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New Mexico 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 16-701 – Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services

A lawyer shall not make, elicit, or endorse a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law; omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading; or contains a testimonial about, or endorsement of, the lawyer that is misleading.

Comment

[1] This rule governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising. Whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them should be truthful.

[2] Misleading truthful statements 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 misleading if a substantial likelihood exists that it will lead a reasonable person to formulate a specific conclusion about the lawyer or 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 is also misleading if presented in a way that creates a substantial likelihood that a reasonable person would believe that lawyer’s communication requires that person to take further action when, in fact, no action is required.

[3] It is misleading for a communication to provide information about a lawyer’s fee without indicating the client’s responsibilities for costs, if any. If the client may be responsible for costs in the absence of a recovery, a communication shall not indicate that the lawyer’s fee is contingent on obtaining a recovery unless the communication also discloses that the client may be responsible for court costs and the expenses of litigation. See Rule 16-105(C) NMRA.

[4] 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 claim about a lawyer’s or a law firm’s services or fees, or an unsubstantiated comparison of the lawyer’s or law firm’s services or fees with of other lawyers or law firms, may be misleading if presented with such specificity as would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the comparison or claim can be substantiated. The inclusion of an appropriate disclaimer or qualifying language may preclude a finding that a statement is likely to create unjustified expectations or otherwise mislead the public.

[5] It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Rule 16-804(C) NMRA. See Rule 16-804(E) NMRA for the prohibition against stating or implying an ability to improperly influence a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

[6] 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 lawyer or law firm also 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.

[7] 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.

[8] Lawyers may not imply or hold themselves out as practicing together in one firm when they are not a firm, as defined in Rule 16-100(C) NMRA, because to do so may be false and misleading.

[9] 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.

[10] A lawyer or nonlawyer assistant shall not make, endorse, or elicit a false or misleading statement on social media about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. Furthermore, a lawyer has a duty to remove, to the extent reasonably possible, information known to the lawyer that does not comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Rule 16-702 – Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services: Specific Rules

A. Permitted advertising. A lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer’s services through any media.

B. Payments for referrals. A lawyer shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to a person who is not an employee or lawyer in the same firm 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 legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is a lawyer referral service that has been approved by an appropriate regulatory authority;

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 16-117 NMRA;

(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a non-lawyer professional under an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if

(i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and

(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement;

(5) give nominal gifts as an expression of appreciation that are neither intended nor reasonably expected to be a form of compensation for recommending a lawyer’s services.

C. A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless

(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by the State Bar of New Mexico, an organization that has been approved by an appropriate authority of another state or the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory, or an organization that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and

(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.

D. Required information in communications. Any communication made under this rule must include the name and contact information of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

Comment

[1] This rule permits public dissemination of information concerning a lawyer’s or law firm’s name, address, email address, website, 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.

[2] Except as permitted under Subparagraphs (B)(1) through (5), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer’s services. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. Directory listings and group advertisements that list lawyers by practice area, without more, do not constitute impermissible “recommendations.”

[3] Subparagraph (B)(1), 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, Internet-based advertisements, 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, television and radio station employees or spokespersons, and website designers.

[4] Paragraph (B)(5) permits nominal gifts as might be given for holidays, or other ordinary social hospitality. A gift is prohibited if offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement or understanding that the gift would be forthcoming or that referral would be made or encouraged in the future.

[5] A lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, such as Internet-based client leads, as long as the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rule 16-105(E) NMRA (fee splitting) and Rule 16-504 NMRA (professional independence of the lawyer), and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 16-701 NMRA (communications concerning a lawyer’s services). To comply with Rule 16-701 NMRA, a lawyer must not pay a lead generator that states, implies, or creates a reasonable impression that it is recommending the lawyer, is making the referral without payment from the lawyer, or has analyzed a person’s legal problems when determining which lawyer should receive the referral. See also Rule 16-503 (duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of non-lawyers); Rule 16-804(A) (duty to avoid violating the rules through the acts of another).

[6] A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A legal service plan is a prepaid or group legal service plan or a similar delivery system that assists people who seek to secure legal representation. A lawyer referral service, on the other hand, is any organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service. Qualified referral services are consumer-oriented organizations that provide unbiased referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation and afford other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Consequently, this rule only permits a lawyer to pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service. A qualified lawyer referral service is one that is approved by an appropriate regulatory authority as affording adequate protections for the public. See, e.g., the American Bar Association’s Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services and Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Quality Assurance Act.

[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. Legal service plans and lawyer referral services may communicate with the public, but the 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 the public to think that it was a lawyer referral service sponsored by a state agency or bar association.

