Hawaii 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) contains a material misrepresentation of factor 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; or

(c) compares the lawyer’s services with other lawyer’s services, unless the comparison can be factually substantiated.


[1] This Rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services,including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2 of these Rules. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them should be truthful.

[2] Truthful statements that are misleading are also 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 not reasonable factual foundation.

[3] An advertisement 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’s would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison can be substantiated. The inclusion of any appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead prospective client.

[4] See also Rule 8.4(e) of these Rules for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to influence a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

Rule 7.2 – Advertising

(a) Subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3 of these Rules, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded, or electronic communication, including public media.

(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may:

(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service or qualified legal assistance organization, which charges, in addition to any referral fee, may include a fee calculated as a percentage of legal fees earned by the lawyer to whom the service or organization has referred a matter, provided that any such percentage fee shall be used only to pay the reasonable operating expenses of the service or organization and to fund public service activities of the service or organization, including the delivery of pro bono legal services; and

(3) pay for the purchase of a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17 of these Rules.

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


[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] Questions of effectiveness and taste in advertising are matters of speculation and subjective judgment. 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. Similarly, electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services, and lawful communication by electronic mail is permitted by this Rule. But see Rule 7.3(a) of these Rules for the prohibition against the solicitation of a prospective client through a real-time electronic exchange that is not initiated by the prospective client.

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

Paying Others to Recommend a Lawyer

[5] Lawyers are not permitted to pay others for channeling professional work. Paragraph (b)(1), however, allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and communications permitted by this Rule, including the costs of print directory listings, on-line directory listings, newspaper ads, television and radio airtime, domain-name registrations, sponsorship fees, banner ads, and group advertising. A lawyer may compensate employees, agents, and vendors who are engaged to provide marketing or client-development services, such as publicists, public-relations personnel, business-development staff, and website designers. See Rule 5.3 of these Rules for the duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers who prepare marketing materials for them.

[6] A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a prepaid legal services plan, not-for-profit lawyer referral service, or qualified legal assistance organization. A prepaid legal service plan is a group legal service plan in which the cost of the services are prepaid by the group member or by some other person or organization on the member’s behalf. It is a plan by which legal services are rendered to individual members of a group identifiable in terms of some common interest and must otherwise satisfy the requirements of Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes Chapter 488. A lawyer may also share legal fees with a not-for-profit lawyer referral service that recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter, as permitted by Rule 5.4(a)(4) of these Rules. See Rule 1.0(h) (Terminology) section for the definition of “Qualified legal assistance organization.”

[7] A lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a legal service plan or referrals from a lawyer referral service must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or service are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. See Rule 5.3 of these Rules. Legal service plans and lawyer referral services may communicate with prospective clients, but such communication must be in conformity with these Rules. Thus, advertising must not be false or misleading, as would be the case if the communications of a group advertising program or a group legal services plan would mislead prospective clients to think that it was a lawyer referral service sponsored by a state agency or bar association. Nor could the lawyer allow in-person telephonic, or real-time contacts that would violate Rule 7.3 of these Rules.

[8] A lawyer also may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional, in return for the undertaking of that person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. Such reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. See Rules 2.1 and 5.4(c) of these Rules. Except as provided in Rule 1.5(e) of these Rules, a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or nonlawyer professional must not pay anything solely for the referral, but the lawyer does not violate paragraph (b) of this Rule by agreeing to refer clients to the other lawyer or nonlawyer professional, so long as the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive and the client is informed of the referral agreement. Conflicts of interest created by such arrangements are governed by Rule 1.7 of these Rules. Reciprocal referral agreements should not be of indefinite duration and should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they comply with these Rules. This Rule does not restrict referrals or divisions of revenues or net income among lawyers within firms comprised of multiple entities.

Rule 7.3 – Direct Contact With Prospective Clients

(a) A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.

(b) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by written, recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a), 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.

(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a lawyer soliciting professional employment from anyone known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in paragraph (a).

(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a), a lawyer may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the lawyer that uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

(e) A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client on the lawyer’s behalf or on behalf of anyone associated with the lawyer if:

(1) the communication concerns an action for personal injury or wrongful death involving the person to whom the communication is addressed or a relative of that person, unless the personal injury or wrongful death occurred more than 30 days prior to the sending of the communication; or

(2) the lawyer knows or should know that the physical, emotional, or mental state of the person makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer.


