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Model Rule 1.14

Reporter's Explanation of Changes


1. Caption: Change to "Client with Diminished Capacity"

In the caption and thereafter throughout the Rule, terminology referencing a client's capacity is changed to focus on and more accurately express the continuum of a client's capacity.

2. Paragraph (a): Terminology change

The change in terminology in this paragraph is grammatical and reflective of the change of focus of the Rule to the continuum of a client's capacity.

3. Paragraph (b): Add protective measures lawyer may take short of request for guardian and requiring risk of substantial harm unless action is taken

The Commission recommends adding guidance for lawyers regarding "protective action" the lawyer may take short of seeking a guardian, which is generally deemed appropriate only in extreme circumstances. The revision permits the lawyer to "take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client, and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator or guardian." The Commission believes the recommended change offers the lawyer flexibility when a client faces substantial risk of harm or when emergency legal assistance is required as described in Comments [9] and [10].

4. Paragraph (c): Add limitation on "protective action"

The Commission recommends addition of a new paragraph (c) to specify the means by which "protective action" should be limited to avoid client harm. The proposal explicitly recognizes the relationship of Rule 1.14(b) to Rule 1.6. Specifically, it states that Rule 1.6 allows disclosure of information under Rule 1.14(b) only as "reasonably necessary to protect the client's interests."


[1] This Comment has been revised with collateral language changes to reflect the Rule's focus on degrees of a client's capacity.

[2] This Comment has been revised to delete the sentence, "If the person has no guardian or legal representative, the lawyer often must act as de facto guardian." The Commission views as unclear, not only what it means to act as a "de facto guardian," but also when it is appropriate for a lawyer to take such action and what limits exist on the lawyer's ability to act for an incapacitated client. The other revision to the Comment is a grammatical and stylistic change.

[3] This new Comment includes additional discussion of the potential risk in the common practice of having family members or other persons participate in the lawyer's representation of a client with diminished capacity. The change is recommended to encourage lawyers to seek such involvement since this practice may be of assistance to the representation. The Comment also points out potential risk to the extent that family members may be guided, consciously or unconsciously, by their own interests instead of the interests of the client.

[4] This revision of current Comment [3] includes additional discussion indicating that parents as natural guardians may have the same rights as legal guardians to make decisions regarding their children, depending on the nature of the matter or proceeding. (Whether and when parents have rights to make decisions on their children's behalf is a matter of substantive law that is not addressed here.)

The discussion in current Comment [3] on the issue of whether the lawyer should seek appointment of a guardian has been moved, with modification, to new Comment [7]. Finally, current Comment [4] is now the last sentence of proposed Comment [4] in order to provide a single Comment on the lawyer's role when the client of diminished capacity already has a legal representative.

Caption "Taking Protective Action" has been added to highlight and focus on action the lawyer may take during representation of a client with diminished capacity.

[5] This new Comment sets forth the rationale for paragraph (b) and gives additional detail on the circumstances that might trigger the lawyer's permission to consult with family members, adult-protective agencies or other individuals or entities that have the authority to protect the client.

[6] This new Comment provides guidance on determining the extent of a client's diminished capacity.

[7] This new Comment addresses the issue of whether a lawyer should seek appointment of a guardian. Discussion of this issue in current Comment [3], with modification, is relocated here. The modification clarifies that, while it "may" be necessary to have a legal representative appointed to complete a transaction, it is not "ordinarily" required to the extent that a client with some degree of capacity may be able to execute a power of attorney. In addition, the discussion in current Comment [5] regarding rules of procedure requiring a guardian or next friend has been moved to this Comment. A new final sentence serves as a useful reference to other law that may impose a requirement that the lawyer take the least restrictive action under the circumstances.

[8] This is a revision of current Comment [5]. The first sentence has been moved to Comment [7]. The majority of the language is essentially new and refers to the limitations in paragraph (c) on the disclosure of information relating to the representation and clarifies the relationship between Rules 1.14 and 1.6. The last sentence of the current Comment has been deleted because the issue of whether a lawyer may seek guidance from a diagnostician is addressed in Comment [6].

[9] and [10] The changes reflect the Rule's new focus on degrees of a client's capacity.

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