Following is the 35th post in a series from Parker Law Group about recent changes to the California Bar Association (CBA)’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). This rule is found in Chapter 1 – “Lawyer-Client Relationship,” and focuses on the rules involving communication between a lawyer and his or her client. The Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 1.4 Communicating with Clients
(a) A lawyer shall:
(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which disclosure or the client’s informed consent is required by these rules or the State Bar Act;
(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which to accomplish the client’s objectives in the representation;
(3) keep the client reasonably informed about significant developments relating to the representation, including promptly complying with reasonable requests for information and copies of significant documents when necessary to keep the client so informed; and
(4) advise the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
(c) A lawyer may delay transmission of information to a client if the lawyer reasonably believes that the client would be likely to react in a way that may cause imminent harm to the client or others.
(d) A lawyer’s obligation under this rule to provide information and documents is subject to any applicable protective order, non-disclosure agreement, or limitation under statutory or decisional law.
Rule 1.4 of the CBA’s new RPC, as set forth above, has been significantly expanded from its former version (Rule 3-500). Subdivision (a)(3) of the new rule mirrors the entire previous rule (a long, one-sentence paragraph). The additional information found in (a)(1)-(2) and (4) provides details on how a lawyer should inform, consult with, or advise their client of the client’s rights and possible limitations regarding their matter. Subdivision (b) specifies how a lawyer should explain a matter to their client, and (c) allows the lawyer to postpone providing their client with information if the lawyer reasonably believes the client would be likely to react in a manner that could harm the client or others. Subdivision (d) adds in the exceptions of protective orders, non-disclosure agreements or other statutory limitations.
In Rule 1.4 of the American Bar Association (ABA)’s RPC, subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(2) are almost identical to the CBA’s new Rule 1.4. Subdivision (a)(3) of the CBA rule combines the information found in ABA’s 1.4(3)-(4), and (a)(4) in CBA’s rule matches the content in 1.4(5) of ABA’s rule. The last two subdivisions in CBA’s rule (about delaying transmission of information and protective order exceptions) are not included in the ABA’s version of this rule.
Benefit: Generally speaking, expansion of this rule provides clients with a greater understanding of their rights regarding communication they can expect to receive from a lawyer who is representing them.
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Rules of Professional Conduct, California Bar Association, American Bar Association, Legal Malpractice, Legal Representation, Client Rights, Parker Law Group, Port Parker