Following is the sixth in a series of posts from Parker Taylor Law Group reflecting on recent changes to the California Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), under the category of “Lawyer-Client Relationship,” focusing on “conflict of interest involving current clients.” The Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 1.7 Conflict of Interest: Current Clients
(c)(2) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that another party’s lawyer is a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the lawyer, lives with the lawyer, is a client of the lawyer or another lawyer in the lawyer’s firm, or has an intimate personal relationship with the lawyer.
In the CBA’s previous RPC, the requirements for an attorney representing a client in a matter where that attorney happens to have a close relationship with another party who is involved with the same matter is spelled out in its own rule (3-320). In the new RPC, as set forth above, this rule has been added to the subsection of the rules relating to “Conflict of Interest” – as Rule 1.7(c)(2).
The American Bar Association (ABA) addresses this subject in its RPC Rule 1.7(a)(2), but not as specifically as the CBA’s rule does. The ABA states that a “concurrent conflict of interest exists if … there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.”
Potential Impact: Generally speaking, this change reflects what jurists and ethical attorneys have acknowledged is the basic standard. It’s a conflict of interest and breach of duty to have an intimate relationship with your client, or fail to disclose to your client relationships impacting your representation.
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