when they deem necessary without interference by nonattorneys. Guidelines that dictate how work is to be allocated among defense team members by designating what tasks are to be performed by a paralegal, associate, or senior attorney are an interference with an attorney’s professional judgment. Under the facts and circumstances of a particular case, an attorney may deem it necessary or more expedient to perform a research task or other task, rather than designate the task to a paralegal. This is not a decision for others to make. The attorney is professionally responsible for the legal services. Attorneys must be able to exercise professional judgment and discretion. Guidelines that require approval before conducting discovery, taking a deposition, or consulting with an expert witness are an interference with an attorney’s professional judgment. These are professional decisions that competent attorneys make on a daily basis. Guidelines that require an insurer’s approval before filing a motion or other pleading are an interference with an attorney’s professional judgment. Motion by motion evaluation by an insurer of an attorney’s legal work is an inappropriate interference with professional judgment and is demeaning to the legal profession. If an insurer is unsatisfied with the overall legal services performed, the insurer has the opportunity in the future to retain different counsel.4
Rhode Island:
[Provisions] that require the insurer’s preapproval for specified legal services, extend beyond the financial and working relationship between the insurer and defense counsel, and infringe upon the attorneyclient relationship between the insured and the inquiring attorney. For example, the insurer’s prior approval is required before defense counsel engages in the following: conducting legal research in excess of three hours; filing counterclaims, crossclaims or thirdparty actions; visiting the accident scene; preparing substantive dispositive motions or briefs; customizing interrogatories or document requests; and scheduling depositions. The insurer’s prior approval is also required before defense counsel incurs expenses related to any of the following: retaining expert witnesses; scheduling independent medical examinations or peer reviews; instituting surveillance; and conducting additional investigations. To the extent that the insurer reserves unto itself the right to withhold approval for reasonable and necessary legal services to be provided to an insured, these provisions of the guidelines impermissibly interfere with the independent professional judgment of the inquiring attorney. By agreeing to abide by the preauthorization provisions, an attorney impermissibly abdicates the obligations imposed by Rule 2.1 and Rule 5.4(c). Therefore, the inquiring attorney may not agree to them. Furthermore, such provisions result in a material disincentive to provide legal services that are reasonable and necessary to the defense of the insured. See Indiana Bar Assoc. Op. 3 (1998). A material disincentive creates a conflict of interest pursuant to Rule 1.7.5
Washington:
A billing guideline that arbitrarily and unreasonably limits or restricts compensation for the time spent by counsel performing services which counsel considers necessary to adequate representation, such as periodic review of pleadings, conducting depositions, or in preparing or defending against a summary judgment motion, endeavors to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in violation of RPC 5.4(c). A billing guideline that imposes ‘defacto’ or arbitrary rates for certain services performed by a lawyer, such as compensating a lawyer at prevailing paralegal rates when the firm does not employ paralegals, operates as a disincentive to performance of those services on violation of RPC 5.4(c).6
APPENDIX B
Relevant Portions of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct
Rule 1.1—Competence
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
The comment to Rule 1.1 provides, with respect to thoroughness and preparation:
Competent handling of a particular matter includes inquiry into and analysis of the factual and legal elements of the problem, and use of methods and procedures meeting the standards of competent practitioners. It also includes adequate preparation. The required attention and preparation are determined in part by what is at stake; major litigation and complex transactions ordinarily require more elaborate treatment than matters of lesser consequence.
The comment to Rule 1.2—Scope of Representation provides, with respect to agreements limiting the scope of representation:
The client has ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by law and the lawyer’s professional obligations. . . An agreement concerning the scope of representation must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other law. Thus, the client may not be asked to agree to representation so limited in scope as to violate Rule 1.1 or to surrender the right to terminate the lawyer’s services or the right to settle litigation that the lawyer might wish to continue.”
(Emphasis added.)
____________________________________________________________________________
Rule 1.3—Diligence
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
The comment to Rule 1.3 notes, however, that: “A lawyer has professional discretion in determining the means by which a matter should be pursued. See Rule 1.2.”
