The State Bar seeks public comment on a proposed ethics opinion regarding seeking advice about current clients.
Deadline: 5 p.m., June 18, 2018
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0005 (Seeking Advice About Current Clients)
The State Bar 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 5.1, Article 2, Section 6(g) of the State Bar Board Book, the Committee shall publish proposed formal opinions for public comment.
Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12‑0005 considers: What ethical obligations arise when lawyers in a law firm consult with outside counsel concerning matters related to the firm’s representation of a current client, such as the lawyer’s ethical compliance or a possible error by the law firm, and do those ethical obligations change if the lawyer consulted is a member of the same law firm as the consulting lawyer and serves as law firm in-house counsel?
The opinion interprets rules 3-300, 3-310 and 3-500 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California; and Business and Professions Code section 6068(m).
The opinion digest states:
Attorneys at times may seek legal advice concerning their ethical and other obligations to clients, advice that may be provided by, among others, outside counsel or a lawyer within the law firm serving as law firm in-house counsel. The act of seeking legal advice concerning ethical obligations owed to a client by itself does not create a conflict with the client. Once a lawyer becomes aware that he or she has committed an error that could prejudice the client, the lawyer ethically may seek legal advice concerning obligations to the client and options available, but must comply with the rules governing disclosure to clients and conflicts. The lawyer’s ethical obligations in that situation do not vary whether he or she seeks legal advice from a lawyer outside the firm or law firm in-house counsel.
At its August 25, 2017 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. 12‑0005 for a 90‑day public comment distribution. Subsequently, at its April 7, 2018 meeting, COPRAC revised the opinion in response to public comments received and, in further accordance with its Rules of Procedure, tentatively approved Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0005 for an additional 60-day public comment distribution.
State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct
Proposed Ethics Opinion: 12-0005 Law Firm In-House Counsel
5 p.m., June 18, 2018
Written comments may be sent to:
Office of Professional Competence, Planning and Development
State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639