Following is the 24th 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 “competence.” The Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 1.1 Competence
(a) A lawyer shall not intentionally, recklessly, with gross negligence, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence.
(b) For purposes of this rule, “competence” in any legal service shall mean to apply the (i) learning and skill, and (ii) mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service.
(c) If a lawyer does not have sufficient learning and skill when the legal services are undertaken, the lawyer nonetheless may provide competent representation by (i) associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be competent, (ii) acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required, or (iii) referring the matter to another lawyer whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be competent.
(d) In an emergency a lawyer may give advice or assistance in a matter in which the lawyer does not have the skill ordinarily required if referral to, or association or consultation with, another lawyer would be impractical. Assistance in an emergency must be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances.
Several differences appear in the CBA’s new version of the RPC, Rule 1.1. This rule, as set forth above, replaces the previous RPC Rule 3-110. Only subdivision (a) remains the same. Subdivision (b) no longer includes “diligence” in the definition of “competence in any legal service.” Subdivision (c) now includes a third option for a lawyer who does not have “sufficient learning and skill” for a requested legal service. That option is “referring the matter to another lawyer whom the lawyer reasonably believes to be competent.”
The final change – a major one – is the addition of an entirely new subdivision. Subdivision (d) gives lawyers the option of providing advice or assistance in matters where they do not have expertise if referring to or consulting with another attorney would be impractical. However, it does specify that “Assistance in an emergency must be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances.”
The American Bar Association (ABA)’s RPC Rule 1.1 is very different – and far simpler – than the CBA’s version of this rule. The ABA’s rule sums up the topic of legal competence in two sentences. It not only says that a lawyer must provide competent representation to their client, it also gives four requirements for that representation: legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and whatever preparation is necessary.
Benefit: Generally speaking, the revised version of this rule provides more options for an attorney’s representation of a client in that they can now refer an entire matter to a different attorney, if the other attorney is more qualified to handle the matter. This change can speed up the process in handling a client’s case. The revised rule also opens the door for a client’s attorney to advise or assist their client as much as possible, if consulting with another attorney on a given matter would be impractical – another time-saving benefit.
The information provided herein is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice or as an agreement for representation. This is not an advertisement. If you have an issue or dispute with your attorney, or are seeking advice with respect to your obligations, you should consult with an experienced attorney. Parker Law Group is a full-service litigation and transactional law firm. Mr. Parker has represented clients in professional malfeasance disputes for over 22 years. If you would like to schedule an initial consultation with Mr. Parker or his team, you can reach them at 916/996-0400 or at email@example.com. (An email to the law firm requesting a consultation does not create an attorney-client relationship or any agreement for representation by the firm.)
Rules of Professional Conduct, California Bar Association, American Bar Association, Legal Malpractice, Client Rights, Legal Representation, Competence, Parker Law Group, Port Parker