On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court adopted sweeping changes to the California Rules of Professional Conduct (“CRPC” or “Rules”). These changes will go into effect on November 1, 2018. One Rule that will change significantly is CRPC 3-500 concerning client communications, which will be re-designated CRPC 1.4 under the new Rules. CRPC 1.4 is meant to more closely track ABA Model Rule 1.4.
CRPC 3-500 currently requires attorneys only to “keep a client reasonably informed about significant developments relating to the employment or representation” and to promptly comply with the client’s “reasonable requests for information and significant documents when necessary.” CRPC 1.4 retains these requirements under subsection (a)(3) and adds several new express obligations to an attorney’s duty to the client, including an obligation to reasonably consult with the client about how to accomplish client’s objectives under 1.4(a)(2). It also recognizes limitations imposed by statute, protective orders, and non-disclosure agreements. CRPC 1.4 further includes the following:
- to “promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which disclosure or the client’s informed consent is required” (CRPC 1.4(a)(1));
- to advise the client about ethical limitations on the attorney’s conduct that may not be permitted under the Rules (CRPC 1.4(a)(4)); and
- to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation” (CRPC 1.4(b)).
CRPC 1.4 further sets forth express conditions under which an attorney may delay providing information to a client – only when the attorney “reasonably believes” that doing so would prevent the client from self-harm or from harming others. (CRPC 1.4(c).)
Although CRPC 1.4 substantially expands the express obligations regarding client communications as compared to CRPC 3-500, there are some noted exceptions. For example, attorneys are not obligated to provide clients with information that is “insignificant or irrelevant,” a determination that is to be made “depend[ing] on the surrounding facts and circumstances.” (CRPC 1.4, cmt. 1.) Additionally, the expanded provisions of CRPC 1.4 do not create any new obligation to provide attorney work product, which continues to be governed by “statutory and decisional law.” (CRPC 1.4, cmt. 4.)
For further information regarding CRPC 1.4 and all of the new Rules, see The State Bar of California, Proposed New and Amended Rules, Rule 1.4 (available at http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/New-Rules-of-Professional-Conduct-2018.pdf).
About the author:
Ryan Stahl is an associate at Scherer Smith & Kenny. He practices civil litigation, with a focus on employment law and anti-SLAPP litigation.