____________________________________________________________________________
Rule 1.4—Communication
(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to enable the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
____________________________________________________________________________
Rule 1.8—Conflict of interest: prohibited transactions.
. . . .
(f) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
(1) The client consents after consultation;
(2) There is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the clientlawyer relationship; and
(3) Information relating to representation of a client is protected by Rule 1.6.
(g) A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client consents after consultation, including disclosure of the existence and nature of all the claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.
____________________________________________________________________________
Rule 5.1—Responsibilities of a partner or supervisory lawyer
(a) A partner in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct.
(b) A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct.
(c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if:
(1) The lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or
(2) The lawyer is a partner in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices, or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.
____________________________________________________________________________
Rule 5.3—Responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants
With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
(a) A partner in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;
(b) A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.
(c) A lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:
(1) The lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or
(2) The lawyer is a partner in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.
Appendix A Footnotes
1.Disciplinary Bd., Haw. Sup. Ct., Formal Op. 37 (Mar. 27, 1999).
2.Ind. State Bar Assoc. Legal Ethics Op. 3 of 1998.
3.Mass. Bar Op. 00-4.
4.Sup. Ct. of Ohio, Bd. of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, Op. 2000-3 (June 1, 2000).
5.R.I. Sup. Ct. Ethics Advisory Panel Op. 99-18 (Oct. 27, 1999).
6.Wash State Bar Assoc., Formal Op. 195 (1999).

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 02-10

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.
¶ 3 Background: A divorce mediator has requested that a lawyer perform a limited service: review pleadings prepared by the mediator and amend them as needed. Prior to the attorney’s involvement, the mediator would meet with the divorcing parties and assist them in reaching a settlement of all issues in their divorce. Then, the mediator would draft the parties’ agreement, which would be filed with the court or incorporated into the judgment of the court. Finally, the mediator would draft the various additional court documents (e.g., complaint, findings of fact and conclusions of law, judgment) needed for the parties’ divorce. The mediator would inform the divorcing parties that the pleadings were not prepared by an attorney, but had been reviewed by an attorney for “sufficiency.” The divorcing parties would pay the attorney a small fee for this service.
¶ 4 Analysis: The request raises the following issues:
* Whether the lawyer is representing the mediator or the divorcing parties.
* Whether this plan involves the lawyer’s assisting in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5.
* Whether this plan constitutes an appropriate limitation on the lawyer’s representation for the client under Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2 and 1.1.
A. Whether the lawyer is representing the mediator or the divorcing parties.
¶ 5 The original request appears to presume that the lawyer is advising the mediator. However, the advice sought from the Committee focuses on the agreement and pleadings for a divorce between two particular parties. Here, we consider the ethical constraints on both possible relationships.
B. Whether the lawyer, in advising the mediator, is assisting in the authorized practice of law.
¶ 6 Rule 5.5 provides that a lawyer shall not “assist any person in . . . the unauthorized practice of law.” However, the Comments to Rule 5.5 state that the rule “does not prohibit lawyers from providing professional advice and instruction to nonlawyers whose employment requires knowledge of law.” Accordingly, it should be permissible for a lawyer to form an attorney-client relationship and provide a mediator with professional advice that the mediator needs for this occupation. In order to understand the limits of what is appropriate legal advice to give a mediator, we first examine what constitutes the practice of mediation under Utah law and current codes of conduct for mediators.
¶ 7 Utah statute provides for the certification of “alternative dispute resolution providers,”1including persons providing services as mediators.2 “Alternative dispute resolution” is defined as “the provision of an alternative system for settling conflicts between two or more parties, which operates both independent of or as an adjunct to the judicial-litigation system, through the intervention of a qualified neutral person or persons who are trained to intercede in and coordinate the interaction of the disputants in a settlement process.”3 A “dispute resolution provider” is “a person, other than a judge acting in his official capacity, who holds himself out to the public as a qualified neutral person trained to function in the conflict-solving process using the techniques and procedures of negotiation, conciliation, mediation.”4
¶ 8 Utah statute also provides for the Judicial Council to establish alternative dispute resolution programs to be administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts.5The Judicial Council is authorized to establish rules concerning ADR procedures, including establishing the qualifications of ADR providers for each form of ADR.6This statute further provides that an ADR provider “conducting procedures under the rules of the Judicial Council and the provisions of this act” shall be immune from all liability except for wrongful disclosure of confidential information.7These court-annexed ADR programs may also include mediation, defined as “a private forum in which one or more impartial persons facilitate communication between parties to a civil action to promote a mutually acceptable resolution or settlement.”8
¶ 9 These laws establishing and defining mediation focus on the mediator’s possessing and utilizing certain communication skills in order to help parties resolve a dispute, rather than having legal knowledge or the ability to prepare court pleadings.
