skip navigation
search

End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


California Legal Ethics

1.4   Rule 1.4 Communication

1.4:100   Comparative Analysis of CA Rule

Primary California References: CRPC 3-500, B&PC § 6068
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.4, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

1.4:101      Model Rule Comparison

B&PC § 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500 are essentially the same as MR 1.4(a). Each requires a lawyer to “keep a client reasonably informed about significant developments” relating to the representation and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. As the Comment following CRPC 3-500 makes clear, a lawyer must inform the client of significant developments, but will not be disciplined for failing to communicate insignificant or irrelevant information.

There is, however, no California rule comparable to MR 1.4(b) which requires a lawyer to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

1.4:102      Model Code Comparison

There is no direct counterpart to MR 1.4 in the Model Code. However, EC 7-8 stated that an attorney "should exert his best efforts to insure that decisions of his client are made only after the client has been informed of relevant considerations," and EC 9-2 provided that an attorney "should fully and promptly inform his client of material developments in the matters being handled for the client." These provisions harmonize with the duty to keep clients reasonably informed of significant developments contained in B&PC § 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500.

1.4:200   Duty to Communicate with Client

Primary California References: CRPC 3-500, B&PC § 6068
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.4, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31.501, ALI-LGL §§ 31, Wolfram §§ 4.5, 4.6

Adequate communication with a client is an integral part of providing competent professional service. See Calvert v. State Bar (1991) 54 Cal.3d 765, 1 Cal.Rptr.2d 684, 819 P.2d 424 (failing to adequately communicate with her client, even after receiving a letter from the bar association regarding the client’s complaint, resulted in discipline).

California courts impose a fiduciary duty to communicate matters which affect a client’s procedural and substantive rights. See Shalant v. State Bar (1983) 33 Cal.3d 485, 189 Cal.Rptr. 374, 658 P.2d 737. Additionally, the California Business and Professions Code and the California Professional Conduct Rules both require that an attorney inform a client of significant developments and promptly respond to a client’s status inquiries. A breach of the fiduciary duty to communicate or a violation of either B&PC § 6068(m) or CRPC 3-500 may result in disciplinary action.

The determination of whether a fiduciary duty to communicate exists is primarily a question of law. See Meighan v. Shore (2nd Dist. 1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 1025, 1032, 40 Cal.Rptr. 744. However, if the facts bearing on this decision are in conflict, then the issue is for the finder of fact. See Johnson v. Superior Court (4th Dist. 1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 463, 45 Cal.Rptr.2d 312. [See 1.2:200 Creating the Client Lawyer Relationship, supra for further discussion on the creation of an attorney-client relationship].

An attorney owes the duty to communicate to persons who reasonably believe they are clients. See Butler v. State Bar (1986) 42 Cal.3d 323, 228 Cal.Rptr. 499, 721 P.2d 585. In Butler, the attorney, upon executing the decedent’s will, advised the executor that there might be a probate matter, thereby leading the executor to believe that the attorney would handle this matter if it arose. See Butler v. State Bar (1986) 42 Cal.3d 323, 228 Cal.Rptr. 499, 721 P.2d 585. When the executor brought suit alleging, among other violations, a breach of the duty to communicate, the attorney argued that he did not represent the executor in the probate matter, and therefore did not owe any duty to him. The court, however, found that the attorney owed a duty to at least communicate the fact that he did not represent the client in the probate matter. See Butler v. State Bar (1986) 42 Cal.3d 323, 228 Cal.Rptr. 499, 721 P.2d 585.