[1] There is an inherent potential for abuse in direct contact by a lawyer with a prospective client known to need legal services, whether such contact be made in person or through the use of e-mail, social media, instant messaging, text messaging, or live telephone contact. These forms of contact between a lawyer and a prospective client subject the layperson to the private importuning of the trained advocate in a direct interpersonal encounter. The prospective client, 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 being retained immediately. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.

[2] This potential for abuse inherent in direct solicitation of prospective clients justifies its prohibition, particularly since lawyer advertising and written and recorded communication permitted under Rule 7.2 of these Rules offer alternative means of conveying necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services. Advertising and written and recorded communications which may be mailed or auto-dialed make 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 and written, recorded, or electronic communications to transmit information from lawyer to prospective client, rather than any form of direct contact, will help to assure that the information flows cleanly as well as freely. The contents of advertisements and communications permitted under Rule 7.2 of these Rules are permanently recorded so that they cannot be disputed and may be shared with others who know the lawyer. 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 Rule 7.1 of these Rules. The contents of direct conversations between a lawyer and a prospective client can be disputed and may not be subject to similar 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.

[4] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in abusive practices against an individual with whom the lawyer has a prior personal or professional relationship or where the lawyer is motivated by considerations other than the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. Consequently, the general prohibition in Rule 7.3(a) and the requirements of Rule 7.3(c) are not applicable in those situations.

[5] But even permitted forms of solicitation can be abused. Thus, any solicitation which contains information which is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1 of these Rules, which involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(2), or which involves contact with a prospective client who has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be solicited by the lawyer within the meaning of Rule 7.3(b)(1) is prohibited. Moreover, if after sending a letter or other communication to a client as permitted by Rule 7.2 of these Rules the lawyer receives no response, any further effort to communicate with the prospective client may violate the provisions of Rule 7.3(b).

[6] This Rule is not intended to 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 a prospective client. 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 and serve the same purpose as advertising permitted under Rule 7.2 of these Rules.

[7] The requirement in Rule 7.3(c) of these Rules that certain communications be marked “Advertising Material” does not apply to communications sent in response to requests of potential clients or their spokespersons or sponsors. General announcements by lawyers, including changes in personnel or office location, do not constitute communications soliciting professional employment from a client known to be in need of legal services within the meaning of this Rule.

[8] Paragraph (d) of this Rule would permit an attorney to participate with an organization which uses personal contact to solicit members for its group or prepaid legal service plan, provided that the personal contact is not undertaken by any lawyer who would be a provider of legal services through the plan. The organization referred to in paragraph (d) must not be owned by or directed (whether as manager or otherwise) by any lawyer or law firm that participates in the plan. For example, paragraph (d) would not permit a lawyer to create an organization controlled directly or indirectly by the lawyer and use the organization for the in-person, telephone, or other form of direct, electronic solicitation of legal employment of the lawyer through memberships in the plan or otherwise. The communication permitted by these organizations also must not be directed to a person known to need legal services in a particular matter, but is to be designed to inform potential plan members generally of another means of affordable legal services. Lawyers who participate in a legal service plan must reasonably assure that the plan sponsors are in compliance with Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.3(b), and 7.3(e) of these Rules. See Rule 8.4(a) of these Rules.

Rule 7.4 – Communication of Fields of Practice and Certification

(a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.

(b) 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.

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

(d) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law by a named organization, provided that the communication

(1) is not false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 7.1 of these Rules,

(2) clearly states the name of the certifying organization, and;

(3) is accompanied by a statement that “The Supreme Court of Hawai‘i grants Hawai‘i certification only to lawyers in good standing who have successfully completed a specialty program accredited by the American Bar Association.”


[1] This Rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer’s services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. Language indicating that a lawyer “concentrates in,” “practices primarily in,” “emphasizes,” or “limits practice to” certain law areas is permitted. In addition, a lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty,” or “specializes in” particular fields, but such communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 7.1 of these Rules to communications concerning a lawyer’s services. However, a lawyer may not communicate that the lawyer is recognized or certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, except as provided by this Rule and by Rule 1.13 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaiʻi.