¶ 10 This focus is consistent with the model Standards of Conduct for Mediators adopted in 1994 by the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution, the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), and the American Arbitration Association. These standards provide that “[m]ediation is based on the principle of self-determination by the parties” and includes the comment: “A mediator cannot personally ensure that each party has made a fully informed choice to reach a particular agreement, but it is a good practice for the mediator to make the parties aware of the importance of consulting other professionals, where appropriate, to help them make informed decisions.”9Thus, standards for mediators recognize that legal advice may be necessary for some parties to make informed decisions. The standards further recognize that it is not the mediator’s role to provide that legal advice:
The primary purpose of a mediator is to facilitate the parties’ voluntary agreement. This role differs substantially from other professional-client relationships. Mixing the role of a mediator and the role of a professional advising a client is problematic, and mediators must strive to distinguish between the roles. A mediator should, therefore, refrain from providing professional advice. Where appropriate, a mediator should recommend that parties seek outside professional advice.10
¶ 11 Accordingly, in “providing professional advice and instruction to nonlawyers whose employment requires knowledge of law,”11it would be appropriate for a lawyer to advise a mediator about the issues that typically arise in a divorce—custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division. In this way, the mediator can assist the parties to discuss all of the relevant issues. Similarly, the lawyer might properly explain various options for parties to consider in resolving their dispute and might suggest which options are likely to be adopted by a court of law. In this way the mediator can assist the parties to consider relevant and feasible options.
¶ 12 Moreover, a lawyer may publish a “How to” manual regarding divorce, including draft forms to use.12Thus, the attorney could give such a manual and draft forms to the mediator for distribution to clients who could complete and file these forms pro se. Similarly, the lawyer could approve the draft forms the mediator has prepared for distribution to divorcing parties to use pro se. Finally, a lawyer could advise the mediator as a consultant about the mediator’s legal obligations in difficult cases. For example, if a party told the mediator of suspected child abuse by the other parent, the mediator could seek and obtain advice from an attorney about the mediator’s obligation to report suspected child abuse.
¶ 13 However, in a mediated divorce setting, a lawyer’s more typical role would be to provide legal advice to one of the parties in order to insure that the party is making informed decisions. Typically, this advice is provided in the context of full representation of the client who is participating in the mediation. However, the lawyer’s services to that client can be more limited. (See part C below, regarding “unbundled services.”) Note that a lawyer is permitted to represent only one of the parties to the divorce in order to avoid impermissible, and non-consentable conflict, as we explained in Opinion 116.13
¶ 14 The Comment to Rule 5.5 states: “[A] lawyer may counsel nonlawyers who wish to proceed pro se.” Accordingly, the lawyer might properly advise a divorcing party about her rights in a divorce case and about the pleadings she will need to file and the procedures she will need to pursue.
¶ 15 However, complications arise when the lawyer is providing that advice to the mediator (rather than directly to a party) and the mediator is assisting that party to complete the necessary pleadings.
