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State Bar petition on MRPC: Ethics rules to guide a 21st century practice

Thursday, March 21, 2019   (0 Comments)
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“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” » Winston Churchill

By Betsy Brandborg

The State Bar of Montana has petitioned the Montana Supreme Court to revise 18 rules and a portion of the Preamble of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct. Most significant within the 18 are proposed amendments to the confidentiality rule and to the rule addressing an organization as the client.  Also notable is the proposed modification of the Preamble creating a discipline safe harbor for attorneys who advise cannabis industry businesses. 

Montana’s Rules of Professional Conduct contain 29 rules not identical to the ABA’s Model Rules.  If the Court accepts the proposed amendments, 10 unique Montana rules will remain as currently adopted, 11 will be amended to directly (or with minimal adjustment) correspond to the ABA Model Rules, seven will be amended slightly and one ABA rule will be rejected entirely.  [See sidebar for list].

Montana’s last comprehensive rules review was 2002-2004. While certain rules have been amended since, 21st century developments in technology, business and law mandate change in the regulation of our profession. 

The State Bar’s Ethics Committee[1] began work on Montana’s rules in April 2017, using the ABA’s Ethics 20/20 Commission recommendations as their basis. Rather than duplicate ABA efforts, the Ethics Committee reviewed the departures between the two sets of rules.  The resulting proposed amendments are distinctly Montanan, while absorbing vetted ABA recommendations. 

Confidentiality

The Ethics Committee and the Bar’s Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to adopt the ABA’s additional exceptions to the client confidentiality rule.  The exceptions permit (not require) disclosure of information where necessary to “prevent, mitigate, or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another” reasonably certain to result from client crimes or fraud “in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services….”. Bluntly, the proposed additional exceptions allow lawyers to protect Montana’s citizens from unlawful client behavior.

Montana’s current rule is more restrictive than those of most states, a source of confusion for the nearly one-quarter of bar members admitted here but practicing from out-of-state. While most states have not adopted the ABA’s Model Rule verbatim, that is because many allow more disclosures and qualify the disclosures differently than provided in the Model Rule[2].

When the State Bar and the Court considered the confidentiality rule in the 2002-2004 review, the ABA Model Rule included the disclosure exceptions for crime or fraud.  At that time, many on the Ethics Committee wanted to include the additional exceptions, but a majority (by the narrowest of margins) recommended that Montana continue with its more restrictive rule. 

Times have changed, and the State Bar now endorses the need to permit the additional disclosures.  Developments on the national stage, particularly the corporate malfeasance leading to the recession of 2008, showcase the damage that might have been prevented or mitigated had the Rules afforded lawyers an applicable exception to the duty of confidentiality.  Fidelity to the legal system must trump fidelity to a client intent on violating the law.  

An additional exception in (7) simply recognizes that lawyers change jobs regularly and provides structure for identifying and resolving conflicts that arise from that practical reality.

The proposed rule, with new language underlined, reads:

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 by paragraph (b).

(b) 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; 

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

(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)  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.

Organization as a Client, Rule 1.13

The Committee and Board also unanimously recommend adopting the ABA’s Model Rule 1.13.  The new language eliminates the Hobson’s choice[3] of Montana’s current rule requiring resignation in the face of inappropriate client or organization behavior. 

The rationale for corporate confidentiality is that it induces more consultation with lawyers and assumes that the lawyer can lead the client to compliance with the law.  If socially desirable client behavior is the goal, then it is time to abandon the assumption that lawyers can simultaneously serve their client and the public’s interest when the client is exploiting the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality.

Further, given current regional and national practice demands on Montana attorneys, alignment with national resources and jurisprudence is appropriate and necessary.

The proposed rule, with proposed new language underlined, reads:

Rule 1.13 Organization as Client

(a) A lawyer employed or retained by an organization represents the organization acting through its duly authorized constituents.

(b) If a lawyer for an organization knows that an officer, employee or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action, intends to act or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization, or a violation of law that reasonably might be imputed to the organization, and that is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer shall proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. Unless the lawyer reasonably believes that it is not necessary in the best interest of the organization to do so, the lawyer shall refer the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the circumstances to the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.

(c) Except as provided in paragraph (d), if

(1) despite the lawyer's efforts in accordance with paragraph (b) the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization insists upon or fails to address in a timely and appropriate manner an action, or a refusal to act, that is clearly a violation of law, and

(2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the violation is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation whether or not Rule 1.6 permits such disclosure, but only if and to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent substantial injury to the organization.