[2] Recognition of specialization in patent matters is a matter of long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office, as reflected in paragraph (b). Paragraph (c) recognizes that designation of admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.

[3] The Rule requires, inter alia, that a lawyer clearly state the name of the certifying organization and that the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i certifies only those who have completed ABA accredited certification procedures. Otherwise, the consumer may be misled as to the significance of the lawyer’s status as a certified specialist. Since lawyer advertising through public media and written or recorded communications invites the greatest danger of misleading consumers, the limitations of the certification process must be clearly stated in advertising that communicates the certification.

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 legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1 of these Rules.

(b) A law firm may use as, or continue to include in, its name the name or names of one or more deceased or retired partners of the firm in a continuing line of succession; provided that where none of the names comprising a firm name is the name of a current partner who is on the list of active attorneys maintained by the Hawai‘i State Bar, there shall be at least one supervisor, manager, partner, or shareholder of the firm who is on the list of active attorneys maintained by the bar.

(c) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.

(d) The name of the 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 actively and regularly practicing with the firm.

(e) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.


[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.” A lawyer or law firm may also be designated by a distinctive website address or comparable professional designation. 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 not 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 or the name of a nonlawyer. See Rule 6(b) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaiʻi, governing the naming of Lawyers’ Professional Business Organizations.

[2] With regard to paragraph (e), lawyers sharing office facilities, but who are not in fact associated with each other in a law firm, may not denominate themselves as, for example, “Smith and Jones,” for that title suggests that they are practicing law together in a firm.

Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality of Information

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal confidential information relating to the representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or as stated in paragraph (b) or (c).

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

(1) to prevent the client from committing a criminal or fraudulent act that the lawyer reasonably believes is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm, or in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another;

(2) to rectify the consequences of a client’s act which the lawyer reasonably believes to have been criminal or fraudulent and in the furtherance of which the lawyer’s services had been used;

(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;

(5) to prevent a public official or public agency from committing a criminal or illegal act that a government lawyer reasonably believes is likely to result in harm to the public good;

(6) to rectify the consequences of a public official’s or a public agency’s act which the government lawyer reasonably believes to have been criminal or illegal and harmful to the public good; or

(7) to the extent strictly necessary to comply with other law, fiduciary obligations, or court orders.

(c) A lawyer shall reveal information that clearly establishes a criminal or fraudulent act of the client in the furtherance of which the lawyer’s services had been used, to the extent reasonably necessary to rectify the consequences of such act, where the act has resulted in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another.


[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 Rule 1.18 of these Rules for the lawyer’s duties with respect to information provided to the lawyer by a prospective client, Rule 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 Rules 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 consent after consultation, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. See Rule 1.0(c) of these Rules for the definition of consultation. This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. 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 client-lawyer privilege, the work-product doctrine, and the rule of confidentiality established in professional ethics. The client-lawyer 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 applies in situations other than those 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. See also Scope.

[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. In 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.

Disclosure Adverse to Client

[6] The confidentiality rule is subject to limited exceptions. In becoming privy to information about a client, a lawyer may realize that the client has used or intends to use the lawyer’s services in the furtherance of criminal or fraudulent conduct. The lawyer may not counsel or assist a client in conduct that is criminal or fraudulent. See Rule 1.2(d) of these Rules. Similarly, a lawyer has a duty under Rule 3.3(a)(4) of these Rules not to use false evidence, which is but one example of the more general duty prescribed in Rule 1.2(d) to avoid assisting a client in criminal or fraudulent conduct.

[7] 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) of these Rules because to “counsel or assist” criminal or fraudulent conduct requires knowing that the conduct is of that character. Nevertheless, to extend the protection of Rule 1.6 to information possessed by the lawyer with respect to such conduct would have the effect of assisting the client in such conduct in violation of the policy expressed in Rule 1.2(d).

