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Summaries of Recent Opinions
16-01: Of Counsel; Fee Splitting “Of counsel” relationships are typically defined by the close, personal, continuous, and regular nature of the relationship. When a close, personal, continuous, and regular relationship exists between an “of counsel” lawyer and a firm, the “of counsel” will be considered a member of the same firm for purposes of Ethical Rule (ER) 1.5(e), governing fee splitting among lawyers, as well as for conflicts purposes. Opinion 86-03 is accordingly withdrawn.
15-02: Client Files; Safekeeping of Property; Maintaining Client Files; Termination of Representation Lawyers are ethically obligated, upon a client’s request at the conclusion of representation, to provide the client with the client’s documents and all documents reflecting work performed for the client. This obligation does not require the lawyer to retain paper or electronic documents generated or received in the course of the representation, that are duplicative of other documents generated or received in the course of the representation, incidental to the representation, or not typically maintained by a working lawyer, unless the lawyer has reason to believe that, in all the circumstances, the client’s interests require that these documents be preserved for eventual turning over to the client at the conclusion of the representation. Understanding the lawyer’s duty to preserve client documents in this manner advances client interests. It enables a lawyer to restrict “the file” to documents that actually assist the lawyer in competently and diligently representing the client, in the context of the particular client matter and the lawyer’s practice, as well as effectively communicating with the client and exercising professional judgment on the client’s behalf, rather than preserving anything and everything ever generated or received during the course of the representation. To the extent prior opinions of this Committee may be construed as asserting otherwise, they are withdrawn.
15-01: Plea Agreements; Waiver; Ineffective Assistance; Conflict of Interest; Criminal Representation The conflict-of-interest rules prohibit a defense attorney from advising a criminal defendant to waive the defendant’s right to raise that attorney’s ineffective assistance of counsel. The ethical rules also prohibit a prosecutor from insisting that a defendant waive the right to raise ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct claims. Opinion 95-08 is accordingly withdrawn.