(d) Paragraph (c) shall not apply with respect to information relating to a lawyer's representation of an organization to investigate an alleged violation of law, or to defend the organization or an officer, employee or other constituent associated with the organization against a claim arising out of an alleged violation of law.

(e) A lawyer who reasonably believes that he or she has been discharged because of the lawyer's actions taken pursuant to paragraphs (b) or (c), or who withdraws under circumstances that require or permit the lawyer to take action under either of those paragraphs, shall proceed as the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to assure that the organization's highest authority is informed of the lawyer's discharge or withdrawal.

(f) In dealing with an organization's directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, a lawyer shall explain the identity of the client when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the organization's interests are adverse to those of the constituents with whom the lawyer is dealing.

(g) A lawyer representing an organization may also represent any of its directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, subject to the provisions of Rule 1.7. If the organization's consent to the dual representation is required by Rule 1.7, the consent shall be given by an appropriate official of the organization other than the individual who is to be represented, or by the shareholders.

Preamble and Cannabis

A bar member, aware of the Committee’s comprehensive review of the Rules of Professional Conduct, submitted a request that Rule 1.2(d)[4] be amended to allow representation of clients engaged in Montana’s emerging cannabis industry, explaining:

“Most Montana attorneys are reluctant to assist or engage individuals and businesses involved in the Cannabis Industry not only because of possible exposure to federal criminal laws, but also because they could face prosecution from Montana’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.”

Montana’s current Rule 1.2(d) appears to disallow Montana attorneys from representing clients engaged in the emerging cannabis industry because of the uncertainty resulting from the conflict between state and federal law.

The State Bar unanimously agreed to recommend creation of a safe harbor, but chose to put the language in the Preamble rather than within Rule 1.2 until the state and federal law disparities are more aligned.  To that end, paragraph 6 of the Preamble could be amended to read:

(6) A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs.  A lawyer should use the lawyer’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.  A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials.  While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.  For example, a lawyer may counsel and assist a client regarding Montana’s cannabis-related laws.  In the event Montana law conflicts with federal or tribal law, the lawyer shall also advise the client regarding related federal and tribal law and policy.”

 

The underlined language parallels Oregon’s Rule 1.2(d).  The State Bar chose not to follow Illinois 1.2(d)(3) broad language, providing “…may…counsel or assist a client in conduct expressly permitted by Illinois law that may violate or conflict with federal or other law, as long as the lawyer advises the client about that federal or other law and its potential consequences.”  The goal is to help lawyers representing cannabis clients, not create a whole ring of exceptions for other state/federal law disparities.

Unclaimed Property in Trust Accounts

Lawyers occasionally discover unclaimed client money in their trust accounts.  The current structure requires lawyers to convey unclaimed property to the State of Montana’s unclaimed property division.   In order to maintain the confidential nature of the attorney/client relationship, the Bar proposes the property be conveyed to Montana’s Justice Foundation within a system enabling reimbursement of clients should they reappear. 

The State Bar recommends the following addition to Rule 1.15:

(f) Unclaimed or unidentifiable Trust Account Funds.

(1) When a lawyer, law firm, or estate of a deceased lawyer cannot, using reasonable efforts, identify or locate the owner of funds in its Montana IOLTA or non-IOLTA trust account for a period of at least two (2) years, it may pay the funds to the Montana Justice Foundation (MJF).  At the time such funds are remitted, the lawyer may submit to MJF the name and last known address of each person appearing from the lawyer’s or law firm’s records to be entitled to the funds, if known; a description of the efforts undertaken to identify or locate the owner; and the amount of any unclaimed or unidentified funds.

(2)  If, within two (2) years of making a payment of unclaimed or unidentified funds to MJF, the lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer’s estate identifies and locates the owner of funds paid, MJF shall refund the funds it received to the lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer’s estate.  The lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer’s estate shall submit to MJF a verification attesting that the funds have been returned to the owner.  MJF shall maintain sufficient reserves to pay all claims for such funds.

 

The proposed language precludes payment of interest upon return of unclaimed funds, hence “shall refund the funds it received” in (2). Rule 1.18, the IOLTA Rule, also requires amendment to absorb the design.

Special Responsibilities of Prosecutors, Rule 3.8

Likely controversial with some prosecutors is the State Bar recommendation to adopt the ABA’s 2008 amendments “to identify prosecutors' obligations when they know of new evidence establishing a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit the offense of which he was convicted.”