The fiduciary duty to communicate requires the full and fair disclosure to the client of any procedural or substantive matters which would materially affect his client’s rights and interests. See Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart & Gelfand (1971) 6 Cal.3d 176, 98 Cal.Rptr. 837, 491 P.2d 421. Several cases have involved situations where an attorney’s failure to communicate has resulted in adverse effects to the substantive or procedural rights of a client. See Lister v. State Bar (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1117, 275 Cal.Rptr. 802, 800 P.2d 1232, (finding a breach of the duty to communicate, even though the client had not yet paid, where the attorney failed to inform the client that the statute of limitations was about to expire); Shalant v. State Bar (1983) 33 Cal.3d 485, 189 Cal.Rptr. 374, 658 P.2d 737 (finding a breach of the duty to communicate where an attorney failed to inform his client that he had been named a defendant in a civil suit where the attorney had actual knowledge of this fact for a year before his client was personally served); Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601 (finding a breach of the duty to communicate where an attorney failed to inform his client of a possible tort claim). See generally Baker v. Humphrey (1879) 101 U.S. 494, 25 L.Ed. 1065 (stating that “[i]t is the duty of an attorney to advise the client promptly whenever he has any information to give which is important the client should receive.”).

Where community property laws are in effect, the duty to communicate may require an attorney to inform a client of his or her spouse’s potential claims. See Meighan v. Shore (2nd Dist. 1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 1025, 1046, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 744. In Meighan, even though the attorney made clear the fact that he did not represent his client’s spouse, and even though the spouse did not believe that the attorney was acting on her behalf, the court found that the attorney owed a duty to communicate the existence of the spouse’s possible tort claim to his client. Subsequently, the attorney breached this duty when he failed to inform the client of the spouse’s possible loss of consortium claim. In finding a breach of the duty to communicate, the court found it significant that, under California law, the client had a community property interest in the proceeds of his spouse’s loss of consortium claim. See Id. Therefore, even though the loss of consortium claim was not a claim available to the client, the client’s rights were affected by the attorney’s failure to alert the client of his spouse’s potential tort claim. See Id.

Where retention is expressly limited, the attorney may still owe a duty to alert the client of legal problems which are reasonably apparent, even though they fall outside the scope of the retention. See Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601. While the attorney need not represent the client on such matters, the attorney should nonetheless inform the client of the limitations of the attorney’s representation and the possible need for other counsel. See Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601.

Difficulties encountered by an attorney in communicating with the client do not excuse his fiduciary duty to communicate. For example, the duty to communicate is not excused when an attorney chooses to undertake representation of a non-English speaking client. See Gold v. State Bar (1989) 49 Cal.3d 908, 264 Cal.Rptr.125, 782 P.2d 264. The court, in Gold, required that the attorney either make appropriate arrangements to ensure adequate communications with the client, such as an interpreter, or refer the case to someone else. See Id. Additionally, the fact that it is difficult to deal with the client does not excuse an attorney’s willful failure to respond to numerous notes and telephone calls from the client over a period of several months. See Farnham v. State Bar (1976) 17 Cal.3d 605, 131 Cal.Rptr. 661, 552 P.2d 445.

The duty to communicate continues even in the event that an attorney is suspended from practice. See In the Matter of Taylor (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 563, 575. Even if an attorney is suspended from the practice of law, he still has a duty to communicate with his clients so that their cases are minimally prejudiced. See In the Matter of Taylor (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 563, 575. However, the advice may not take the form of legal advice. See In the Matter of Taylor (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 563, 575.

Common situations when the duty to communicate applies include the following: (1) substitution or termination of representation and (2) settlement offers. For a discussion of the duty to disclose conflicts of interest [see Rule 1.7 Conflict of Interest: General Rule, infra].

(1)   Substitution or Termination of Representation

An attorney who decides to substitute, decline or terminate representation of a client, owes a duty to communicate this fact to the client. See Pineda v. State Bar (1989) 49 Cal.3d 753, 263 Cal.Rptr. 377, 781 P.2d 1. See Civil Service Com. v. Superior Court (4th Dist. 1984) 163 Cal.App.3d 70, 209 Cal.Rptr. 159.