¶ 16 The Utah Supreme Court considered the propriety of non-lawyers assisting parties to prepare court pleadings most recently in the case of Utah State Bar v. Petersen,14where a paralegal “prepared wills, divorce papers, and pleadings . . . on behalf of clients for a fee” without this work being supervised by an attorney.15The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment that Petersen had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law,16defining the “practice of law” as “the rendering of services that require the knowledge and application of legal principles to serve the interests of another with his consent . . . performing services in the courts of justices . . . counseling, advising, and assisting others in connection with their legal rights, duties, and liabilities.”17
¶ 17 In a similar case, the Florida Supreme Court held that a paralegal would run afoul of the unauthorized practice of law by assisting divorcing parties to draft their pleadings in a divorce case; but the paralegal would be permitted to sell printed divorce forms to the parties.18
¶ 18 In a recent bankruptcy case a nonlawyer “bankruptcy petition preparer” (BPP) went beyond “the typing services a BPP may legitimately perform” by having pleadings she prepared reviewed by a lawyer and by having the lawyer available to “chat” with petitioners regarding their “general” questions.19The Idaho Bankruptcy Court found that this arrangement constituted a deceptive and unfair practice where the reviewing lawyer did not actually represent the bankruptcy petitioners and this BPP advertised the availability of a lawyer for review and general information as a benefit to her clients.20The Bankruptcy Court further found that this BPP engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by providing “legal advice to prospective debtors by giving them a pamphlet or other publication.” since “the very act of directing a prospective debtor to review a particular section or a legal book in and of itself constitutes legal advice.”21
¶ 19 In light of Utah case law and persuasive authority from other jurisdictions, we conclude that an attorney may not advise a nonlawyer mediator about the preparation of pleadings or agreements in particular cases without violating the rule that prohibits the lawyer from assisting the unauthorized practice of law, Rule 5.5.
¶ 20 While we have no authority to define “unauthorized practice of law” under state statute, we are able to state that an attorney would assist the unauthorized practice of law and thus violate Rule 5.5 by advising a non-lawyer how to conform legal pleadings to proper form without having an attorney-client, advice-giving relationship with the party in interest. Accordingly, the proposed plan of having the mediator draft the court pleadings and the agreement and having the attorney review these documents “for sufficiency” would be a violation of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
C. What are the limitations on the lawyer’s representation of a party engaged in a divorce mediation?
¶ 21 If the lawyer has been retained by the mediator to provide advice as discussed in Part B, then she may not, in most cases, concurrently represent either of the divorcing parties.22If, on the other hand, the lawyer has not been retained by the mediator, she may represent one or the other of the parties (but, under Opinion 116, not both), and mediators often do recommend that divorcing parties obtain legal advice from lawyers. However, the parties may seek to limit their expenses by engaging a lawyer for only limited representation. We now take up the issue of how an attorney may properly limit the scope of her representation in this situation.
¶ 22 Rule 1.2(b) provides that “a lawyer may limit the objectives of the representation if the client consents after consultation.” However, the Comments to Rule 1.2 indicate that “the client may not be asked to agree to representation so limited in scope as to violate Rule 1.1 [competence].”
¶ 23 This Committee has had occasion to address the propriety of limiting the scope of legal representation under the prior Code of Professional Responsibility as well as under the current Rules of Professional Conduct, and we take this opportunity to review those determinations:
* Opinion 47: An attorney may “provide limited legal advice, consultation, and assistance to inmates regarding the preparation of the initial pleadings in civil matters” provided the inmates are fully informed of the limited services.23
* Opinion 53: An attorney may interview, advise, and provide a manual and forms for clients seeking to file pro se divorces.24
* Opinion 74: An attorney may advise a party proceeding pro se and assist him to prepare pleadings. (“However, extensive undisclosed participation . . . that permits the litigant falsely to appear as being without substantial professional assistance is improper” as conduct involving misrepresentation.)25
* Opinion 95-01: Publishing a “How to” manual does not constitute the practice of law where there is no “personal advice given on a specific problem.”26
* Opinion 96-12: An attorney may charge for legal advice given to callers using a “1-900” number, but cannot disclaim the creation of an attorney-client relationship.27
* Opinion 97-09: A lawyer providing certain estate-planning legal services in conjunction with a non-lawyer estate-planner “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.”28
* Opinion 98-14: A lawyer representing a client in a divorce is not automatically counsel for that client in a protective-order proceeding because the client may elect to proceed pro se in this separate action.29
* Opinion 01-03: An insurance defense lawyer with a flat-fee arrangement may not improperly curtail services to the client, which include “competent representation . . . to exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice.”30
Certain principles from these precedents emerge as fundamental when a lawyer attempts to limit the scope of representation.
