November 01, 2016

Emergency Lawyering in Environmental Law Today

Irma S. Russell

This brief article considers issues of legal ethics in the context of planning for emergencies in practicing environmental law. The likelihood that an environmental lawyer will face situations of urgency (and possibly even life and death emergencies) is real and worthy of advance thought and planning. Emergencies need to be viewed in the context that all lawyers are subject to the rules of ethics and professional conduct of their jurisdictions of practice. While emergency circumstances do not alter the duties of due diligence or competence, the Model Rules now acknowledge the existence of emergency situations. Model Rule 1.1 declares the duty of lawyer competence, stating that “[a] lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” The rule discusses the lawyer’s duty to attain and employ the necessary knowledge and skill and identifies factors relevant to competence, such as the lawyer’s experience and training, the possibility of consulting other lawyers, and the study of new areas. Comment 3 to Rule 1.1 now includes a direct reference to emergency situations. It states:

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