| by Heather Duncan, Esq.On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued an order approving a new set of Rules of Professional Conduct for California lawyers, effective November 1, 2018.
On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued an order approving a new set of Rules of Professional Conduct for California lawyers, effective November 1, 2018. The new rules represent the first comprehensive overhaul of California’s ethics rules since 1989 and are meant to be a clear and enforceable set of disciplinary standards.
California joins the rest of the country by adopting a numbering and organizational system based on the ABA Model Rules. Even so, many of the new rules are distinctly different from the Model Rules. The full set of rules can be found at: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rules-of-Professional-Conduct.pdf
Below are some highlights:
- Reasonable diligence has become an independent rule. Reasonable diligence means commitment and dedication to the client’s interests, and not acting with disregard, neglect or undue delay. Rule 1.3
- Fees. California retains the unconscionability standard for fees, rejecting the Model Rules unreasonable standard. Rule 1.5
- Confidentiality. There are no changes to California’s duty of confidentiality which remains the strictest in the nation. Rule 1.6
- Conflicts of interest rules are broader and less case-specific. The new rule adopts the Model Rule’s test: whether there is a direct adversity to another current client in the same or separate matter, or whether there is a significant risk that the lawyer’s representation of the client will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to or relationship with another client, a former client or a third person, or by the lawyer’s own interests. Rule 1.7
- In most cases lawyers cannot have sexual relations with their clients. The former rule prohibited lawyers from having sex with clients if the act was coerced or considered a form of payment for services rendered. The new rules forbids lawyer-client sex unless there was a previous consensual relationship. Rule 1.8.10.
- Supervising attorneys now have an expanded duty to supervise subordinates. Subordinates have a duty to comply with the rules. Rules 5.1 and 5.3
- Prohibitions on harassment, discrimination and retaliation by lawyers both in the workplace and in the practice of law have been expanded. The state bar can now open an investigation into alleged harassment or discrimination without a triggering finding by another agency. The rule requires “all law firm lawyers the responsibility to advocate corrective action to address known harassing or discriminatory conduct by the firm or any of its lawyers or nonlawyer personnel” Rule 8.4.1