View the Formal Ethics Opinion in Full Here
In response to several inquiries as whether a lawyer may prepare pleadings or other fillings for a pro se opposing party in a civil proceeding, the State Bar released 2015 FEO 1 at its meeting on April 17, 2015. The Bar notes that this opinion is limited to pleadings and filings in pending case at trial, and does not address closing a business transaction or other formal trial proceedings.
The opinion officially rules that it is a violation of Rule 4.3(a) to give legal advice to an unrepresented opposing party, and therefore, within those constraints, the lawyer cannot prepare pleadings or other filings. Accordingly, the lawyer should not prepare an answer to a complaint, a waiver to answer, or a waiver of exemptions. However, the opinion does list a number of filings that can be prepared including acceptance of service, settlement agreements, a release of claims, and a dismissal pursuant to settlement agreement or release. If these filings are prepared, the lawyer should include a written disclosure naming the lawyer’s name and a statement that legal advice cannot be provided. If the lawyer is unsure of whether the pleading is “tantamount” to providing legal advice, she should refer to the six guiding principles provided in the opinion.