Alabama Ethics Rules

All 50 states govern lawyer advertising through their Rules of Professional Conduct, often known as “ethics rules.” The rules in each state are unique to that state. Therefore, it is imperative that lawyers familiarize themselves with the rules of the states that govern their conduct.

Rule 7.1 – Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

A lawyer shall not make or cause to be made a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it:

(a) Contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading;

(b) Is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;

(c) Compares the quality of the lawyer’s services with the quality of other lawyers’ services, except as provided in Rule 7.4; or

(d) communicated the certification of the lawyer by a certifying organization, except as provided in Rule 7.4.

[Amended eff. 8-23-2000.]


[1] This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them should be truthful. The prohibition in paragraph (b) of statements that may create “unjustified expectations” would ordinarily preclude advertisements about results obtained on behalf of a client, such as the amount of a damage award or the lawyer’s record in obtaining favorable verdicts, and advertisements containing client endorsements. Such information may create the unjustified expectation that similar results can be obtained for others without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.1 is a direct counterpart to Temporary DR 2-101, which was substantially adopted from Model Rule 7.1.

Note from the reporter of decisions: The order amending Rule 7.1, effective immediately, is published in that volume of Alabama Reporter that contains Alabama cases from 763 So.2d.

Rule 7.2 – Advertising

A lawyer who advertises concerning legal services shall comply with the following:

(a) Subject to the requirements of Rule 7.1, a lawyer may advertise services through public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, outdoor displays, radio, television, or written communication not involving solicitation as defined in Rule 7.3.

(b) A true copy or recording of any such advertisement shall be delivered or mailed to the office of the general counsel of the Alabama State Bar at its then current headquarters within three (3) days after the date on which any such advertisement is first disseminated; the contemplated duration thereof and the identity of the publisher or broadcaster of such advertisement, either within the advertisement or by separate communication accompanying said advertisement, shall be stated. Also, a copy or recording of any such advertisement shall be kept by the lawyer responsible for its content, as provided hereinafter by Rule 7.2(d), for six (6) years after its last dissemination.

(c) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services, except that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost of any advertisement or written communication permitted by this rule and may pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service.

(d) Any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name of at least one lawyer responsible for its content.

(e) No communication concerning a lawyer’s services shall be published or broadcast, unless it contains the following language, which shall be clearly legible or audible, as the case may be: “No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

(f) If fees are stated in the advertisement, the lawyer or law firm advertising must perform the advertised services at the advertised fee, and the failure of the lawyer and/or law firm advertising to perform an advertised service at the advertised fee shall be prima facie evidence of misleading advertising and deceptive practices. The lawyer or law firm advertising shall be bound to perform the advertised services for the advertised fee and expenses for a period of not less than sixty (60) days following the date of the last publication or broadcast.


[1] To assist the public in obtaining legal services, lawyers should be allowed to make known their services not only through reputation but also through organized information campaigns in the form of advertising. Advertising involves an active quest for clients, contrary to the tradition that a lawyer should not seek clientele. However, the public’s need to know about legal services can be fulfilled in part through advertising. This need is particularly acute in the case of persons of moderate means who have not made extensive use of legal services. The interest in expanding public information about legal services ought to prevail over considerations of tradition. Nevertheless, advertising by lawyers entails the risk of practices that are misleading or overreaching.

[2] This Rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer’s name or firm name, address and telephone number; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer’s fees are determined, including prices for specific services and payment and credit arrangements; a lawyer’s foreign language ability; names of references and, with their consent, names of clients regularly represented; and other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance.

[3] Some jurisdictions have had extensive prohibitions against television advertising, against advertising going beyond specified facts about a lawyer, or against “undignified” advertising. Television is now one of the most powerful media for getting information to the public, particularly persons of low and moderate income; prohibiting television advertising, therefore, would impede the flow of information about legal services to many sectors of the public. Limiting the information that may be advertised has a similar effect and assumes that the bar can accurately forecast the kind of information that the public would regard as relevant.

[4] Neither this Rule nor Rule 7.3 prohibits communications authorized by law, such as notice to members of a class in class action litigation.

Record of Advertising

[5] Paragraph (b) requires that a record of the content and use of advertising be kept in order to facilitate enforcement of this Rule. It does not require that advertising be subject to review prior to dissemination. Such a requirement would be burdensome and expensive relative to its possible benefits, and may be of doubtful constitutionality.

