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Professional Responsibility/Legal Ethics
South Texas College of Law Houston
Degraw, Sandra

Professional Responsibility
Course Outline
                                                                                     
 
     Fall, 1994
 
     LAWYER’S DUTIES TO CLIENT
 
     COMPETENCE (Rule 1.1)
 
     Legal knowledge; Skill; Thoroughness; Preparation.
 
     (Must not take on a matter an attorney knows he is not competent
     to handle.)
 
     Comment:
       [1] Factors include relative complexity and specialized nature,
     lawyer’s general experience in the field, the preparation and
     study the lawyer is prepared to give, and feasibility of referral
     to attorney of established competence in the field.
       [2] A lawyer can provide competent representation in a wholly
     novel field through necessary study.
       [3] In an emergency a lawyer may give limited advice on a
     matter in which he does not have the skill ordinarily required.
       [5] Adequate preparation.
 
     -The Rules in one area forbid the lawyer from asking the client to
     agree to incompetent representation. Rule 1.2, Comment 5.
       However, later the Rules make clear that, if other law permits,
     the lawyer may make an agreement “prospectively limiting the
     lawyer’s liability to a client for malpractice” if the client “is
     independently represented in making the agreement…” Rule 1.8(h).
 
     DILIGENCE (RULE 1.3)
 
     Shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness.
 
     Comment:
       [1] Discretion in determining means by which matter is pursued;
     Lawyer need not press for every advantage.
       [2] No procrastination (i.e., overlook statute if limitations).
       [3] Unless relationship terminated (Rule 1.16), lawyer should
     carry through to conclusion all matters undertaken for a client.
 
     CONFIDENTIALITY (RULE 1.6)
 
       (a) Absent consent of client, must not reveal information
     pertaining to client, except that impliedly necessary to carry out
     representation.
       (b) May reveal to extent believes reasonably necessary to:
         (1) prevent criminal act he believes likely to result in
     imminent death or substantial bodily harm.
         (2) to establish claim or defense for controversy with
     client; to defend civil claim or criminal charge against lawyer
     for client-based conduct.
 
     Comment:
       [4] Rule encourages full and frank communication;
[9] Public is better protected if full and open communication encouraged.
       [8] Lawyers in firm, in course of practice may disclose
     confidences unless client instructs otherwise.
       [10] May not assist or counsel in criminal or fraudulent
     conduct; If services so used, lawyer must withdraw (Rule
     1.16(a)(1)).
       [13 & 17] Any necessary disclosure no greater than lawyer
     believes reasonably necessary.
       [21] Duty of confidentiality continues after relationship
     terminated.
 
     -EXCEPTIONS: if client consents, when other provisions in the
     Rules permit disclosure (see Rule

to possess file;
         (4) consent presumed of silence.
 
     If no actual notice possible, court order required. In camera
     disclosure okay to extent necessary to obtain authorization.
 
       (d) fees shall not increase due to sale, but new lawyer may
     require client to pay fees not exceeding pre-sale feed for
     substantially similar services.
 
     Comment:
       [1] Practice of law profession; clients are not mere
     commodities that can be purchased and sold.
       [2] return to private practice after unanticipated change in
     circumstances not a violation.
       [4] Some states so large move from tantamount to leaving
     jurisdiction.
       [5] Single purchaser requirement protects clients with less
     lucrative matters who might find it hard to secure their counsel.
 
     ATTORNEY AS WITNESS (RULE 3.7)
 
     (a) Can’t be advocate if likely to be witness, except if:
         (1) uncontested issue;
         (2) about nature and value of legal services rendered;
         (3) disqualification = substantial hardship for client.
     (b) Okay to be advocate where another firm lawyer likely to be
          witness unless precluded by rules 1.7 or 1.9.