The State Bar of California’s nearly 70 new and amended Rules of Professional Conduct take effect today, November 1, 2018. The new rules apply to the more than 250,000 attorneys licensed in California. This marks the first overhaul of ethics rules for attorneys licensed in California in nearly 30 years.
Highlights of the new rules include:
- Rule 8.4.1: Prohibits harassment and discrimination in representation of clients and law firm operations. This rule allows the State Bar to open an investigation without a previous civil finding. It also expands the protected categories to include gender identity and gender expression.
- Rule 1.2.1: Provides guidance to California attorneys who advise clients in areas where state law differs from federal law, including cannabis businesses and immigration issues. Rule 1.8.10: Introduces a stricter rule against sex with clients, banning sexual relationships unless there was a prior consensual relationship.
- Rule 3.8: Provides guidance about the special responsibilities of prosecutors in criminal cases around discovery and exculpatory evidence. This rule went into effect in November 2017, in advance of the other rules.
The full rules are available on the State Bar website.
The new rules were formulated after extensive review by the State Bar’s Commission on the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar’s Board of Trustees, and ultimately approved by the California Supreme Court.
The State Bar is launching an online learning program available free of charge to help attorneys understand the new rules. The elearning program, which also provides MCLE credit for attorneys, will launch in the coming months. The State Bar also provides a free and confidential Ethics Hotline (800-238-4427) to help attorneys comply with their professional responsibilities under the new rules.