Client Communication – It’s an ethical obligation

Matthew Brody posted a poll on The Paralegal Group’s listserv asking how important good client communication is to a law firm, with responses running from “not important whatsoever” to “it’s what keeps my firm running.” The answer should be the latter. However, the importance of client communication lies not just in the fact that effective client communication keeps a firm running smoothly. It is an ethical obligation under the Rules of Professional Conduct in every jurisdiction of which I am aware. (I deal extensively with ways to make communication effective in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional.) Here, for example, is ABA Model Rule 1.4:

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Rule 1.4: Communications
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.4 Communication

(a) A lawyer shall:

(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;

(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;

(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

If you run “communication” through the search box here, you’ll come across posts on removing barrier to communicating with elder clients, handling the barriers to communications raised by diversity, and other topics.

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3 Comments

  • Danny Atterbury says:

    I have seen many lawyers refuse to comply with California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-500 (Communication) and the courts approve of this and all the other outlandish rules violations the ostensible “Officers of the Court” commit. What a shame our system has become a system shaped by lawyers, for lawyers.

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    Danny,

    Your comment on my “Judging Bonuses” post was not accepted because (1) it was in essence repetitive of this comment, and (2) in no way related to the topic of the “Judging Bonuses” post.

  • Danny Atterbury says:

    R. E. Mongue, my comment was in response to Matthew Brody’s post titled “Communication – It’s an ethical obligation,” but this system nevertheless needs changes for the better and only a child could fail to realize this. Nothing is going to change though unless there is discussion, but I realize there will be no discussion if people view the system through figurative “rose colored glasses” and keep pretending everything is perfect. Thank goodness there are always some people out there that spot injustice masquerading under the guise of justice complaining about this.

    I read some remarks that Mr. Douglas Cox, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel for Ronald Reagan and George Bush wrote on the subject of injustice in the ostensible justice system. Here is what Mr. Cox stated in the Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1998: “The entire justice system is predicated on the theory that witnesses will tell the truth. Permitting a culture of lying to take root in the justice system would ultimately destroy the system.” Mr. Cox believes a lying culture would ultimately destroy our justice system! That means the nation would collapse into anarchy or worse. It has been written “our leaders, both secular and religious, should be the chief examples and enforcers of the law. That is what unifies the nation. If our leaders are examples in breaking the law, our system of justice must certainly fall apart.”

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