Some prosecutors contend that the language is “cloudy and problematic” and precludes the finality of a conviction.

The State Bar believes the ABA considered the issues raised by the prosecutors, that the Model Rule sets responsibility on the prosecutor to act in a manner intended to complement criminal and civil law, and that the proposed rule prescribes a standard of conduct to which all good prosecutors already subscribe.

The language proposed to be added reads:

Rule 3.8 Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor

…..

 (g) When a prosecutor knows of new, credible and material evidence creating a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense of which the defendant was convicted, the prosecutor shall:

(1) promptly disclose that evidence to an appropriate court or authority, and

(2) if the conviction was obtained in the prosecutor’s jurisdiction,

(i) promptly disclose that evidence to the defendant unless a court authorizes delay, and

(ii) undertake further investigation, or make reasonable efforts to cause an investigation, to determine whether the defendant was convicted of an offense that the defendant did not commit.

(h) When a prosecutor knows of clear and convincing evidence establishing that a defendant in the prosecutor’s jurisdiction was convicted of an offense that the defendant did not commit, the prosecutor shall seek to remedy the conviction.

 

Limited Scope Representation:  Rule 1.2, 4.2 and 4.3

 

Montana’s Supreme Court was ahead of the curve in encouraging access to justice with its unique modification of the limited scope rules in 2011, (Rule 1.2 Scope of Representation, Rule 4.2 Communication with Person Represented by Counsel and Rule 4.3 Dealing with Unrepresented Person). Fast forward to 2019, where standard practice requirements absorb the additional specifics of Montana’s current limited scope rules.

The proposed amendments eliminate the extra Montana writing and consent requirements tacked to Model Rules 1.2, 4.2 and 4.3.  Why the change? Montana’s current rules potentially create disciplinary traps, the ABA rules are simpler (and most states have adopted them), and the specific, structured parameters of Montana’s rules can be removed without harm to Montana’s clients. (For example, while Rule 1.5 on fees already requires a writing for most fee agreements, proposed new language[5] addresses limitations to the scope of representation).  The eliminated language is in the footnote[6], leaving the proposed rules to read:

Rule 1.2 Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer

(a) Subject to paragraphs (c) and (d), a lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and, as required by Rule 1.4, shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation. A lawyer shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter. In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.

(b) A lawyer's representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client's political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

(c) A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.

(d) A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.

Rule 4.2 Communication with Person Represented by Counsel

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or a court order.

Rule 4.3 Dealing with Unrepresented Person

In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested. When the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer’s role in the matter, the lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding. The lawyer shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.

Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law; Rule 8.5 Multijurisdictional Practice of Law

Rules 5.5 and 8.5 were referred to a special subcommittee that included Ethics Committee chair Peter Habein, committee member and former Disciplinary Counsel Tim Strauch, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel Jon Moog, Board of Bar Examiners Chair Gary Bjelland, and Office of Consumer Protection counsel Anne Yates.  This special subcommittee agreed that the ABA’s Model Rule 5.5 was an improvement from Montana’s current rule.  The Ethics Committee and Board of Trustees unanimously voted to confirm the subcommittee’s recommendations.

Model Rule 5.5 addresses many of the “where’s the line?” on unauthorized practice of law issues, including pro hac vice, administrative law, arbitration, mediation, contract work and other services.  It also addresses the foreign lawyer boundaries. 

The proposed Rule 5.5 reads:

Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law

(a) A lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.

(b) A lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction shall not:

(1) except as authorized by these Rules or other law, establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law; or

(2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.

(c) A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:

(1) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter;

(2) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction, if the lawyer, or a person the lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(3) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer's practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or

(4) are not within paragraphs (c) (2) or (c)(3) and arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer's practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice.

(d) A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction or in a foreign jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction or the equivalent thereof, or a person otherwise lawfully practicing as an in-house counsel under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction, may provide legal services through an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction that:

(1) are provided to the lawyer's employer or its organizational affiliates, are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; and when performed by a foreign lawyer and requires advice on the law of this or another U.S. jurisdiction or of the United States, such advice shall be based upon the advice of a lawyer who is duly licensed and authorized by the jurisdiction to provide such advice; or

(2) are services that the lawyer is authorized by federal or other law or rule to provide in this jurisdiction.