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[6] A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this Rule, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person for channeling professional work. This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer’s services. Thus, a legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in not-for-profit lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary, to prepare communications permitted by this Rule.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.2 is based on Temporary DR 2-102, which was substantially adopted from Model Rule 7.2.

Rule 7.3 – Direct Contact with Prospective Clients

(a) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no familial or current or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. A lawyer shall not permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf. A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for or charge or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile transmission, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes contact by any written form of communication directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b)(2) of this rule.

(b) Written Communication

(1) A lawyer shall not send, or knowingly permit to be sent, on the lawyer’s behalf or on behalf of the lawyer’s firm or on behalf of a partner, an associate, or any other lawyer affiliated with the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm, a written communication to a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining professional employment if:

(i) the written communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of, or otherwise related to, an accident or disaster involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the accident or disaster giving rise to the cause of action occurred more than thirty (30) days prior to the mailing of the communication;

(ii) the written communication concerns a civil proceeding pending in a state or federal court, unless service of process was obtained on the defendant or other potential client more than seven (7) days prior to the mailing of the communication;

(iii) the written communication concerns a criminal proceeding pending in a state or federal court, unless the defendant or other potential client was served with a warrant or information more than seven (7) days prior to the mailing of the communication

(iv) the written communication concerns a specific matter, and the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the person to whom the
communication is directed is represented by a lawyer in the matter;

(v) it has been made known to the lawyer that the person to whom the communication is addressed does not want to receive the communication;

(vi) the communication involves coercion, duress, fraud, overreaching, harassment, intimidation, or undue influence by the lawyer;

(vii) the communication contains a false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or unfair statement or claim or is improper under Rule 7.1; or

(viii) the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the person to whom the communication is addressed is a minor or is incompetent, or that the person’s physical, emotional, or mental state makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.

(2) In addition to the requirements of Rule 7.2, written communications to prospective clients for the purpose of obtaining professional employment are subject to the following requirements:

(i) a sample copy of each written communication and a sample of the envelope to be used in conjunction with the communication, along with a list of the names and addresses of the recipients, shall be filed with the office of general counsel of the Alabama State Bar before or concurrently with the first dissemination of the communication to the prospective client or clients. A copy of the written communication must be retained by the lawyer for six (6) years. If the communication is subsequently sent to additional prospective clients, the lawyer shall file with the office of general counsel of the Alabama State Bar a list of the names and addresses of those clients either before or concurrently with that subsequent dissemination. If the lawyer regularly sends the identical communication to additional prospective clients, the lawyer shall, once a month, file with the office of general counsel a list of the names and addresses of those clients contacted since the previous list was filed;

(ii) written communications mailed to prospective clients shall be sent only by regular mail, and shall not be sent by registered mail or by any other form of restricted delivery or by express mail;

(iii) no reference shall be made either on the envelope or in the written communication that the communication is approved by the Alabama State Bar;

(iv) the written communication shall not resemble a legal pleading, official government form or document (federal or state), or other legal document, and the manner of mailing the written communication shall not make it appear to be an official document;

(v) the word “Advertisement” shall appear prominently in red ink on each page of the written communication, and the word “Advertisement” shall also appear in the lower left-hand corner of the envelope in 14-point or larger type and in red ink. If the communication is a self-mailing brochure or pamphlet, the word “Advertisement” shall appear prominently in red ink on the address panel in 14-point or larger type;

(vi) if a contract for representation is mailed with the written communication, it will be considered a sample contract and the top of each page of the contract shall be marked “SAMPLE.” The word “SAMPLE” shall be in red ink in a type size at least one point larger than the largest type used in the contract. The words “DO NOT SIGN” shall appear on the line provided for the client’s signature;

(vii) the first sentence of the written communication shall state: “If you have already hired or retained a lawyer in connection with [state the general subject matter of the solicitation], please disregard this letter [pamphlet, brochure, or written communication]”;

(viii) if the written communication is prompted by a specific occurrence (e.g., death, recorded judgment, garnishment) the communication shall disclose how the lawyer obtained the information prompting the communication;

(ix) a written communication seeking employment by a specific prospective client in a specific matter shall not reveal on the envelope, or on the outside of a self-mailing brochure or pamphlet, the nature of the client’s legal problem; and

(x) a lawyer who uses a written communication must be able to prove the truthfulness of all the information contained in the written communication.