(2)   Settlement Offers

Along with the fiduciary duty to communicate matters which affect the procedural and substantive rights of a client, both B&PC § 6103.5 and CRPC 3-510 require an attorney to inform a client of all amounts, terms and conditions of any written settlement offer. Additionally, in a criminal matter, CRPC 3-510(B) requires the communication of all offers, whether written or oral. [See 1.4:400 Duty to Inform the Client of Settlement Offers, infra, for further discussion].

In addition to an attorney’s fiduciary duty to communicate, B&PC § 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500 both require that an attorney promptly respond to reasonable inquiries of a client and keep a client reasonably informed of “significant” developments in matters with regard to which the attorney has agreed to provide legal services. However, the CRPC 3-500 Official Discussion makes clear that an attorney is not required to relay “irrelevant or insignificant” information.

California courts have not expressly defined “significant,” however, an attorney’s failure to inform a client of an execution sale so that the client could bid at the sale in order to redeem the property within one year, was found to be “significant” such that the failure to communicate this information to the client violated B&PC § 6068(m). See Lucas v. Sweet (1956) 47 Cal.2d 20, 300 P.2d 828.

In addition to communicating “significant” developments to the client, B&PC § 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500 require that an attorney promptly respond to a client’s reasonable requests for information. See Spindell v. State Bar (1975) 13 Cal.3d 253, 118 Cal.Rptr. 480, 530 P.2d 168 (failing to communicate with his clients despite their persistent efforts to speak with him constituted a violation of B&PC § 6068(m)); Friedman v. State Bar (1990) 50 Cal.3d 235, 266 Cal.Rptr. 632, 786 P.2d 359, (failing to communicate with client for eighteen months resulted in a violation of B&PC § 6068(m)). Even if caused by neglect, the failure to respond to a client’s persistent requests, especially where it results in actual prejudice to the rights of a client, violates B&PC § 6068(m). See Spindell v. State Bar (1975) 13 Cal.3d 253, 118 Cal.Rptr. 480, 530 P.2d 168.

A breach of the fiduciary duty to communicate and inattention to a client’s needs, alone, may provide grounds for suspension, and in some cases disbarment. See Doyle v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 973, 126 Cal.Rptr. 801, 544 P.2d 937; McMorris v. State Bar (1981) 35 Cal.3d 77, 196 Cal.Rptr. 841, 672 P.2d 431 (deciding that the failure to communicate warranted disbarment); Layton v. State Bar (1990) 50 Cal. 889, 268 Cal.Rptr. 845, 789 P.2d 1026.

Similarly, the failure to adequately respond to a client’s inquiries such that a violation of B&PC § 6068(m) or CRPC 3-500 occurs, may result in disciplinary actions. See Gordon v. State Bar (1982) 31 Cal.3d 748, 183 Cal.Rptr. 861, 647 P.2d 137 (refusing to respond to inquiries from or to communicate with five clients resulted in disciplinary action); Taylor v. State Bar (1974) 11 Cal.3d 424, 113 Cal.Rptr. 478, 521 P.2d 470 (failing to respond to client’s requests for appointments along with other violations of professional conduct resulted in disciplinary proceedings).

To determine the appropriate discipline, courts balance the relevant factors, including mitigating and aggravating circumstances. See Gold v. State Bar (1989) 49 Cal.3d 908, 264 Cal.Rptr. 125, 782 P.2d 264, 782 P.2d 264; Demain v. State Bar (1970) 3 Cal.3d 381, 90 Cal.Rptr. 420, 475 P.2d 652, (taking into account the attorney’s previous good record and his attempt to overcome a drinking problem in finding suspension to be an acceptable punishment for the failure to communicate); Montalto v. State Bar (1974) 11 Cal.3d 231, 113 Cal.Rptr. 97, 520 P.2d 721 (considering personal and financial difficulties of attorney in the decision to impose punishment of suspension for the failure to communicate); Doyle v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 973, 126 Cal.Rptr. 801, 544 P.2d 937 (considering the attorney’s business and financial problems, along with marital difficulties, in determining probation to be appropriate punishment for the failure to communicate where suspension is usually required); Sullivan v. State Bar (1958) 50 Cal.2d 491, 326 P.2d 138 (considering the attorney’s failure to cooperate in determining three year suspension appropriate for the failure to communicate); Simmons v. State Bar (1970) 2 Cal.3d 719, 87 Cal.Rptr. 368, 470 P.2d 352 (taking into account the attorney’s two previous suspensions in determining disbarment to be appropriate punishment for the failure to communicate).

