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2015 Formal Ethics Opinion 1: Preparing Pleadings and Other Filings for an Unrepresented Opposing Party

Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina State Bar

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.

Ana Hopper, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
About Ana Hopper, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus (33 Articles)
Ana Hopper is a 2016 Campbell Law graduate and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Campbell Law Observer for the 2015-2016 academic year. She is originally from Winston-Salem and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology. The summer following her first year of law school, Ana worked as a research assistant for Professor Amy Flanary-Smith. Ana also interned at the Criminal Appellate Section of the Department of Justice her second year, and at the New Hanover District Attorney's Office as an intern the summer before her third year. She served as a Legal Research and Writing Scholar, Vice President of BLSA, and Community Chair of Lambda during her time at Campbell.
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