[Amended eff. 5-1-1996; Amended eff. 2-19-2009.]


[1] There is a potential for abuse inherent in direct solicitation by a lawyer in person or by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile transmission of prospective clients known to need legal services. Direct solicitation subjects the nonlawyer to the private importuning of a trained advocate, in a direct impersonal encounter. A prospective client often feels overwhelmed by the situation giving rise to the need for legal services and may have an impaired capacity for reason, judgment, and protective self-interest. Furthermore, the lawyer seeking to be retained is faced with a conflict stemming from the lawyer’s own interest, which may color the advice and representation offered the vulnerable prospect.

[2] The situation is therefore fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching. This potential for abuse inherent in direct solicitation of prospective clients justifies some restrictions, particularly since the advertising permitted under Rule 7.2 offers an alternative means of communicating necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Advertising makes it possible for a prospective client to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the prospective client to direct personal persuasion that may overwhelm the client’s judgment.

[3] The use of general advertising, rather than direct private contact, to transmit information from lawyer to prospective client will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. Advertising is in the public view and thus subject to scrutiny by those who know the lawyer. This informal review is likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false or misleading communications in violation of Rule 7.1. Direct, private communications from a lawyer to a prospective client are not subject to such third-person scrutiny and consequently are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.

[4] Direct written communication seeking employment by specific prospective clients generally presents less potential for abuse or overreaching than in-person solicitation and is therefore not prohibited for most types of legal matters, but is subject to reasonable restrictions, as set forth in this rule, designed to minimize or preclude abuse and overreaching and to ensure the lawyer’s accountability if abuse should occur. This rule allows targeted mail solicitation of potential plaintiffs or claimants in personal injury and wrongful death causes of action or other causes of action that relate to an accident, disease, death, or injury, but only if the communication is not mailed until thirty (30) days after the incident. This restriction is reasonably required by the sensitized state of the potential clients, who may be either injured or grieving over the loss of a family member, and the abuses that experience has shown can exist in this type of solicitation.

[5] Common examples of written communications that must meet the requirements of subparagraph (b) of this rule are direct mail solicitation sent to individuals or groups selected because they share common characteristics, e.g., persons named in traffic accident reports or notices of foreclosure. Communications not ordinarily sent on an unsolicited basis to prospective clients are not covered by this rule. Also not covered by this rule are responses by lawyers and law firms to requests for information from a prospective client or newsletters or brochures published for clients, former clients, those requesting it, or those with whom the lawyer or law firm has a familial or current or prior professional relationship.

[6] Letters of solicitation and the envelopes in which they are mailed should be clearly marked “Advertisement.” This will avoid the perception by the recipient that there is a need to open the envelope because it is from a lawyer or law firm, when the envelope contains only a solicitation for legal services. With the envelopes and letters clearly marked “Advertisement,” the recipient can choose to read the solicitation or not to read it, without fear of legal repercussions.

[7] In addition, the lawyer or law firm sending the letter of solicitation shall reveal the source of information used to determine that the recipient has a potential legal problem. Disclosure of the source will help the recipient to understand the extent of knowledge the lawyer or law firm has regarding the recipient’s particular situation and will avoid misleading the recipient into believing that the lawyer has particularized knowledge about the recipient’s matter if the lawyer does not.

[8] General mailings to persons not known to need legal services, as well as mailings targeted to specific persons or potential clients, are permitted by this rule. However, these mailings constitute advertisement and are thus subject to the requirements of Rule 7.2 concerning delivery of copies to the general counsel, record keeping, inclusion of a disclaimer, and performance of the services offered at the advertised fee.

[9] This Rule would not prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for its members, insureds, beneficiaries, or other third parties for the purpose of informing such entities of the availability of and details concerning the plan or arrangement that the lawyer or the law firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to a specific prospective client known to need legal services related to a particular matter. Rather, it is usually addressed to an individual acting in a fiduciary capacity seeking a supplier of legal services for others who may, if they choose, become prospective clients of the lawyer. Under these circumstances, the activity which the lawyer undertakes in communicating with such representatives and the type of information transmitted to the individual are functionally similar to and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

There is no comparable rule in the former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility. Rule 7.3, before its amendment effective May 1, 1996, was a direct counterpart to Temporary DR 2-103, which was substantially adopted from Model Rule 7.3. The amendment effective May 1, 1996, changed the rule substantially from what was Temporary DR 2-103.