¶ 24 First, the lawyer may “limit the objectives of the representation [only] if the client consents after consultation.”31Such consultation should comport with Rule 2.1, which requires an exercise of “independent professional judgment” and “candid advice,” as well as with Rule 1.4 which requires the lawyer to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”
¶ 25 Accordingly, an attorney may limit the legal services provided to a divorcing client only after fully advising the client as the to range of services possible (e.g., from full representation to advice followed by the client proceeding pro se)32 and after advising the client as to the pros and cons of proceeding in any particular manner.33
¶ 26 There are nevertheless certain limitations that cannot be imposed. The lawyer cannot disclaim the attorney-client relationship,34nor limit the obligation to be “competent,” which includes “thoroughness” and “preparation reasonably necessary” for the representation.35
¶ 27 In a similar case, we analyzed the proposal of a professional estate planner who sought to involve a lawyer on a limited basis to assist in drafting estate plans for his clients.36The issue we addressed in that opinion was whether the lawyer could thus “provide competent representation under Rules 1.1 and 1.2(b).” We concluded that too circumscribed a role is not permissible. We opined that the estate planning lawyer cannot “provide competent representation . . . if he declines to counsel the client as to the appropriate means of executing the estate-planning documents or as to the appropriate means of transferring assets into the estate-planning vehicles to accomplish the client’s objectives.” In the estate planning situation, we determined that “a lawyer has an obligation not only to advise a client of legal rights and responsibilities, but also to advise the client regarding the advisability of the action contemplated.” We stated: “A lawyer is under a duty to inform clients of the relevant facts, law and issues necessary for the client to make intelligent decisions regarding the objectives of the representation.”37
¶ 28 We are unable to find a principle that justifies a different decision here. An estate- planning lawyer cannot be a mere scrivener, but “must perform an independent role as legal advisor to the client.”38Likewise, a divorce attorney cannot be a mere drafter, preparing court pleadings, proposed orders and judgments and avoiding the exercise of any “independent professional judgment” and communication of any “candid advice”39to the client.
¶ 29 Indeed, the Rules of Professional Conduct identify various functions the lawyer assumes as “representative of clients,” including advisor, advocate, intermediary, and evaluator,40but the Rules do not identify the role of “drafter” or “scrivener.” As an advisor, “a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implication.”41While an attorney may limit the scope of representation to advising the client or to advising and assisting in drafting pleadings, there is no authority for eliminating the advice-giving role in an attorney-client relationship.
¶ 30 Commentators have addressed the challenges faced in such “unbundled” legal services.42Various courts have addressed the propriety of attorneys assisting only with “ghostwritten” pleadings, as is proposed here. In some cases, courts have considered ghostwritten pleadings to be a fraud on the court.43Some courts have explicitly required a pro se litigant to indicate whether she had legal assistance in preparing her pleadings;44other courts have required an attorney to appear in person and represent clients in future hearings if they attempt to appear only through ghostwritten pleadings.45A few states have addressed the limited service of ghostwritten pleadings through court rule. Colorado provides that an attorney may “undertake to provide limited representation . . . to a pro se party” by including his name on the party’s pleadings and warranting that the attorney’s assistance relies upon the pro se party’s representation of the facts.46
¶ 31 Various state bars have addressed the limitation on legal services where the lawyer provides only legal analysis and drafting services.47We can find no judicial or ethics opinion that approves drafting services alone; the drafting services are always an adjunct to analysis and advice provided by the lawyer. Finally, best practices in “unbundled” legal services are addressed in various books and articles,48and we can find none that suggest drafting services alone are adequate or appropriate.
¶ 32 Indeed, all pleadings in Utah divorce cases must be signed by the attorney or the pro se party, “certifying that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances, . . . the claims, defenses and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law [and] . . . the allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support.”49It is difficult to understand how a lawyer could appropriately assist an individual to file pro se divorce pleadings without advising the party when his claims appear to lack any legal support and without advising the party regarding the evidentiary support the party will need to support certain contentions.
