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Professional Responsibility
University of Baltimore School of Law
Gilligan, Michele

PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OUTLINE
 
Introduction
 
I. Violations of Ethical Rules
                A. If a rule is broken, it may be professional malpractice
                B. However, a violation of an ethical rule does NOT mean per se, that ethical malpractice exists
                                1. it is evidence towards proving a case for professional malpractice
 
                C. Violating a rule can lead to disciplinary action
                                1. grievance committee
                                                a. complaints can by filed by a judge, client, another atty
                                2. discipline can be:
                                                a. disbarment
                                                b. probation
                                                c. reprimand on file
                                                d. censure
 
                D. Attys are self-governing
                                1. legislatures cannot regulate attys (but see recent ambulance-chasing statute)
                                2. courts have not allowed legislature to regulate attys — only courts and atty can do this
                                                a. probably due to $, boys network, ability to lobby
 
                E. What is a profession?
                                1. learned profession
                                2. officers of the court
                                3. organization
                                4. public service
                                5. $ is incidental (doesn’t have to be a money-making calling)
                                6. character
                                7. Pounds’ definition         
                                                a. organization
                                                b. learning (pursuit of a learned art)
                                                c. spirit of public service
 
Attorney-Client Relationship
 
II. Attorney/Client Relationship – Scope & Competence
                A. They are fiduciary relationships and require the highest duty of good faith
                                1. other examples of fiduciary relationships
                                                a. trustee
                                                b. power of atty
                                2. must act in the best interest of your client (but some exceptions do exist)
 
                B. Togstad v Miller
                                1. Atty claimed there was no a/c relationship; claimed that any error in not mentioning
                                SOL was only an error in judgment and therefore not subject to malpractice suit
                                2. need to know whether an A/C relationship is established b/c that is when the rules
                                apply
 
                C. A/C obligations apply even in an informational interview
                                1. In an informational interview:
                                                a. confidentiality under R 1.6 applies
                                                b. must communicate certain things to the client (i.e. SOL…) under the duty of
                                                communication
 
                D. Determining the existence of an a/c relationship
                                1. If a reasonable client thinks the atty is his atty, there is an a/c relationship
                                                a. subjective view — what does the client think?
                                2. a writing is not necessarily needed to establish the relationship
                                                a. can have a verbal agreement to represent
                                3. $ does not have to be exchanged
                                4. Atty does not have to meet the client for a relationship to exist
                                                a. In Togstad, Mr. & Mrs. Togstad were represented, even though atty never                                                       met Mr. Togstad
                                5. Relationship is terminated when the client believes it is terminated
 
                E. Attys can split representation of different matters between other atty
                                1. this falls under R 1.2 – Scope of Representation
                                2. Be sure to define the scope of the relationship
                                                a. may be necessary to put your duties for the client in writing
 
                F. Rule 1.1 – Competence
                                1. Lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.
                                                a. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness
                                                and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation
                                2. In many cases, the required proficiency is only that of a general practitioner;
                                however, certain cases require expertise in a certain field
                                                a. You can eliminate the competence problem by associating with another atty
                                                of established competence in the area of your case
                                                b. When being appointed to represent someone, the atty can accept
                                                representation if the necessary level of competence can be achieved by
                                                reasonable preparation
                                3. Can you competently represent the client?
                                                a. can’t represent someone if you don’t know a lot about a specialized field
 
                G. Rule 1.2 – Scope of representation
                                1. Lawyer shall abide by the client’s decisions concerning representation and when
                                appropriate, shall consult with the client as to the way to handle the case
                                2. Lawyer must accept client’s decision to accept a settlement offer or plea bargain
                                3. Atty may limit scope of representation after consultation with the client
                                4. Atty cannot counsel or assist a client in conduct the atty knows is fraudulent or
                                criminal, but he may discuss the legal consequences of any contemplated course of
                                conduct or help the client make a decision
                                5. Comment
                                                a. atty is not required to do things just b/c the client wants them to; should be a
                                                joint effort btwn atty and client
                                                b. atty should take responsibility for the technical and legal but should defer to
                                                the client for expenses and 3d parties
                                                c. atty is required to give an honest opinion about the consequences likely to
                                                result from the client’s conduct, but may not knowingly assist a client in
                                                criminal conduct
 