Note from the reporter of decisions: The order amending Rule 7.3(b)(1), effective February 19, 2009, is published in that volume of Alabama Reporter that contains Alabama cases from 999 So.2d.

Rule 7.4 – Communications of Fields of Practice

A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is a specialist except as follows:

(a) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation “Patent Attorney” or a substantially similar designation;

(b) A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “Admiralty,” “Proctor in Admiralty,” or a substantially similar designation; or

(c) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer has been certified as a specialist in a field of law by a named organization or authority, but only if such certification is granted by an organization previously approved by the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Certification to grant such certifications.

[Amended 8-31-93, eff. 1-1-94.]


[1]This rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s services, for example, in a telephone directory or other advertising. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in such fields, the lawyer is permitted so to indicate. However, stating that the lawyer is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” a particular field is not permitted unless in accordance with rule 7.4(c). These terms have acquired a secondary meaning implying formal recognition as a specialist. Hence, use of these terms may be misleading.

[2] Recognition of specialization in patent matters is a matter of long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office. Designation of admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.

[3] Paragraph (c) provides for certification as a specialist in a field of law where the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization has granted an organization the right to grant certification. Certification procedures imply that an objective entity has recognized a lawyer’s higher degree of specialized ability than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Those objective entities may be expected to apply standards of competence, experience, and knowledge to insure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization or agency must be included in any communication regarding certification.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

Original Rule 7.4 is a direct counterpart to Temporary DR 2-104, which was substantially adopted from original Model Rule 7.4. On August 31, 1993, § (c) of Rule 7.4 was amended in conformity with the August 12, 1992, amendments of Model Rule 7.4 to allow the advertisement of specialists, with the exception that Model Rule 7.4(c)(2) was not adopted. Model Rule 7.4(c)(2) would have allowed the advertisement of a specialty designated by a non-approved organization if the appropriate disclaimer was included. To allow this type of advertisement would cause confusion and would be misleading to the public.

Deletion of “limited to” or “concentrated in” particular fields conforms to the 1989 amendment of Model Rule 7.4 deleting the same language.

Rule 7.4 is a direct counterpart to Temporary DR 2-104, which was substantially adopted from Model Rule 7.4.

Rule 7.5 – Firm Names and Letterheads.

(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead, or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1 or Rule 7.4.

(b) A law firm with offices in another jurisdiction may use in Alabama the name it uses in the other jurisdiction, provided the use of that name would comply with these rules. A firm with any lawyers not licensed to practice in Alabama must, if such lawyer’s name appears on the firm’s letterhead, state that the lawyer is not licensed to practice in Alabama.

(c) A lawyer or law firm may indicate on any letterhead or other communication permitted by these rules other jurisdictions in which the lawyer or the members or associates of the law firm are admitted to practice.

(d) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not practicing with the firm.


[1] A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a continuing succession in the firm’s identity, or by a trade name such as the “ABC Legal Clinic.” Although the United States Supreme Court has held that legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practice, use of such names in law practice is acceptable so long as it is not misleading. If a private firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express disclaimer that it is a public legal aid agency may be required to avoid a misleading implication. It may be observed that any firm name including the name of a deceased partner is, strictly speaking, a trade name. The use of such names to designate law firms has proven a useful means of identification. However, it is misleading to use the name of a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor of the firm.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 7.5 is a direct counterpart to Temporary DR 2-105, which was substantially adopted from Model Rule 7.5. However, Alabama did not adopt the provisions of Model Rule 7.5(d) which expressly prohibited the false implication in advertising that a partnership or organization of lawyers existed.

Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in paragraph (b).

(b) A lawyer may reveal such information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(1) To prevent the client from committing a criminal act that the lawyer believes is likely to result in imminent death or substantial bodily harm; or

(2) To establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.


[1] A lawyer, as an officer of the court and as a part of the judicial system, is charged with upholding the law. One of the lawyer’s functions is to advise clients so that they avoid any violation of the law in the proper exercise of their rights.

[2] The observance of the ethical obligation of a lawyer to hold inviolate confidential information of the client not only facilitates the full development of facts essential to proper representation of the client but also encourages people to seek early legal assistance.

[3] Almost without exception, clients come to lawyers in order to determine what their rights are and what is, in the maze of laws and regulations, deemed to be legal and correct. The common law recognizes that the client’s confidences must be protected from disclosure. Based upon experience, lawyers know that almost all clients follow the advice given, and the law is upheld.