Additional statutory duties to inform include the requirement that an attorney inform a client of their fee arrangement and the requirement that, upon request, an attorney provide a client with a statement of trust funds. B&PC § 6091 requires that an attorney provide a client with a complete statement of any funds received or disbursed within ten days of receipt of a client’s written request. [See also, 1.5:500 Communication Regarding Fees, infra].

The following comments are taken from Karpman & Margolis page 173 with certain conforming changes:

B&PC § 6068(m) Duty to Communicate with Clients

Habitual disregard by a lawyer of the interests of his or her clients, combined with failure to communicate with such clients may constitute acts of moral turpitude justifying disbarment. McMorris v. State Bar (1983) 35 Cal.3d 77, 85, 196 Cal.Rptr. 841, 672 P.2d 431.

A lawyer may be found culpable of failing to communicate with a client, even after abandonment of the client’s case, or after completion of all substantive legal services. In the Matter of Nunez (Review Dept. 1992) 2 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 196, 204-205.

A lawyer was found in violation for not having in place an office system which would bring to his attention repeated inquiry calls from clients. In the Matter of Ward (Review Dept. 1992) 2 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 47, 57.

A culpable failure to communicate may be found even if non-communication extends over a relatively short period of time, if the client needs immediate action and the lawyer has agreed to provide it. In the Matter of Bach (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 631, 642.

1.4:300   Duty to Consult with Client

Primary California References:
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.4(b), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31.501, ALI-LGL §§ 31, Wolfram §§ 4.5

An attorney owes a basic obligation to provide sound advice in furtherance of a client’s best interest. See Davis v. Damrell (1st Dist. 1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257. However, this obligation does not include the duty to advise a client of all possible alternatives, regardless of how remote or tenuous the matter. See Davis v. Damrell (1st Dist. 1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257. While the duty to consult entitles a client to know the precise limits of the law within which they can act, this duty does not obligate the attorney to advise a client of the unsettled state of the law in order to permit the client to make an informed choice of whether to litigate the claim at trial or on appeal. See Davis v. Damrell (1st Dist. 1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257. In Davis, the client argued that the attorney should have advised him of all possibilities in an area of law which was unsettled. The court, however, determined that an attorney cannot be expected to anticipate the future resolution of an unsettled area of law. Thus, so long as the advice is based on informed judgment, even if the law proceeds to take a complete turn around, the attorney has fulfilled his duty to consult. See Davis v. Damrell (1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257 The court based its decision in Davis on the theory that attorneys must be free to fully advise and represent their clients, when based on informed judgment, without fear of subjecting themselves to liability as a result of the proper discharge of their professional obligations. See Davis v. Damrell (1st Dist. 1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257. See also Metzger v. Silverman (Cal. Super. 1976) 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 30, 133 Cal.Rptr. 355.

The duty to consult includes the duty to volunteer opinions, even if not specifically requested by the client, when in the furtherance of the client’s objective. See Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601. In Nichols, which involved a plaintiff of limited education, the court emphasized that the attorney is more qualified to recognize the client’s legal needs. Therefore, even if the attorney has limited representation of a client to a specific legal matter, the attorney should nonetheless advise the client of possible legal issues which may result in adverse consequences if not considered. See Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601. See also Davis v. Damrell (1st Dist. 1981) 119 Cal.App 883, 174 Cal.Rptr. 257.

Moreover, personal moral considerations do not excuse the duty to consult. To the extent appropriate, the attorney is either obligated to “implement the lawful instructions of [the] client or to advise them that she was unable to do so, thus giving them the opportunity of seeking other counsel.” See Martin v. State Bar (1991) 52 Cal.3d 1055, 277 Cal.Rptr. 868, 804 P.2d 54.

