St. Mary's Journal on Legal Malpractice & Ethics

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St. Mary's University School of Law


Justin C. Roberts

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This Article considers how pro se lawyers should be treated under the law of professional responsibility. While courts have addressed whether various aspects of the law of lawyering should be applied to lawyers acting pro se, they have not done so systematically. The Article first demonstrates that the law is not consistent in its treatment of pro se lawyers. It then argues that a purpose-based approach to the issue provides a consistent, rational, and reproducible way to analyze the question. It concludes that whether a particular rule of professional responsibility should apply to a pro se lawyer should be driven by the rule's intended beneficiary. If the rule is intended to protect third parties, it should apply to lawyers regardless of whether they are representing clients or appearing pro se; by contrast, a rule that is intended to protect clients should not be applied to pro se lawyers.