[4] A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that the lawyer maintain confidentiality of information relating to the representation. The client is thereby encouraged to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter.

[5] The principle of confidentiality is given effect in two related bodies of law, the attorney-client privilege (which includes the work product doctrine) in the law of evidence and the rule of confidentiality established in professional ethics. The attorney-client privilege applies in judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or otherwise required to produce evidence concerning a client. The rule of client-lawyer confidentiality applies in situations other than those where evidence is sought from the lawyer through compulsion of law. The confidentiality rule applies not merely to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. See also Scope.

[6] The requirement of maintaining confidentiality of information relating to representation applies to government lawyers who may disagree with the policy goals that their representation is designed to advance.

Authorized Disclosure

[7] A lawyer is impliedly authorized to make disclosures about a client when appropriate in carrying out the representation, except to the extent that the client’s instructions or special circumstances limit that authority. In litigation, for example, a lawyer may disclose information by admitting a fact that cannot properly be disputed, or in negotiation by making a disclosure that facilitates a satisfactory conclusion.

[8] When coverage is or may be disputed, a lawyer representing an insured pursuant to an insurance contract may disclose any information pertinent to the issue of coverage to the insurer as well as to the insured. Although the insurer in such a situation is not the appointed attorney’s client, as opposed to the situation in a normal insurance defense relationship, such disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation. However, the lawyer should avoid disclosing information to the insurer that the lawyer knows would adversely affect insurance coverage for the insured, unless either such disclosure is approved by the insured or the lawyer has assurances that the insurer will not use the information to the insured’s disadvantage.

[9] Lawyers in a firm may, in the course of the firm’s practice, disclose to each other information relating to a client of the firm, unless the client has instructed that particular information be confined to specified lawyers.

Disclosure Adverse to Client

[10] The confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. In becoming privy to information about a client, a lawyer may foresee that the client intends serious harm to another person. However, to the extent a lawyer is required or permitted to disclose a client’s purposes, the client will be inhibited from revealing facts which would enable to lawyer to counsel against a wrongful course of action. The public is better protected if full and open communication by the client is encouraged than if it is inhibited.

[11] Several situations must be distinguished.

[12] First, the lawyer may not counsel or assist a client in conduct that is criminal or fraudulent. See Rule 1.2(d). Similarly, a lawyer has a duty under Rule 3.3(a)(3) not to use false evidence. This duty is essentially a special instance of the duty prescribed in Rule 1.2(d) to avoid assisting a client in criminal or fraudulent conduct.

[13] Second, the lawyer may have been innocently involved in past conduct by the client that was criminal or fraudulent. In such a situation the lawyer has not violated Rule 1.2(d), because to “counsel or assist” criminal or fraudulent conduct requires knowing that the conduct is of that character.

[14] Third, the lawyer may learn that a client intends prospective conduct that is criminal and likely to result in imminent death or substantial bodily harm. As stated in paragraph (b)(1), the lawyer has professional discretion to reveal information in order to prevent such consequences. The lawyer may make a disclosure in order to prevent homicide or serious bodily injury which the lawyer reasonably believes is intended by a client. It is very difficult for a lawyer to “know” when such a heinous purpose will actually be carried out, for the client may have a change of mind.

[15] The lawyer’s exercise of discretion requires consideration of such factors as the nature of the lawyer’s relationship with the client and with those who might be injured by the client, the lawyer’s own involvement in the transaction, and factors that may extenuate the conduct in question. Where practical, the lawyer should seek to persuade the client to take suitable action. In any case, a disclosure adverse to the client’s interest should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to the purpose. A lawyer’s decision not to take preventive action permitted by paragraph (b)(1) does not violate this Rule.


[16] If the lawyer’s services will be used by the client in materially furthering a course of criminal or fraudulent conduct, the lawyer must withdraw, as stated in Rule 1.16(a)(1).

[17] After withdrawal the lawyer is required to refrain from making disclosure of the client’s confidences, except as otherwise provided in Rule 1.6. Neither this Rule nor Rule 1.8(b) nor Rule 1.16(d) prevents the lawyer from giving notice of the fact of withdrawal, and the lawyer may also withdraw or disaffirm any opinion, document, affirmation, or the like.

[18] Where the client is an organization, the lawyer may be in doubt whether contemplated conduct will actually be carried out by the organization. Where necessary to guide conduct in connection with this Rule, the lawyer may make inquiry within the organization as indicated in Rule 1.13(b).

Dispute Concerning Lawyer’s Conduct

[19] Where a legal claim or disciplinary charge alleges complicity of the lawyer in a client’s conduct or other misconduct of the lawyer involving representation of the client, the lawyer may respond to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to establish a defense. The same is true with respect to a claim involving the conduct or representation of a former client. The lawyer’s right to respond arises when an assertion of such complicity has been made. Paragraph (b)(2) does not require the lawyer to await the commencement of an action or proceeding that charges such complicity, so that the defense may be established by responding directly to a third party who has made such an assertion. The right to defend, of course, applies where a proceeding has been commenced. Where practicable and not prejudicial to the lawyer’s ability to establish the defense, the lawyer should advise the client of the third party’s assertion and request that the client respond appropriately. In any event, disclosure should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes is necessary to vindicate innocence, the disclosure should be made in a manner which limits access to the information to the tribunal or other persons having a need to know it, and appropriate protective orders or other arrangements should be sought by the lawyer to the fullest extent practicable.

[20] If the lawyer is charged with wrongdoing in which the client’s conduct is implicated, the rule of confidentiality should not prevent the lawyer from defending against the charge. Such a charge can arise in a civil, criminal or professional disciplinary proceeding, and can be based on a wrong allegedly committed by the lawyer against the client, or on a wrong alleged by a third person, for example, a person claiming to have been defrauded by the lawyer and client acting together. A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (b)(2) to prove the services rendered in an action to collect it. This aspect of the rule expresses the principle that the beneficiary of a fiduciary relationship may not exploit it to the detriment of the fiduciary. As stated above, the lawyer must make every effort practicable to avoid unnecessary disclosure of information relating to a representation, to limit disclosure to those having the need to know it, and to obtain protective orders or make other arrangements minimizing the risk of disclosure.

Disclosures Otherwise Required or Authorized

[21] The attorney-client privilege is differently defined in various jurisdictions. If a lawyer is called as a witness to give testimony concerning a client, absent waiver by the client, paragraph (a) requires the lawyer to invoke the privilege when it is applicable. The lawyer must comply with the final orders of a court or other tribunal of competent jurisdiction requiring the lawyer to give information about the client.

[22] The Rules of Professional Conduct in various circumstances permit or require a lawyer to disclose information relating to the representation. See Rules 2.2, 2.3, 3.3 and 4.1. In addition to these provisions, a lawyer may be obligated or permitted by other provisions of law to give information about a client. Whether another provision of law supersedes Rule 1.6 is a matter of interpretation beyond the scope of these Rules, but a presumption should exist against such a supersession.

Former Client

[23] The duty of confidentiality continues after the client- lawyer relationship has terminated.

Comparison with Former Alabama Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 1.6 eliminates the two-pronged duty under the former Code in favor of a single standard protecting all information about a client “relating to representation.” Under DR 4-101, the requirement applied to information protected by the attorney- client privilege and to information “gained in” the professional relationship that “the client has requested be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would be likely to be detrimental to the client.” EC 4-4 added that the duty differed from the evidentiary privilege in that it existed “without regard to the nature or source of information or the fact that others share the knowledge.” Rule 1.6 imposes confidentiality on information relating to the representation even if it is acquired before or after the relationship existed. It does not require the client to indicate information that is to be confidential, or permit the lawyer to speculate whether particular information might be embarrassing or detrimental.

Paragraph (a) permits a lawyer to disclose information where impliedly authorized to do so in order to carry out the representation.

Paragraph (b) redefines the exceptions to the requirement of confidentiality. Regarding paragraph (b)(1), DR 4-101(C)(5) provided that a lawyer “may reveal [t]he intention of his client to commit a crime and the information necessary to prevent the crime.” This option existed regardless of the seriousness of the proposed crime.

With regard to paragraph (b)(2), DR 4-101(C)(4) provided that a lawyer may reveal “[c]onfidences or secrets necessary to establish or collect his fee or to defend himself or his employers or associates against an accusation of wrongful conduct.” Paragraph (b)(2) enlarges the exception to include disclosure of information relating to claims by the lawyer other than for the lawyer’s fee, for example, recovery of property from the client.

*This information is provided as a convenience to the viewers of this material. Viewers should conduct their own research or rely on the advice of a lawyer before relying on the information here.


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