Once an attorney renders his advice, an attorney must respect and defer to decisions properly reserved for the client. See Davis v. State Bar (1983) 33 Cal.3d 231, 188 Cal.Rptr. 441, 655 P.2d 1276. Thus, the duty to provide a client with advice in furtherance of the client’s objective does not include a duty to compel a client to act, regardless of how improper and damaging to third parties a client’s chosen actions may be. See Purdy v. Pacific Automobile Ins. Co. (2nd Dist. 1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 59, 203 Cal.Rptr. 524.

Courts have found a breach of the duty to consult where an attorney habitually disregards a client’s interests to be grounds for disbarment. See Stanley v. State Bar (1990) 50 Cal.3d 555, 268 Cal.Rptr. 183, 788 P.2d 697. But see Bledsoe v. State Bar (1991) 52 Cal.3d 1074, 278 Cal.Rptr. 80, 804 P.2d 705 (finding disbarment excessive where the attorney’s misconduct involved four clients in seventeen years of practice, the attorney who had no prior disciplinary record, and where no extended “pattern” of willfully failing to perform services existed). Additionally, the failure to consult may result in malpractice liability. See Nichols v. Keller (5th Dist. 1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1672, 19 Cal.Rptr.2d 601.

1.4:400   Duty to Inform the Client of Settlement Offers

Primary California References: CRPC 3-510, 3-500, 3-110, B&PC § 6068
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.4, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31.501, ALI-LGL §§ 31, Wolfram §§ 4.5

B&PC § 6103.5 and CRPC 3-510 contain provisions concerning the communication of settlement offers. B&PC § 6103.5 and CRPC 3-510(A)(2) identically provide that an attorney “shall promptly communicate to the member’s client all amounts, terms, and conditions of any written offer of settlement.”

CRPC 3-510(B) and B&PC § 6103.5 both define “client” to include all persons with the authority to accept an offer of settlement or the representative of those in a class action. B&PC § 6103.5 additionally requires that individuals employ a member of the State Bar to be considered a “client.”

In a civil matter, in addition to requiring the communication of any written offer pursuant to B&PC § 6103.5 or CRPC 3-510, the CRPC 3-510 Official Discussion notes that any “significant” oral offers of settlement be communicated to the client. For the purposes of this rule, whether an offer is significant, should be determined by looking to its use in CRPC 3-500. [See also, 1.4:200 Duty to Communicate with Client, supra].

Specifically concerning criminal matters, CRPC 3-510(A)(1) requires that “all terms and conditions of any offer made to the client” be communicated by the attorney. Thus, the duty to inform a client of a settlement offer in a criminal proceeding includes the duty to inform a client of the terms of any offer, whether written or oral, made by the prosecution, as well as the consequences of accepting or rejecting this offer including the maximum and minimum sentences which may be imposed in the event of a conviction. See In re Alvernaz (1992) 2 Cal.4th 924, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 713, 830 P.2d 747. However, an attorney’s misjudgment as to the strength of the opposition’s case or the probable outcome, without more, does not render communication of a settlement offer inadequate. See In re Alvernaz (1992) 2 Cal.4th 924, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 713, 830 P.2d 747. Further, the CRPC 3-510 Official Discussion notes that the accused should be required to participate in any negotiations.

If a settlement falls within the realm of B&PC § 6103.5 or CRPC 3-500, the requirement that the settlement offer be communicated to the client is not excused even if the settlement was fair and the client purportedly suffered no damages. See Trousil v. State Bar (1985) 38 Cal.3d 337, 211 Cal.Rptr. 525, 695 P.2d 1066.