                H. Rule 1.3 – Diligence
                                1. Atty must act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client
                                2. Once you accept the case, you must proceed diligently (do you have time?)
                                               
                I. Rule 1.4 – Communication
                                1. Atty must keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the case and
                                promptly reply to requests for information (i.e. return calls)
                                2. Atty must explain the case to the extent reasonably necessary to allow the client to
                                make informed decisions about the representation
                                3. Comment
                                                a. settlement or plea offers must be communicated promptly
                                                b. in some cases, the atty may be justified in withholding info from the client if
                                                the client is likely to react badly, but he may not withhold info at his own
                                                convenience
 
                J. If a client comes to you, you must mention:
                                1. A/C relationship            
                                2. scope of representation
                                                a. other potential causes of action
                                                b. likelihood of your referring these to another atty
                                                c. statute of limitations
                                3. merit of the case
                                4. fees and fee structure
                                5. fact investigation
                                6. legal representation
 
                K. If you choose to represent:
                                1. send a letter to client
                                2. define the scope of the issues being represented
                                3. mention the establishment of an a/c relationship   
                                4. fees (put this in writing from the beginning)
                                                a. in MD, only contingent fees need to be in writing
 
III. Confidentiality
                A. Policy behind confidentiality
                                1. want to know facts from client b/c they are the most important part of the case
                                2. encourages open and honest communication
                                3. the rules are reluctant to obligate attys to disclose
                                4. don’t want to stifle fact-finding
                               
                B. 3 Secrecy Concepts
                                1. Rule 1.6
                                2. a/c privilege
                                3. work product doctrine
 
                C. Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information
                                1. Atty cannot reveal info relating to representation of client unless the client consents
                                after consultation or except as otherwise provided
                                2. Atty can reveal client info to the extent reasonably necessary:
                                                a. to prevent client from committing a criminal or fraudulent act the atty
                                                believes is likely to result

pposing counsel shows the
                                                information can’t be obtained any other way)
                                                c. recordings and voice mail
                                5. Foster case
                                                a. WPD applied b/c atty took notes and wrote “confidential” at the top
                                                b. Court held that WPD applies even after death
                                                c. clients tell attys very personal, and not always legal, information
                                                                i. still want that info protected to promote a feeling of safety for the
                                                                client to disclose freely
 
                F. Examples
                                1. Secy writes down phone msg that X saw an ad in the phone book and called in b/c he
                                was in a DD car accident; he says it was his fault, but wants to sue the other driver; can
                                you help him?
                                                a. R 1.6 – protected b/c this is information relating to representation
                                                b. A/C privilege – protected b/c it meets the 5 C’s
                                                c. WPD – protected b/c tangible item created in anticipation of litigation
                                2. Client meets with atty and discusses his case to obtain counsel
                                                a. R 1.6 – protected b/c this is info relating to representation
                                                b. A/C privilege – protected b/c it meets the 5 C’s
                                                c. WPD – conversations are not protected; must be a tangible thing; this is not
                                                protected unless the atty took notes during the meeting
                                3. Atty speaks with a W about his client’s case and took notes
                                                a. R 1.6 – protected b/c it relates to representation
                                                b. A/C privilege – not protected b/c it does not meet the 5 C’s (this is not a
                                                client communicating)
                                                c. WPD – notes are protected but the conversation is not; notes were mental
                                                impressions of the atty prepared in anticipation of litigation
                                               
VI. Confidentiality – Organization as a Client
                A. Rule 1.13 – Organization as a Client
                                1. An atty employed or retained by an organization represents the organization
                                2. If the atty knows that an officer, ee or other person associated with the org is engaged
                                in action, intends to act or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation of the
                                organization that is a violation of a legal obligation to the org, and is likely to result in
                                substantial injury to the org, the atty may proceed as is reasonably necessary in the
                                org’s best interest
                                                a. factors to consider in determining how to proceed
                                                                i. seriousness of the violation
                                                                ii. scope and nature of atty’s representation
                                                                iii. responsibility and motivation of the person involved
                                                                iv. any other relevant considerations
                                3. Measures may include
                                                a. internal disclosure
                                                b. asking reconsideration of the matter
                                                c. another legal opinion
                                                d. referral to a higher person in the org
                                4. If the org’s highest authority insists on the violation, the atty can: