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Arizona 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.

ER 7.1 Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

(a) A communication is false or misleading if it 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) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless the lawyer complies with Arizona Supreme Court Rule 44 requirements.

(c) Any communication made pursuant to this Rule shall include the name and contact information for at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

Comment

[1] Misleading truthful statements are prohibited by this Rule. A truthful statement is misleading if it omits a fact necessary to make the lawyer’s communication considered as a whole not materially misleading. A truthful statement is also misleading if there is a substantial likelihood that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services for which there is no reasonable factual foundation. A truthful statement also is misleading if presented in a way that creates a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person would believe the lawyer’s communication requires that person to take further action when, in fact, no action is required.

[2] A communication that truthfully reports a lawyer’s achievements on behalf of clients or former clients may be misleading if presented so as to lead a reasonable person to form an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case. Similarly, an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s services or fees with the services or fees of other lawyers may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. The inclusion of a clear and conspicuous disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.

[3] It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. ER 8.4(c). See also ER 8.4(e) for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

Firm Names

[4] Firm names, letterhead and professional designations are communications concerning a lawyer’s services. A firm may be designated by the names of all or some of its current members, by the names of deceased members where there has been a succession in the firm’s identity or by a trade name if it is not false or misleading. A firm name cannot include the name of a lawyer who is disbarred or on disability inactive status because to continue to use a disbarred lawyer’s name is misleading. A lawyer or law firm may be designated by a distinctive website address, social media username or comparable professional designation that is not misleading. A law firm name or designation is misleading if it implies a connection with a government agency, with a deceased lawyer who was not a former member of the firm, with a lawyer not associated with the firm or a predecessor firm, with a nonlawyer or with a public or charitable legal services organization. If a firm uses a trade name that includes a geographical name such as “Springfield Legal Clinic,” an express statement explaining that it is not a public legal aid organization may be required to avoid a misleading implication.

[5] A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction. Lawyers may not imply or hold themselves out as practicing together in one firm when they are not a firm, as defined in Rule 1.0(c), because to do so would be false and misleading. It is misleading to use the name of a lawyer holding a public office in the name of a law firm, or in communications on the law firm’s behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

[6] Paragraph (b) of this Rule permits a lawyer to communicate that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular areas of law. A lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer “concentrates in” or is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” particular fields based on the lawyer’s experience, specialized training or education, but such communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in this Rule to communications concerning a lawyer’s services.

Certified Specialists

[7] The Patent and Trademark Office has a long-established policy of designating lawyers practicing before the Office. The designation of Admiralty practice also has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts. A lawyer’s communications about these practice areas are not prohibited by this Rule.

[8] This Rule permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization approved by an appropriate authority of a state, the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory or accredited by the American Bar Association or another organization, such as a state supreme court or a state bar association, that has been approved by the authority of the state, the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory to accredit organizations that certify lawyers as specialists. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge and proficiency to ensure that a lawyer’s recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. To ensure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification.

Required Contact Information

[9] This Rule requires that any communication about a lawyer or law firm’s services include the name of, and contact information for, the lawyer or law firm. Contact information includes a website address, a telephone number, an email address or a physical office location.

ER 7.2 [Reserved]

ER 7.3 Solicitation of Clients

(a) “Solicitation” or “solicit” denotes a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or firm that is directed to a specific person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know needs legal services in a particular matter and that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services for that matter.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by live person-to-person when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s or firm’s pecuniary gain, unless the contact is with a:

(1) lawyer; or

(2) person who has a family, close personal, or prior business or professional relationship with the lawyer or firm; or

(3) person who routinely uses for business purposes the type of legal services offered by the lawyer.

(c) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment or knowingly permit solicitation on the lawyer’s behalf even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (b), if:

(1) the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.

(d) This Rule does not prohibit communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or other tribunal.

(e) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in this Rule, a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the (a) “Solicitation” or “solicit” denotes a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or firm that is directed to a specific person the lawyer knows or reasonably should know needs legal services in a particular matter and that offers to provide, or reasonably can be understood as offering to provide, legal services for that matter.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by live person-to-person when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s or firm’s pecuniary gain, unless the contact is with a:

(1) lawyer; or

(2) person who has a family, close personal, or prior business or professional relationship with the lawyer or firm; or

(3) person who routinely uses for business purposes the type of legal services offered by the lawyer.

(c) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment or knowingly permit solicitation on the lawyer’s behalf even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (b), if:

(1) the target of the solicitation has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer; or

(2) the solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.

