ETHICS QUESTION OF THE MONTH
This content is generated by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and is for informational purposes only. Look for the reasoning behind the answers at legalethicstexas.com.
Lawyer A, Lawyer B, and Lawyer C are all members of a closed group on
a social media site open only to Texas lawyers. Judges are not permitted
to join. The site allows attorneys to connect with one another, to
privately seek guidance and advice from other attorneys, and to exchange
ideas and information.
On a recent day, these three lawyers each posted a message to the group:
Lawyer A: “I am a family law attorney and I represent a father in a divorce matter. My client struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for many years, but successfully completed treatment about a year ago. I’ve represented in court filings that he’s clean and sober and is no risk to the children. I learned today, however, that he has suffered a relapse. Do I need to disclose this to the court or opposing counsel? Can I continue to claim that he is sober? The case is in Dallas County, if that makes a difference.”
Lawyer B: “I have a niche practice in a highly specialized area of the law, and I’ve just been retained by a major airline based near my office. I’ve never dealt with a large legal department like this before. Any advice from someone who has experience representing airline clients and dealing with their in-house lawyers?”
Lawyer C: “I represent a local car dealership in their efforts to relocate and expand the business. Yesterday, my client’s owner was privately approached by the owner of the property next door to see if she was interested in purchasing it. The only catch is the seller wants to close quickly or he will be forced to put it on the open market. My client is eager to purchase. Can anyone give me some guidance on drafting the purchase documents to protect my client against any environmental problems with the property?”
Assuming that none of the lawyers’ clients have authorized or approved of these posts, do any of them violate the ethics rules?
A. All of them do, because all
three attorneys reveal details protected by the attorney/client
privilege or attorney confidentiality.
B. Lawyer A does because the details he discloses are highly damaging to his client, but Lawyers B and C do not.
C. Lawyer B does not because she does not disclose any details about the nature of the representation, but Lawyers A and C do.
D. Lawyer B does; Lawyer A does not; we need more information about Lawyer C to determine whether he violated the rules.
E. None of them do, because none discloses their clients’ identities.
The correct answer is D. For the reasoning behind the answer, go to legalethicstexas.com.TBJ
ABOUT THE CENTER
The Texas Center for Legal Ethics was created by three former chief justices of the Supreme Court of Texas to educate lawyers about ethics and professionalism. Lawyers can access the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, and a variety of other online ethics resources by computer or smart device at legalethicstexas.com.
The information contained in Ethics Question of the Month is intended to illustrate an ethics issue of general interest in the Texas legal community; it is not intended to provide ethics advice that applies regardless of particular facts. For specific legal ethics advice, readers are urged to consult the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (including the official comments) and other authorities and/or a qualified legal ethics adviser.