Monday, May 2, 2005

ABA White Paper Studies Ways to Increase Lawyer Assistance for Self-represented Litigants

[RESEARCH] The ABA's Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services released a white paper studying lawyer assistance for self-represented litigants.

"An Analysis of Rules That Enable Lawyers to Serve Pro Se Litigants," examines various states’ amendments to rules of professional conduct and procedure as well as other rules and laws that enable lawyers to provide a limited scope of representation, or "unbundled" legal services, to clients who otherwise would proceed on a pro se basis. The purpose of the report is to provide policy-makers with useful information if they are considering similar rules in their states.

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While pro se litigants may not be able to afford a full spectrum of legal services, the white paper states, many would benefit from the assistance of a lawyer for certain aspects of their case. Although many courts have developed resources to assist people representing themselves, certain services – particularly those requiring legal strategies – are best provided by a lawyer. By examining rule changes in various states, the white paper suggests ways that other states can make limited-scope legal assistance available to pro se litigants and encourage more lawyers to help people in need of legal assistance. Guidance from lawyers about legal process also would enable pro se litigants resolve their matters more efficiently.

The white paper identifies five topical areas that states have addressed through rule changes: defining the scope of representation, clarifying communications between counsel and parties, creating parameters for lawyers’ role in document preparation, governing the entry of appearances and withdrawals for limited representation, and checking conflicts for limited service programs. The paper is available at
ABA News Release (April 21, 2005).

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