[8] A lawyer also may agree to refer clients to another lawyer or a non-lawyer professional, in return for the undertaking of that person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer. The reciprocal referral arrangements must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment as to making referrals or as to providing substantive legal services. See Rule 16-201 NMRA and Rule 16-504(C) NMRA. Except as provided in Rule 16-105(E) NMRA, a lawyer who receives referrals from a lawyer or non-lawyer 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 non-lawyer 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 these types of arrangements are governed by Rule 16-107 NMRA. 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.

Communications about Fields of Practice

[9] Paragraph A of this rule permits a lawyer to communicate that the lawyer does or 6 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, specialize training or education, but those communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 16-701 NMRA to communications concerning a lawyer’s services.

[10] The Patent and Trademark Office has a long-established policy of designating lawyers practicing before that 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.

[11] This rule permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if the certification is granted by the State Bar of New Mexico; by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate authority of another 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. In order 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.

[12] This rule requires that any communication about a lawyer or a 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.

Rule 16-703 – Solicitation of Clients

A. Definitions.

“Solicitation” or “solicit” denotes a communication initiated by or on behalf of a lawyer or law 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. In-person, live or real-time contact. 

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

(1) lawyer;

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

(3) person who is known by the lawyer to be experienced with the use or retention of related legal services.

C. Restrictions on all contacts. 

A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment 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. Exceptions. 

This rule does not prohibit communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or other tribunal. 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 lawyer that uses contact to enroll members or sell subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.

Comments

[1] Paragraph B prohibits a lawyer from soliciting professional employment by live person-to-person contact when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s or the firm’s pecuniary gain. 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. That 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 forms 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 to fully evaluate all available alternatives with reasoned judgment and appropriate self-interest in the face of the lawyer’s presence and insistence on an immediate response. The situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation and overreaching.

[3] There is far less likelihood that a lawyer would engage in against a former client or a person with whom the lawyer has a close personal 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 overreaching when the person contacted is a lawyer or is a person known by the lawyer to be experienced with the use or retention of related legal services. For instance, an “experienced user” of legal services may include those who hire outside counsel to represent the entity; entrepreneurs who regularly engage business, employment law, or intellectual property lawyers; insurance claims professionals who regularly engage with lawyers; small business proprietors who hire lawyers for lease or contract issues; and other people who 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 their members or beneficiaries.

[4] A solicitation that contains (1) that contains false or misleading information that is false or misleading within the meaning of Rule 16-701 NMRA; (2) that involves coercion, duress or harassment within the meaning of Rule 16-703(C)(2) NMRA or (3) 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 Rule 16-703(C)(1) NMRA is prohibited. Live, person-to-person contact of individuals who may be especially vulnerable to coercion or duress is ordinarily not appropriate, for example, the elderly, those whose 15 first language is not English, or the disabled.

[5] This rule dose 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 that 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. Under these circumstances, the activity that 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 16-702 NMRA.

[6] Communications authorized by law or ordered by a court or a tribunal include a notice to potential members of a class in class action litigation.

[7] Paragraph D of this rule permits a lawyer to participate with an organization that uses personal contact to enroll 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 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 person-to-person 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 must 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 16-701, 16-702, and 16-703(B) NMRA.

Rule 16-106 – Confidentiality of Information

A. Disclosure of information generally. 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 by Paragraph B of this rule.

B. Disclosure of information; specific circumstances. A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;

(2) 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;

(3) to prevent, 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;

(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these rules;

(5) 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

(6) to comply with other law or a court order.

(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.

C. Inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of information. 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] The New Mexico Supreme Court Code of Professional Conduct Committee considered the circumstances where an insurer, having retained a defense lawyer to represent an insured, imposes a requirement that the lawyer’s bills be submitted to a third-party auditor for review, approval and payment. Billing statements may contain information that is covered by the work product doctrine and attorney-client privilege. The committee believes that a lawyer can legitimately disclose billing information but when the information involves work product or attorney-client privileged information, such information should not be disclosed to a third-party auditor unless informed consent is first obtained from the insured or unless the lawyer is otherwise ordered by a court to produce the billing information.

[2] As of November 7, 1999, this opinion is in accord with the ethics committee opinions of Alabama, Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Only Nebraska’s Ethics Advisory Committee has taken a contrary view but nevertheless recommends that lawyers should prepare bills carefully to protect against undue disclosures.