(e) For purposes of paragraph (d):

(1) the foreign lawyer must be a member in good standing of a recognized legal profession in a foreign jurisdiction, the members of which are admitted to practice as lawyers or counselors at law or the equivalent, and subject to effective regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or a public authority; or,

(2) the person otherwise lawfully practicing as an in-house counsel under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction must be authorized to practice under this rule by, in the exercise of its discretion, the Montana Supreme Court.

 

As to Rule 8.5, Jurisdiction, the State Bar recommends retaining Montana’s rule while folding in key components of the ABA rule.  The net effect is that Montana’s disciplinary structure applies to out-of-state attorneys and Montana attorneys providing representation in other jurisdictions, regardless of where the lawyer’s conduct occurs.  It includes attorneys not admitted here who advertise here.[7]

Advertising, Rules 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 and 7.5

There are substantial changes to the structure of the advertising rules, but Montana’s unique requirements in Rule 7.1 detailing false or misleading communications about a lawyer or the lawyer’s services, and Rule 7.3 addressing direct contact with prospective clients (solicitation), remain[8].  Proposed for elimination are Rule 7.4, addressing specialization, and 7.5, detailing firm name requirements, but components of those two rules are included in the proposed revisions to Rule 7.2. Notable is that the State Bar rejected the ABA’s language about solicitation.  Although couched in “shall not” terms, the ABA permits more solicitation than currently allowed in Montana’s rule.  Montana’s rule prohibits solicitation if the lawyer reasonably should know that the person is already represented by another lawyer.  Rejected is the ABA’s amendment permitting that contact.

The proposed Rule 7.2, with new language underlined, reads:

Rule 7.2 Advertising Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services: Specific Rules

(a) A lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer’s services through any media.

(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, give or promise 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 legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service.

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.19 [ABA Rule 1.17];

(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to 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; and

(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 an organization that has been approved by an appropriate authority of the state or the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and

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

(d) 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.

Other Notable Recommendations

The State Bar unanimously agreed to adopt the ABA’s language adding as “signed” writings, “the electronic equivalent of a signature” in Terminology Rule 1.0(p).

Another proposal addresses duties to prospective clients, Rule 1.20, adding useful detail protecting lawyers from conflicts if they’ve taken reasonable measures to avoid exposure to disqualifying information.

Ancillary law-related services for real estate, probate and transactional lawyers could be permitted if the Court adopts ABA Rule 5.7, a rule that Montana does not have. The ABA adopted its Model Rule on ancillary businesses in February 1994, amending it to this form in 2002:

Rule 5.7 Responsibilities Regarding Law-Related Services

(a) A lawyer shall be subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the provision of law-related services, as defined in paragraph (b), if the law-related services are provided:

(1) by the lawyer in circumstances that are not distinct from the lawyer's provision of legal services to clients; or

(2) in other circumstances by an entity controlled by the lawyer individually or with others if the lawyer fails to take reasonable measures to assure that a person obtaining the law-related services knows that the services are not legal services and that the protections of the client-lawyer relationship do not exist.

(b) The term "law-related services" denotes services that might reasonably be performed in conjunction with and in substance are related to the provision of legal services, and that are not prohibited as unauthorized practice of law when provided by a nonlawyer.

 

The specific rules on conflicts, Rule 1.8, is proposed to additionally include permissive gifting from individuals “with whom the lawyer or the client maintains a close, familial relationship.” 

Montana’s Rule 1.10 includes new language creating safe harbors and screening provisions, permitting representation in light of Montana’s small-town potential for conflict of interest.

The proposed rule, with new language underlined and unique Montana language in italics, reads:

Rule 1.10 – Imputation of Conflicts of Interest: General Rule

(a) While lawyers are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so by Rules 1.7 or 1.9 unless

(1) the prohibition is based on a personal interest of the prohibited disqualified lawyer and does not present a significant risk of materially limiting the representation of the client by the remaining lawyers in the firm; or

(2) the prohibition is based upon Rule 1.9(a) or (b) and arises out of the disqualified lawyer’s association with a prior firm, and

(i) the disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom;

(ii) written notice is promptly given to any affected former client to enable the former client to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule, which shall include a description of the screening procedures employed; a statement of the firm's and of the screened lawyer's compliance with these Rules; a statement that review may be available before a tribunal; and an agreement by the firm to respond promptly to any written inquiries or objections by the former client about the screening procedures; and

(iii) certifications of compliance with these Rules and with the screening procedures are provided to the former client by the screened lawyer and by a partner of the firm, at reasonable intervals upon the former client's written request and upon termination of the screening procedures.