(d) This Rule does not prohibit communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or other tribunal.

(e) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in this Rule, a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the

Comment

[1] A lawyer’s communication is not a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to electronic searches.

[2] “Live person-to-person contact” means in-person, face-to-face, live telephone and other real-time visual or auditory person-to-person communications, where the person is subject to a direct personal encounter without time for reflection. Such person-to-person contact does not include chat rooms, text messages, or other written communications that recipients may easily disregard. A potential for overreaching exists when a lawyer seeking pecuniary gain solicits a person known to be in need of legal services. This form of contact subjects a person to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The person, who may already feel overwhelmed by the circumstances giving rise to the need for legal services, may find it difficult fully to evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence upon an immediate response. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching.

[3] The potential for overreaching inherent in live person-to-person contact justifies its prohibition, since lawyers have alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. In particular, communications can be mailed or transmitted by email or other electronic means that do not violate other laws. Those forms of communications make it possible for the public to be informed about the need for legal services, and about the qualifications of available lawyers and law firms, without subjecting the public to live person-to-person persuasion that may overwhelm the person’s judgment.

[4] The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under ER 7.2 can be permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed. This potential for informal review is itself likely to help guard against statements and claims that might constitute false and misleading communications, in violation of ER 7.1. The contents of live person-to-person contact can be disputed and may not be subject to third-party scrutiny. Consequently, they are much more likely to approach (and occasionally cross) the dividing line between accurate representations and those that are false and misleading.

[5] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in overreaching against a former client or a person with whom the lawyer has a close personal, or family, business or professional relationship, or in situations in which the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Nor is there a serious potential for abuse overreaching when the person contacted is a lawyer or is known to routinely use the type of legal services involved for business purposes. Examples include persons who routinely hire outside counsel to represent the entity; entrepreneurs who regularly engage business, employment law or intellectual property lawyers; small business proprietors who routinely hire lawyers for lease or contract issues; and other people who routinely retain lawyers for business transactions or formations. Paragraph (b) is not intended to prohibit a lawyer from participating in constitutionally protected activities of public or charitable legal-service organizations or bona fide political, social, civic, fraternal, employee or trade organizations whose purposes include providing or recommending legal services to its their members or beneficiaries.

[6] A solicitation that contains false or misleading information within the meaning of ER 7.1, that involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of ER 7.3(b c)(2), or that involves contact with someone who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of ER 7.3(b c)(1) is prohibited. Live, person-to-person contact of individuals who may be especially vulnerable to coercion or duress ordinarily is not appropriate, including, for example, the elderly, disabled, or those whose first language is not English.

[7] This Rule does not prohibit a lawyer from contacting representatives of organizations or groups that may be interested in establishing a group or prepaid legal plan for their 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 which the lawyer or lawyer’s firm is willing to offer. This form of communication is not directed to people who are seeking legal services for themselves. 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.

ER 7.4. [Reserved]

ER 7.5. [Reserved]

Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted or required by paragraphs (b), (c) or (d), or ER 3.3(a)(3).

(b) A lawyer shall reveal such information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent the client from committing a criminal act that the lawyer believes is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm.

(c) A lawyer may reveal the intention of the lawyer’s client to commit a crime and the information necessary to prevent the crime.

(d) A lawyer may reveal such information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(1) to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services;

(2) to mitigate or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client’s commission of a crime or fraud in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services;

(3) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;

(4) 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; or

(5) to comply with other law or a final order of a court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction directing the lawyer to disclose such information.

(6) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.

(7) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.

(e) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

Comment

[1] This Rule governs the disclosure by a lawyer of information relating to the representation of a client during the lawyer’s representation of the client. See ER 1.18 for the lawyer’s duties with respect to information provided to the lawyer by a prospective client, ER 1.9(c)(2) for the lawyer’s duty not to reveal information relating to the lawyer’s prior representation of a former client and ERs 1.8(b) and 1.9(c)(1) for the lawyer’s duties with respect to the use of such information to the disadvantage of clients and former clients.

[2] A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that, in the absence of the client’s informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. See ER 1.0(e) for the definition of informed consent. This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. The public is better protected if full and open communication by the client is encouraged than if it is inhibited. The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter. The lawyer needs this information to represent the client effectively and, if necessary, to advise the client to refrain from wrongful conduct. Almost without exception, clients come to lawyers in order to determine their rights and what is, in the complex of laws and regulations, deemed to be legal and correct. Based upon experience, lawyers know that almost all clients follow the advice given, and the law is upheld.