[8] Where the lawyer’s information falls short of clearly establishing a criminal or fraudulent act by the client, but supports a reasonable belief by the lawyer that a criminal or fraudulent act has occurred, the discretionary disclosure provisions of Rule

1.6(b)(2) of these Rules may be applicable. Where the lawyer’s information clearly establishes the criminal or fraudulent act, the mandatory disclosure requirement of Rule

1.6(c) may be applicable. The requirement that the lawyer’s services must have been used by the client in the furtherance of the criminal or fraudulent act means that the services must have been a substantial element in enabling the client to accomplish the criminal or fraudulent enterprise. The term “rectify” as used in Rule 1.6(b)(2) and (c) means that if the lawyer reasonably believes or where information clearly establishes a client’s act to have been criminal or fraudulent and in the furtherance of which the lawyer’s services have been used, the lawyer may or shall promptly call upon the client to make right what is wrong. If the client refuses or is unable to right the wrong, the lawyer may or shall reveal confidential information to the affected person or entity to the extent reasonably necessary to remedy the consequences of the criminal or fraudulent activity. The application of the discretionary “may” of Rule 1.6(b)(2) or the mandatory “shall” of Rule 1.6(c) will depend on the quality of information in the lawyer’s possession. In terms of the discretionary disclosure provisions of Rule 1.6(b)(6), the term “rectify” means that if the government lawyer reasonably believes that a public official’s or a public agency’s act was criminal or illegal and harmful to the public, the lawyer may promptly call upon the public official or the public agency to make right what is wrong, and if the official or agency refuses or is unable to do so, the government lawyer may reveal confidential information to the person or entity affected by the official’s or agency’s criminal or fraudulent act which is harmful to the public good, to the extent reasonably necessary to remedy the consequences of such acts. See also Comments [14]-[16] to this Rule.

[9] The lawyer may learn that a client intends prospective conduct that is criminal or fraudulent and likely to result in death, substantial bodily harm, or substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another. As stated in Rule 1.6(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 such consequences which the lawyer reasonably believes are 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.

[10] 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 (b)(3) permits such disclosure because of the importance of a lawyer’s compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

[11] 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 (b)(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.

[12] A lawyer entitled to a fee is permitted by paragraph (b)(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.

[13] Other law may require that a lawyer disclose information about a client. Whether such a law supersedes Rule 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 Rule 1.4 of these Rules. If, however, the other law supersedes this Rule and requires disclosure, paragraph (b)(7) permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.

[14] A lawyer may be ordered to reveal information relating to the representation of a client by a court or by another tribunal or governmental entity claiming authority pursuant to other law to compel the disclosure. Absent consent of the client, after consultation, to do otherwise, the lawyer should assert on behalf of the client all nonfrivolous claims that the order is not authorized by other law or that the information sought is protected against disclosure by the client-lawyer privilege. The client-lawyer 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, Rule 1.6(a) requires the lawyer to invoke the privilege when it is applicable. Under Rule 1.6(b)(7), 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.

[15] Paragraph (b) permits, and paragraph (c) requires, 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.

[16] Paragraph (b) permits, but does not require, the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation if the lawyer reasonably believes the disclosure is necessary to accomplish the purposes specified in paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(7). In exercising the discretion conferred by this Rule, the lawyer may consider such factors as the nature of the lawyer’s own involvement in the transaction and factors that may mitigate or partially excuse the conduct in question. A lawyer’s decision not to disclose the information, as permitted by the discretion provided in paragraph (b), does not violate this Rule. Disclosure may be required, however, by other Rules. For example, some Rules require disclosure if such disclosure would be permitted by paragraph (b). See Rules 4.1(b), 8.1 and 8.3(c) of these Rules. Rule 3.3, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this Rule. See Rule 3.3(b) of these Rules.


[17] 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) of these Rules. Furthermore, neither this Rule nor Rule 1.8(b) nor Rule 1.16(d) prevent 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


[18] A lawyer must act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client 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 Rules 1.1, 5.1 and 5.3 of these Rules.

[19] 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 may warrant special precautions. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s expectation of the recipient maintaining 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 reasonable additional security measures not required by this Rule, the cost for which would be borne as determined by agreement between the client and the attorney. The client may also give consent, after consultation, to the use of a means of communication that would otherwise be prohibited by the Rule.

Former Client

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

Organization as Client

[21] Where the client is an organization, the disclosures in this Rule work in conjunction with Rule 1.13 of these Rules.

*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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