(b) When a lawyer has terminated an association with a firm, the firm is not prohibited from thereafter representing a person with interests materially adverse to those of a client represented by the formerly associated lawyer and not currently represented by the firm, unless:

(1) the matter is the same or substantially related to that in which the formerly associated lawyer represented the client; and

(2) any lawyer remaining in the firm has information protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c) that is material to the matter.

(c) When a lawyer becomes associated with a firm, no lawyer associated in the firm shall knowingly represent a person in a matter in which that lawyer is disqualified under Rule 1.9 unless:

(1) the personally disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and

(2) written notice is promptly given to any affected former client to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule.

(d) A disqualification prescribed by this Rule may be waived by the affected client under the conditions stated in Rule 1.7.

(e) The disqualification of lawyers associated in a firm with former or current government lawyers is governed by Rule 1.1.

Finally, given Montana’s statutory and judicial conduct rules, the State Bar rejected as unnecessary the ABA’s Model Rule 7.6 on political contributions.

 “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” » John Kenneth Galbraith

The State Bar believes that the amended rules will adapt regulation of our profession to our rapidly changing technological, social, legal, and business context.   While the State Bar Trustees and Ethics Committee believe the proposed amendments ensure the guidance offered is germane to actual circumstances encountered by practicing lawyers, others may disagree. Comments about the proposed amendments may be sent to the Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court.

 

 



[1][1] The all-volunteer Ethics Committee is chaired by Peter Habein, and includes members Bob Phillips, Chris Tweeten, Marilee Duncan, Dave Hawkins, Mark Fowler, Kent Kasting, John Morrison, Deb Reichman, Tim Strauch, Susan Wordal and Monte Jewell, with Trustee liaisons Beth Brennan and Chris Gray.

[2] https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/policy/rule_charts/

[3] In other words, one may "take it or leave it". The phrase is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest to the door or taking none at all.

[4] Rule 1.2(d) “A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.”

[5] Unanimously recommended new language to Montana’s 1.5(b) includes:  “any changes in the scope.” As a result, the proposed Rule would read:  “(b) The scope of representation, any changes in the scope, and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible…”

[6] Put the eliminated language here.

[7] Rule 8.5 – Jurisdiction and Certification

(a) Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in this State is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer's conduct occurs.

A lawyer not admitted to practice in this State is subject to the disciplinary authority of this State for conduct that constitutes a violation of these Rules and that: (1) involves the practice of law in this State by that lawyer; (2) involves that lawyer holding himself or herself out as practicing law in this State; (3) advertises, solicits, or offers legal services in this State; or (4) involves the practice of law in this State by another lawyer over whom that lawyer has the obligation of supervision or control.

[This is Montana’s Rule’s 2nd paragraph.]

(b) Certification. A lawyer who is not an active member in good standing of the State Bar of Montana and who seeks to practice in any state or federal court located in this State pro hac vice, by motion, or before being otherwise admitted to the practice of law in this State, shall, prior to engaging in the practice of law in this State, certify in writing and under oath to this Court that, except as to Rules 6.1 through 6.4, he or she will be bound by these Rules of Professional Conduct in his or her practice of law in this State and will be subject to the disciplinary authority of this State. A copy of said certification shall be mailed, contemporaneously, to the business offices of the State Bar of Montana in Helena, Montana.

[This is the Montana’s Rule’s 1st paragraph.]

(c) Choice of Law. In any exercise of the disciplinary authority of this state and jurisdiction, the rules of professional conduct to be applied shall be as follows:

(1) for conduct in connection with a matter pending before a tribunal, the rules of the state and jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise; and

(2) for any other conduct, the rules of the state and jurisdiction in which the lawyer’s conduct occurred, or, if the predominant effect of the conduct is in a different state and jurisdiction, the rules of that state and jurisdiction shall be applied to the conduct.

A lawyer shall not be subject to discipline if the lawyer’s conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction in which the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect of the lawyer’s conduct will occur.

[This paragraph is the existing language in both the ABA and Montana Rules.]

[8] Montana’s unique Rule 7.1 stems from a 2008-2009 effort to clarify Montana disciplinary jurisdiction over attorney advertising, identify types of misleading lawyer communications, and recognize that Montana does not have a procedure to “qualify” a lawyer referral service. The Supreme Court adopted the State Bar’s recommendations on Rules 7.1, 7.2 and 8.5 in 2010. (Supreme Court Order No. 09-0688, July 20, 2010.)