[3] The principle of client-lawyer confidentiality is given effect by related bodies of law: the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, and the rule of confidentiality established in professional ethics. The attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine apply 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 also applies in such situations where evidence is sought from the lawyer through compulsion of law. The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only 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.

[4] Paragraph (a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information relating to the representation of a client. This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information by a third person. A lawyer’s use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved.

Authorized Disclosure

[5] Except to the extent that the client’s instructions or special circumstances limit that authority, a lawyer is impliedly authorized to make disclosures about a client when appropriate in carrying out the representation some situations, for example, a lawyer may be impliedly authorized to admit a fact that cannot properly be disputed or, to make a disclosure that facilitates a satisfactory conclusion to a matter. 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.

[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.

Disclosure Adverse to Client

[7] Although the public interest is usually best served by a strict rule requiring lawyers to preserve the confidentiality of information relating to the representation of their clients, the confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. Paragraph (b) recognizes the overriding value of life and physical integrity, and requires the lawyer to make a disclosure in order to prevent homicide or serious bodily injury that the lawyer reasonably believes is intended by a client. In addition, under paragraph (c), the lawyer has discretion to make a disclosure of the client’s intention to commit a crime and the information necessary to prevent it. It is very difficult for a lawyer to “know” when such unlawful purposes will actually be carried out, for the client may have a change of mind.

[8] Paragraph (c) permits the lawyer to reveal the intention of the lawyer’s client to commit a crime and the information necessary to prevent the crime. Paragraph (c) does not require the lawyer to reveal the intention of a client to commit wrongful conduct, but the lawyer may not counsel or assist a client in conduct the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent. See ER 1.2(d); see also ER 1.16 with respect to the lawyer’s obligation or right to withdraw from the representation from the client in such circumstances. 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 ER 1.13(b).

[9] The range of situations where disclosure is permitted by paragraph (d)(1) of the Rule is both broader and narrower than those encompassed by paragraph (c). Paragraph (c) permits disclosure only of a client’s intent to commit a future crime, but is not limited to instances where the client seeks to use the lawyer’s services in doing so. Paragraph (d)(1), on the other hand, applies to both crimes and frauds on the part of the client, and applies to both on-going conduct as well as that contemplated for the future. The instances in which paragraph (d)(1) would permit disclosure, however, are limited to those where the lawyer’s services are or were involved, and where the resulting injury is to the financial interests or property of others. In addition to this Rule, a lawyer has a duty under ER 3.3 not to use false evidence.

[10] Paragraph (d)(2) addresses the situation in which the lawyer does not learn of the client’s crime or fraud until after it has been consummated. Although the client no longer has the option of preventing disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct, there will be situations in which the loss suffered by the affected person can be rectified or mitigated. In such situations, the lawyer may disclose information relating to the representation to the extent necessary to enable the affected persons to mitigate reasonably certain losses or to attempt to recoup their losses. Paragraph (d)(2) does not apply when a person who has committed a crime or fraud thereafter employs a lawyer for representation concerning that offense.

[11] A lawyer’s confidentiality obligations do not preclude a lawyer from securing confidential legal advice about the lawyer’s personal responsibility to comply with these Rules. In most situations, disclosing information to secure such advice will be impliedly authorized for the lawyer to carry out the representation. Even when the disclosure is not impliedly authorized, paragraph (d)(3) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer’s compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

[12] 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. Such a charge can arise in a civil, criminal, disciplinary or other 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. The lawyer’s right to respond arises when an assertion of such complicity has been made. Paragraph (d)(4) 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 also applies, of course, where a proceeding has been commenced.

[13] A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (d)(4) 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.

[14] Other law may require that a lawyer disclose information about a client. Whether such a law supersedes ER 1.6 is a question of law beyond the scope of these Rules. When disclosure of information relating to the representation appears to be required by other law, the lawyer must discuss the matter with the client to the extent required by ER 1.4. If, however, the other law supersedes this Rule and requires disclosure, paragraph (d)(5) permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.

[15] Paragraph (d)(5) also permits compliance with a court order requiring a lawyer to disclose information relating to a client’s representation. If a lawyer is called as a witness to give testimony concerning a client or is otherwise ordered to reveal information relating to the client’s representation, however, the lawyer must, absent informed consent of the client to do otherwise and except for permissive disclosure under paragraphs (c) or (d), assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the information sought is protected against disclosure by this Rule, the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, or other applicable law. In the event of an adverse ruling, the lawyer must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal. See ER 1.4. Unless review is sought, however, paragraph (d)(5) permits the lawyer to comply with the court’s order.