¶ 33 In the absence of any court rules that address the propriety of ghostwritten pleadings, this Committee concludes that, at a minimum, a lawyer may not limit her services to conforming a party’s pleadings to proper form without providing analysis and advice to the party seeking such advice.
D. Conclusion
¶ 34 It is permissible for a lawyer to advise a divorce mediator on the issues likely to arise in the course of a mediation, but the lawyer may not advise the mediator how to prepare divorce agreements and court pleadings for particular parties who are clients of the mediator. It is also permissible for a lawyer to review the contents of the divorce agreement for one of the parties and advise that party about the options and the advisability of the draft agreement. A lawyer might appropriately limit her services to such a review. A second attorney might advise the other party in this same way. Thereafter, either of these two attorneys might review the pleadings prepared by these parties as to sufficiency. And these parties might then proceed to file pro se.
¶ 35 However, the most crucial element of legal services here is informing a party about the relevant legal standards so that the party’s decisions are informed. Accordingly, it is inappropriate for an attorney to limit her services to assisting a divorcing party to prepare divorce pleadings while failing or refusing to advise the divorcing party about the relevant law.
Footnotes
1.Utah Code Ann. §§ 58-39a-1 et seq. (2002), “Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider Act.” An ADR Providers Certification Board, comprising two judges, one lawyer and four members of the general public with a demonstrated interest in ADR, is to grant certification to persons who “complete a program of education or training, or both, in ADR or have demonstrated sufficient experience in ADR.” Id. §§ 58-39a-3 and -5
2.Id. § 58-39a-2.
3.Id. § 58-39a-2(1)(a).
4.Id. § 58-39a-2(4).
5.Utah Code Ann. §§ 78-31b-1 et seq. (2002), “The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act.”
6.Id. § 78-31b-5(3)(h). This statute explicitly provides that ADR providers may, but need not, be certified under the ADR Provider Certification Act.
7.Id. § 78-31b-4(4).
8.Id. § 78-31b-2(8).
9.Standards of Conduct for Mediators, Standard I and cmt.
10.Id., Standard V cmt.
11.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5, cmt.
12.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 95-01, 1995 WL 49472 (Utah St. Bar). Publication of such forms is not the practice of law where no personal advice is given. (The Committee’s opinions are also available at www.utahbar.org/options/index.html).
13.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 116, 1992 WL 685249 (Utah St. Bar).
14.Utah State Bar v. Petersen, 937 P.2d 1263 (Utah 1997)
15.Id. at 1263.
16.Petersen was found to have violated Utah Code Ann. § 78-51-25.
17.Petersen, 937 P.2d at 1268.
18.Florida Bar v. Brumbaugh, 335 So. 2d 1186 (Fla. 1978).
19. In re: Doser, 281 B.R. 292, 294 (Bkrtcy. D. Idaho 2002).
20.Id. at 304-06.
21.Id. at 306-09.
22.Such a concurrent representation would likely create a conflict of interest under Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7. Whether this conflict could be waived by the consent of the mediator and the divorcing party would depend on the facts and circumstances.
23.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 47 (Utah St. Bar, July 1978).
24.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 53 (Utah St. Bar, April 1979).
25.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 74 (Utah St. Bar, Feb. 1981).
26.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 95-01, 1995 WL 49472 (Utah St. Bar).
27.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 96-12, 1997 WL 45137 (Utah St. Bar).
28.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 97-09, 1997 WL 433814 (Utah St. Bar).
29.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 98-14, 1998 WL 863905 (Utah St. Bar).
30.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 01-03, 2001 WL 314288 (Utah St. Bar).
31.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2 (c) (emphasis added). See also Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 47.
32.See Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 98-14.
33.See Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 47.
34.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 96-12.
35.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 02-03.
36.Utah Ethics Advisory Op. 97-09.
37.Id.
38.Id.
39.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 2.1.
40.Preamble, Utah Rules of Professional Conduct.
41.Id.