Settling a case without prior communication with the client is a disciplinary offense. See Levin v. State Bar (1989) 47 Cal.3d 1140, 255 Cal.Rptr. 422, 767 P.2d 689 (failing to communicate settlement offers to clients in two separate cases resulted in six months suspension); Trousil v. State Bar (1985) 38 Cal.3d 337, 211 Cal.Rptr. 525, 695 P.2d 1066 (imposing punishment of a two year suspension from the practice of law where an attorney failed to communicate settlement offers to clients).

The following comments are taken from Karpman & Margolis pages 61-62 with certain conforming changes:

CRPC 3-500 was enacted on May 27, 1989. Prior to that date, a lawyer’s failure to communicate with a client was charged as a violation of the lawyer’s oath and duties.

Cases

A lawyer’s failure to communicate, and his or her inattention to the needs of a client, is considered proper grounds for discipline; Aronin v. State Bar (1990) 52 Cal.3d 276, 287-288, 276 Cal.Rptr. 160, 801 P.2d 403; Mepham v. State Bar (1986) 42 Cal.3d 943, 949-950, 232 Cal.Rptr. 152, 728 P.2d 222; Spindell v. State Bar (1975) 13 Cal.3d 253, 260, 118 Cal.Rptr. 480, 530 P.2d 168; Taylor v. State Bar (1974) 11 Cal.3d 424, 429-432, 113 Cal.Rptr. 478, 521 P.2d 152; Chefsky v. State Bar (1984) 36 Cal.3d 116, 124-127, 202 Cal.Rptr. 349.

A lawyer’s duty to communicate with a client includes the duty to communicate with persons who reasonably believe they are clients, at least to the extent of advising them of the lawyer’s belief that they are not clients. Butler v. State Bar (1986) 42 Cal.3d 323, 228 Cal.Rptr. 499, 721 P.2d 585.

The lawyer has a duty to communicate significant events to a client, including statutory deadlines, In the Matter of Ward (Review Dept. 1992) 2 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 47; In the Matter of Bach (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 631; or the lawyer’s decision to not pursue a particular course of legal action because he deems it fruitless. Absent such communication, the client is deprived of the lawyer’s professional advice, as well as of the opportunity to consult with another lawyer as to the wisdom of such decision, In the Matter of Respondent C (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 439, 451; see also McMorris v. State Bar (1983) 35 Cal.3d 77, 196 Cal.Rptr. 841, 672 P.2d 431.

When the lawyer does not have an office system in place to assure that clients’ calls will be brought to his attention, he may be found guilty of a violation of this Rule. In the Matter of Ward (Review Dept. 1992) 2 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 47.

When the lawyer knows that the client needs immediate action, In the Matter of Bach (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 631, or that the client’s matter involves a large amount of money and the client is extremely anxious about the case, In the Matter of Tindall (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 652, the lawyer’s failure to return the client’s calls about the status of the case may violate this rule.

If the lawyer undertakes representation of a non-English speaking client, the duty to communicate is not relieved or reduced. The lawyer must make appropriate arrangements to ensure adequate communication, including the use of interpreters, or the referral of the case, or association with, a bilingual lawyer who can assist with the language problem. C.O.P.R.A.C. Op. 1984-77; Gold v. State Bar (1989) 49 Cal.3d 908, 264 Cal.Rptr. 125, 782 P.2d 264.

A lawyer suspended from the practice of law must still communicate with his or her clients so that prejudice to their cases is minimal, even though the communications may not take the form of legal advice. In the Matter of Taylor (Review Dept. 1991) 1 Cal. State Bar Ct. Rptr. 563, 575.

References

CRPC 3-110 (duty to act diligently and competently); CRPC 3-510 (duty to communicate settlement offers to client).

CRPC 3-510 Communication of Settlement Offer

References

B&PC Code § 6103.5 (requiring communication of written offer of settlement); B&PC § 6068(m) (statutory duty to communicate with client).

80 ALR3d 1240. Failure to communicate with client as basis for disciplinary action against attorney.

92 ALR3d 288. Conduct of attorney in connection with settlement of client’s case as ground for disciplinary action.