[16] In situations not covered by the mandatory disclosure requirements of paragraph (b), paragraph (d)(6) permits discretionary disclosure when the lawyer reasonably believes disclosure is necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.

[17] Paragraph (d)(7) recognizes that lawyers in different firms may need to disclose limited information to each other to detect and resolve conflicts of interest, such as when a lawyer is considering an association with another firm, two or more firms are considering a merger, or a lawyer is considering the purchase of a law practice. See ER 1.17, Comment [7]. Under these circumstances, lawyers and law firms are permitted to disclose limited information, but only when there is a reasonable possibility that a new relationship might be established. Any such disclosure should ordinarily include no more than the identity of the persons and entities involved in a matter, a brief summary of the general issues involved, and information about whether the matter has terminated. Even this limited information, however, should be disclosed only to the extent reasonably necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest that might arise from the possible new relationship. Moreover, the disclosure of any information is prohibited if it would compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client (e.g., the fact that a corporate client is seeking advice on a corporate takeover that has not been publicly announced; that a person has consulted a lawyer about the possibility of divorce before the person’s intentions are known to the person’s spouse; or that a person has consulted a lawyer about a criminal investigation that has not led to a public charge). Under those circumstances, paragraph (a) prohibits disclosure unless the client or former client gives informed consent. A lawyer’s fiduciary duty to the lawyer’s firm may also govern a lawyer’s conduct when exploring an association with another firm and is beyond the scope of these ERs.

[18] Any information disclosed pursuant to paragraph (d)(7) may be used or further disclosed only to the extent necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. Paragraph (d)(7) does not restrict the use of information acquired by means independent of any disclosure pursuant to paragraph (d)(7). Paragraph (d)(7) also does not affect the disclosure of information within a law firm when the disclosure is otherwise authorized, see Comment [5], such as when a lawyer in a firm discloses information to another lawyer in the same firm to detect and resolve conflicts of interest that could arise in connection with undertaking a new representation.

[19] Paragraph (d) permits disclosure only to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to accomplish one of the purposes specified. Where practicable, the lawyer should first seek to persuade the client to take suitable action to obviate the need for disclosure. In any case, a disclosure adverse to the client’s interest should be no greater than the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to accomplish the purpose. If the disclosure will be made in connection with a judicial proceeding, the disclosure should be made in a manner that 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] Paragrach (d) permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation to accomplish the purposes specified in paragraphs (d)(1) through (d)(5). In exercising the discretion conferred by this Rule, the lawyer may consider 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. A lawyer’s decision not to disclose as permitted by paragraph (d) does not violate this Rule. Disclosure may be required, however, by other Rules. Some Rules require disclosure only if such disclosure would be permitted by this Rule. See ERs1.2(d), 4.1(b), 8.1 and 8.3. ER 3.3, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this Rule. See ER 3.3(b).

Withdrawal

[21] 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 ER 1.16(a)(1). After withdrawal the lawyer is required to refrain from making disclosure of the client’s confidences, except as otherwise provided in ER 1.6. Neither this Rule nor ER 1.8(b) nor ER 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.

Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality

[22] Paragraph (e) requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. See ERs 1.1, 5.1 and 5.3. The unauthorized access to, or the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, information relating to the representation of a client does not constitute a violation of paragraph (e) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use). A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this ER or may give informed consent to forgo security measures that would otherwise be required by this ER. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps to safeguard a client’s information in order to comply with other law, such as state and federal laws that govern data privacy or that impose notification requirements upon the loss of, or unauthorized access to, electronic information, is beyond the scope of these ERs. For a lawyer’s duties when sharing information with nonlawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm, see ER 5.3, Comments [3]–[4].

[23] When transmitting a communication that includes information relating to the representation of a client, the lawyer must take reasonable precautions to prevent the information from coming into the hands of unintended recipients. This duty, however, does not require that the lawyer use special security measures if the method of communication affords a reasonable expectation of privacy. Special circumstances, however, may warrant special precautions. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s expectation of confidentiality include the sensitivity of the information and the extent to which the privacy of the communication is protected by law or by a confidentiality agreement. A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this ER or may give informed consent to the use of a means of communication that would otherwise be prohibited by this ER. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps in order to comply with other law, such as state and federal laws that govern data privacy, is beyond the scope of these ERs.

Former Client

[24] The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated. See ER 1.9(c)(2). See ER 1.9(c)(1) for the prohibition against using such information to the disadvantage of the former 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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