[3] 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 16-118 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct for the lawyer’s duties with respect to information provided to the lawyer by a prospective client, Subparagraph (2) of Paragraph C of Rule 16-109 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct for the lawyer’s duty not to reveal information relating to the lawyer’s prior representation of a former client and Paragraph B of Rule 16-108 NMRA and Subparagraph (1) of Paragraph C of Rule 16-109 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct for the lawyer’s duties with respect to the use of such information to the disadvantage of clients and former clients.

[4] 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 Paragraph E of Terminology of the Rules of Professional Conduct for the definition of “informed consent”. 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.

[5] 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 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 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

[6] 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

[7] 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

[8] 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. Subparagraph (1) of Paragraph B recognizes the overriding value of life and physical integrity and permits disclosure reasonably necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. Such harm is reasonably certain to occur if it will be suffered imminently or if there is a present and substantial threat that a person will suffer such harm at a later date if the lawyer fails to take action necessary to eliminate the threat. Thus, a lawyer who knows that a client has accidentally discharged toxic waste into a town’s water supply may reveal this information to the authorities if there is a present and substantial risk that a person who drinks the water will contract a life-threatening or debilitating disease and the lawyer’s disclosure is necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce the number of victims.

[9] Subparagraph (2) of Paragraph B is a limited exception to the rule of confidentiality that permits the lawyer to reveal information to the extent necessary to enable affected persons or appropriate authorities to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud, as defined in Paragraph D of Terminology of the Rules of Professional Conduct, that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial or property interests of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services. Such a serious abuse of the client-lawyer relationship by the client forfeits the protection of this rule. The client can, of course, prevent such disclosure by refraining from the wrongful conduct. Although Subparagraph (2) of Paragraph B does not require the lawyer to reveal the client’s misconduct, the lawyer may not counsel or assist the client in conduct the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent. See Paragraph B of Rule 16-102 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. See also Rule 16-116 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the lawyer’s obligation or right to withdraw from the representation of the client in such circumstances, and Paragraph C of Rule 16-113 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which permits the lawyer, where the client is an organization, to reveal information relating to the representation in limited circumstances.

[10] Subparagraph (3) of Paragraph B 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 prevented, 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 prevent or mitigate reasonably certain losses or to attempt to recoup their losses. Subparagraph (3) of Paragraph B 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, Subparagraph (4) of Paragraph B 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. Subparagraph (5) of Paragraph B 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 Subparagraph (5) of Paragraph B 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 Rule 16-106 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct 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 16-104 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. If, however, the other law supersedes this rule and requires disclosure, Subparagraph (6) of Paragraph B permits the lawyer to make such disclosures as are necessary to comply with the law.

[15] Detection of Conflicts of Interest [15] Paragraph B(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 Rule 16-117 NMRA, Comment [7]. Under these circumstances, lawyers and law firms are permitted to disclose limited information, but only once substantive discussions regarding the new relationship have occurred. 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 rules.

[16] Any information disclosed pursuant to Paragraph B(7) may be used or further disclosed only to the extent necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest. Paragraph B(7) does not restrict the use of information acquired by means independent of any disclosure pursuant to Paragraph B(7). Paragraph B(7) also does not affect the disclosure of information within a law firm when the disclosure is otherwise authorized, see Comment [7], 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.

[17] 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 informed consent of the client to do otherwise, the lawyer should assert on behalf of the client all non-frivolous claims that the order is not authorized by other law or that the information sought is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or other applicable law. In the event of an adverse ruling, the lawyer must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal to the extent required by Rule 16-104 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Unless review is sought, however, Subparagraph (6) of Paragraph B permits the lawyer to comply with the court’s order.

[18] Paragraph B 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.

[19] Paragraph B permits but does not require the disclosure of information relating to a client’s representation to accomplish the purposes specified in Subparagraphs (1) through (6) of Paragraph B. 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 B 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 Paragraph B. See Paragraph D of Rule 16-102 NMRA, Paragraph B of Rule 16-401 NMRA, Rule 16-801 NMRA and Rule 16-803 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 16-303 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct, on the other hand, requires disclosure in some circumstances regardless of whether such disclosure is permitted by this rule. See Paragraph C of Rule 16-303 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality

[20] Paragraph C 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 Rules 16-101, 16-501 and 16-503 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. 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 C 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 rule or may give informed consent to forgo security measures that would otherwise be required by this rule. 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 rules.

[21] 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 rule or may give informed consent to the use of a means of communication that would otherwise be prohibited by this rule. 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 rules. Former Client

[22] The duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated. See Subparagraph (2) of Paragraph C of Rule 16-109 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct. See Subparagraph (1) of Paragraph C of Rule 16-109 NMRA of the Rules of Professional Conduct 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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