42.See Forrest S. Mosten, Unbundling Legal Services: A Guide to Delivering Legal Services a la Carte, (ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2000) (hereinafter, “Mosten”).
43.Johnson v. Freemont 868 F. Supp. 1226 (D. Colo. 1984). Our Opinion 74 considers an attorney providing “extensive undisclosed” assistance to be unethical as assisting in a misrepresentation.
44.Wesley v. Dan Stein Buick, 987 F. Supp. 884 (D. Kans. 1997).
45.See Kimberly Pochnau, Unbundling Civil Legal Services, A Critical Reader (ABA 1998).
46.Colo. R. Civ. P 11(b).
47.Alaska Bar Association Ethics Opinion No. 93-1 (permissible to interview client and draft pleadings without appearing in court); ABA Informal Ethics Opinion 1414 (1978) (permissible to advise and prepare pleadings; but extensive undisclosed participation would constitute misrepresentation); Arizona Opinion 91-03 (attorney may advise on domestic relations matters and prepare pleadings); Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee Formal Opinion No. 101 (1998) (attorney may limit representation provided she makes sufficient inquiry into and analysis of factual and legal elements to provide competent representation); New York Opinion 613 (1990) (attorney may advise and prepare pleadings for a pro se litigant without entering an appearance).
48.See, e.g., Mosten, supra note 42; Mary Helen McNeal, Redefining Attorney-Client Roles: Unbundling and Moderate-Income Elderly Clients, 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 295 (1997)
49.Utah R. Civ. P. 11.

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 98-05

(Approved April 17, 1998)
Issue:
Is it unethical for a defense attorney to offer a “full satisfaction” settlement, conditioned upon plaintiff’s waiving a claim for attorneys’ fees against a defendant?

Opinion: It is not unethical for a defense attorney to present an offer of settlement conditioned on waiver of attorneys’ fees. The defense attorney in such a case has an obligation to represent the defendant zealously within the limits of the law.1Moreover, it is the defendant and not the defense attorney who controls settlement offers. The defense attorney in such a case is bound to convey settlement proposals, and to accept settlement offers, as dictated by the client.2
This answer, however, does not fully address possible ethical issues raised in a situation in which a client is a plaintiff pursuing a claim under which the plaintiff may be able to recover attorneys’ fees for pursuing the cause of action. Such a circumstance could arise, for example, in many civil rights and employment discrimination actions.
Practitioners representing plaintiffs in such circumstances should be aware of a potential conflict of interest between the plaintiff’s attorney and the client if the plaintiff receives a settlement offer that is conditioned on a waiver or dismissal of the claim for attorneys’ fees. This conflict of interest can arise where the plaintiff’s attorney has pursued the case in anticipation of recovering attorneys’ fees from the defendant at the conclusion of the proceedings.3
Plaintiffs’ attorneys in such circumstances should be aware that this potential for a conflict of interest can be resolved by full disclosure in advance of this potential problem and the execution of an appropriate attorney-client fee agreement addressing this eventuality. So long as an attorney complies with the requirements of Rule 1.5 regarding fees,4the establishment of fees between lawyer and client and the method by which those fees are to be collected are matters of business and contract between the attorney and the client.
Attorneys representing plaintiffs in such cases are advised, however, to review carefully the language of Rule 1.2 5regarding the scope of representation of clients-specifically the requirement that a lawyer must abide by a client’s decision to accept or reject an offer of settlement of a legal matter.
It is not the purpose of this opinion to advise attorneys of all the possible ways to address the issue raised here; it is merely to alert practitioners to this issue. However, it is possible to address the problem by recognizing the issue early in the representation and agreeing with the client in advance concerning how the client will pay the attorney’s fee if attorneys’ fees are not recovered from the defendant. This might be accomplished by an agreement that the attorney would normally be paid on a contingent-fee basis, but alternately on an hourly fee basis if there is no recovery of attorneys’ fees from the defendant.
It is important to note also what a practitioner cannot do to resolve this problem. It would be unethical for an attorney to contract in advance with a client that the client may not accept or that the attorney may veto a particular offer in settlement of a case. An attorney must convey all offers of settlement to a client, and the client must always have final say whether or not it will be accepted.6This ultimate client authority cannot be contracted away.
