Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid

Standard 1.1-2 on Prohibition Against Interference in the Representation of Clients

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Standard

The governing body and its individual members must not interfere directly or indirectly in the representation of any client by a practitioner.

Commentary

It is improper for the governing body or its members to interfere with the attorney‑client relationship. A governing body is permitted to set priorities which may limit a provider's involvement in broadly identified categories of cases, but such limits must be established before a case is accepted. Once representation in a particular case has been undertaken, interference by the governing body is strictly prohibited. The governing body or an advisory committee of its lawyer members cannot have access to the confidences and secrets of the provider's clients, as such bodies stand outside the attorney‑client relationship established with the practitioner, and the members of the governing body do not have an attorney-client relationship with the provider's clients. Moreover, lawyers employed, paid or recommended by the provider cannot ethically allow the provider's governing body or its members to direct or regulate the lawyer's professional judgment in providing representation.

An exception to this prohibition may occur in the context of the client grievance procedure where a client explicitly waives protection against disclosure of confidential information in order to obtain review of the provider's actions. In such situations, the governing body or a duly selected committee may inquire into the conduct of a case by a provider's practitioner, but the body cannot specifically direct the practitioner to undertake or to refrain from any action in the case.