These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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27-Litigation Tactics (Including Misrepresentations, Tape Recordings)

66-Lawyers Acting as "Scriveners"

Lawyers assisting members of a pre-paid legal services plan do not have to disclose their role in preparing pleadings that will be filed by pro se litigants, because "absent a court rule or law to the contrary, there is no ethical obligation to notify the court of the lawyer’s assistance to the pro se litigant." After reviewing ABA and other states' legal ethics opinions, "[t]he Committee concludes that there is not a provision in the Rules of Professional Conduct that prohibits undisclosed assistance to a pro se litigant as long as the lawyer does not do so in a manner that violates a rule of conduct that otherwise would apply to the lawyer’s conduct." Lawyers should nevertheless familiarize themselves with courts' policies about ghostwriting "lawyers are now on notice, because of Laremont-Lopez [Laremont-Lopez v. Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Center, 968 F. Supp. 1075, 1077-78 (E.D. Va. 1997)] and other federal court cases, that 'ghostwriting' may be forbidden in some courts, and should take heed, even if such conduct does not violate any specific standing rule of court." [overruling inconsistent portions of LEOs 1127, 1592, 1761 and 1803]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn