New rules amending many of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) become effective Sept. 1, 2016. On June 2, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court entered the order adopting the new rules. See Order No. 25700-A-1146.
In 2013, the Supreme Court asked the WSBA to evaluate recent amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct consider the amendments for possible adoption. Washington’s new rules follow recommendations by the WSBA Committee on Professional Ethics to the Board of Governors after its review of the ABA Ethics 20/20 amendments. These changes work with recently adopted changes to Washington’s RPC’s for Limited License Legal Technicians.
Many of the changes aim to clarify the rules in this time of increased use of technology and Internet. Some changes of particular note include:
Comment 8 to Rule 1.1: Competence adds the specific obligation of technology competence. A lawyer’s general ethical duty to remain competent includes keeping abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” Competence in this arena includes understanding how to communicate confidentially with clients and store their information securely, to use up-to-date encryption, and to be able to introduce and use technology in discovery and at trial.
Rule 1.6 Confidentiality of Information was changed to allow an attorney to reveal information relating to the representation to detect and resolve conflicts of interest if the information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client. Comment 13, Detection of Conflicts of Interest, explains the recognition that lawyers in different firms may need to disclose limited information to run conflicts checks and gives details for applying this new rule.
Comment 13 to Rule 1.6 includes examples of when such limited disclosure may be appropriate, e.g., “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.”
Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multi-jurisdictional Practice of Law was changed to add lawyers admitted in a foreign jurisdiction. This section previously allowed limited multi-jurisdictional practice only to lawyers admitted in other U.S. jurisdictions.
Comment 5 to Rule 7.2 Advertising was expanded to clarify the allowance of paying others for internet-based advertisements and generating client leads.
Questions about the amendments can be directed to WSBA Professional Responsibility Counsel Jeanne Marie Clavere at 206-727-8298.