PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be, construed as a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.
The State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) is charged with the task of issuing advisory opinions on the ethical propriety of hypothetical attorney conduct. In accordance with Tab 19, Article 2, Section 6(g) (as modified by Tab 12, Title 1, Division 2, Rule 1.10) of the State Bar Board Book, the Committee shall publish proposed formal opinions for public comment.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 11-0003 considers: Upon the dissolution of a law firm, what duties does an attorney affiliated with the firm owe to a client on whose behalf he or she provided legal services if the attorney no longer will be representing the client following dissolution? How does the fulfillment of those duties differ if the attorney had no connection with or knowledge of the client prior to dissolution of the firm? Do the steps an attorney may be required to take depend on the nature of the attorney’s position with the firm?
The opinion interprets rules 3-110, 3-500, and 3-700 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California.
The opinion digest states: Rule 3-700(A)(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, provides that a member may not withdraw from the representation of a client until the member has taken reasonable steps to avoid reasonably foreseeable prejudice to the rights of the client. The requirements of rule 3-700(A)(2) apply when an attorney’s withdrawal is prompted by the dissolution of the attorney’s law firm. In the event of dissolution, all attorneys who are employed by or partners of a firm are required to comply with rule 3-700(A)(2) as to all clients of the firm, regardless of their connection to any specific client or the specific nature of their affiliation with the firm. What “reasonable steps” an attorney must take to protect a particular client’s rights may vary considerably, however, depending on the circumstances, including the attorney’s relationship to the client and its matter and the attorney’s position within the firm.
At its Oct. 11, 2012 meeting and in accordance with its Rules of Procedure, the State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct tentatively approved Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 11 0003 for a 90 day public comment distribution. Subsequently, at its Dec. 6, 2013 meeting, COPRAC revised the opinion in response to the public comments received and, in further accordance with its Rules of Procedure, tentatively approved Formal Opinion Interim No. 11-0003 for an additional 60-day public comment distribution.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 11-0003
State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct
5 p.m., Feb. 14, 2014
Office of Professional Competence, Planning and Development
State Bar of California
180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639