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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Attorney Ghostwriting for Pro Se Litigants: Balancing Access to Justice and Ethical Concerns

Attorney Ghostwriting

Attorney ghostwriting, the practice of attorneys drafting legal documents for self-represented litigants without disclosing their involvement to the court, has sparked a heated debate in the legal community. While proponents argue that it enhances access to justice for those who cannot afford full representation, critics raise concerns about potential ethical violations and the fairness of the judicial process. This blog post explores the arguments on both sides of this contentious issue.

Arguments Against Attorney Ghostwriting

One of the primary concerns surrounding attorney ghostwriting is the potential for judicial misapprehension. Judges generally read pro se pleadings with less stringent standards, offering leniency to self-represented parties. However, when a pleading is ghostwritten by an attorney, it may appear more sophisticated than it actually is, leading judges to withdraw this leniency. This can result in pro se litigants being held to a higher standard than intended, potentially disadvantaging them in court.

Ethical concerns also arise from the lack of transparency in ghostwriting. The practice can be viewed as deceptive, as it hides the involvement of an attorney. Some argue that this lack of disclosure is unethical and should be regulated or banned outright to maintain the integrity of the legal system.

Arguments in Favor of Attorney Ghostwriting

On the other hand, proponents of attorney ghostwriting emphasize its potential to provide essential legal assistance to those who cannot afford full representation. This limited-scope representation, or "unbundled legal services," can help pro se litigants navigate complex legal systems, especially in cases where they might otherwise lose on procedural grounds before reaching a decision on the merits. By offering this assistance, ghostwriting can enhance access to justice for vulnerable populations.

To address the ethical concerns surrounding ghostwriting, some propose allowing the practice with certain regulations, such as requiring attorneys to disclose their involvement to the court. This approach aims to balance the need for transparency with the practical benefits of providing legal assistance to those in need. By implementing disclosure requirements, the legal system can ensure transparency while still supporting pro se litigants.

Ghostwriting can be particularly beneficial for vulnerable populations, such as pro se prisoners, who face significant disadvantages in accessing legal resources. Allowing attorneys to ghostwrite pleadings for these individuals can help ensure they have a fair chance in court, leveling the playing field in a system that often favors those with legal representation.

Empirical Evidence and Conclusion

Research indicates that pro se litigants are generally disadvantaged compared to those with legal representation. Judges and other legal officials tend to devalue the case merit of pro se litigants, which affects their expectations of fairness and satisfaction with the justice system. This suggests that while ghostwriting might provide some immediate procedural benefits, it does not fully address the broader biases and systemic issues faced by pro se litigants.


Attorney ghostwriting presents a complex issue with both potential benefits and significant drawbacks. While it can provide much-needed assistance to those who cannot afford full representation, it also raises ethical concerns and can lead to judicial misapprehension. An effective solution that combines disclosure mandates could present a practical way to guarantee transparency and offer assistance to self-represented litigants.


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About Peter J. Lamont, Esq.

Peter J. Lamont is a nationally recognized attorney with significant experience in business, contract, litigation, and real estate law. With over two decades of legal practice, he has represented a wide array of businesses, including large international corporations. Peter is known for his practical legal and business advice, prioritizing efficient and cost-effective solutions for his clients.

Peter has an Avvo 10.0 Rating and has been acknowledged as one of America's Most Honored Lawyers since 2011. 201 Magainze and Lawyers of Distinction have also recognized him for being one of the top business and litigation attorneys in New Jersey. His commitment to his clients and the legal community is further evidenced by his active role as a speaker, lecturer, and published author in various legal and business publications.

As the founder of the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, Peter brings his Wall Street experience and client-focused approach to New Jersey, offering personalized legal services that align with each client's unique needs and goals​.


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