In summary, defendants’ attorneys are not ethically prohibited from presenting settlement offers that include a provision precluding plaintiff’s recovery of attorneys’ fees.7There are appropriate means by which plaintiffs’ attorneys can foresee the possibility of such occurrences and deal with them by carefully constructed fee agreements with their clients.
Footnotes
1.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1.
2.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2.
3.See Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(b).
4.For example, the fee must be reasonable and not illegal or clearly exces-sive.
5.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2 provides, in pertinent part:
(a) A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of represen-tation, subject to paragraphs (b), (c), (d), and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision whether to accept an offer of settlement of a matter. . . .
(d) When a lawyer knows that a client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law, the lawyer shall consult with the client regarding the relevant limita-tions on the lawyer’s conduct.
6.See Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2(a).
7.See Evans v. Jeff D., 475 U.S. 717 (1986).

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 98-14

(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.
Analysis: Chapter 3 of Title 30 of the Utah Code governs divorce proceedings,1and Chapter 6 of Title 30 establishes a procedure for obtaining a “protective order” in a protective order or “cohabitant abuse” proceeding.2Sometimes, the relief sought in a protective-order action will overlap with or will be identical to relief sought in a divorce proceeding. The Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee has been asked whether an attorney who is representing a client in a divorce proceeding is required to represent the same client in a protective-order proceeding involving the same opposing party as the divorce proceeding. The request notes that, because the relief sought in the protective-order action may duplicate the relief sought in the divorce action, it may cause difficulty for one or both litigants to the actions, or to the court, if a party appears pro se seeking the issuance of relief pursuant to a protective order.
A lawyer has an obligation to advise a client of all lawful options to resolve a legal problem.3If an attorney believes that a protective order is appropriate in a case, the Rules of Professional Conduct may, therefore, require the attorney to advise the client of the option of obtaining a protective order. Because the protective-order system in Utah allows pro se litigants to obtain protective orders at no cost through the assistance of the court and without incurring attorney’s fees, an attorney may properly advise a client that she has the option not only of obtaining a protective order, but of obtaining one either through counsel or pro se. If an attorney advises a client of the availability of the protective-order system and of the possibility of obtaining a protective order without counsel, the attorney is not breaching any of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
It goes without saying that a lawyer cannot accept representation in a case, promise to represent a client in a protective-order proceeding, and then fail to do so. This would clearly be a violation of Rules 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4. Conversely, however, if the lawyer advises the client of the option of obtaining a protective order, and the client specifically elects to do so pro se, the attorney is ethically prohibited from interfering in the client’s decision, since this would violate the specific instructions from the client as to the scope and direction of the representation.4Once an attorney has advised a client of all her options in any case, it is exclusively the client’s right to determine whether to pursue one course of action or another, and whether to pursue relief pro se or with counsel. Under Rule 1.2(a), the lawyer is bound by the client’s determinations in this regard and may not act adversely to the client’s specific instructions. Indeed, it might violate a lawyer’s ethical obligations to insist upon appearing for a client in a protective-order case, if the client specifically instructed the attorney not to do so.
Practitioners should continue to bear in mind that it is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to approach a court to seek relief on behalf of a client when the relief is not sought in good faith.5It is likewise a breach of an attorney’s ethical obligations to suggest to a client that she advance a claim for relief in court pro se, when such an action is not brought in good faith. Obviously, it is a breach of an attorney’s ethical obligations to suborn perjury in seeking any relief from any court, and it is a breach of an attorney’s ethical obligations to suggest to a client that she make false statements to a court in seeking any relief, including pro se actions.
Footnotes
1.Utah Code Ann. §§ 30-3-1 to -38 (1998).
2.Id. §§ 30-6-1 to -14.
3.Utah Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2(c), 1.4(a), 1.4(b) and 2.1.
4.Id. 1.2(a).
5.Id. 1.2(c), 1.16(b)(1), 1.16(b)(2), 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3.