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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Colorado Legal Ethics

1.3   Rule 1.3 Diligence

1.3:100   Comparative Analysis of Colorado Rule

Primary Colorado References: CO Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

1.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

Both Colo.RPC 1.3 and MR 1.3 state in identical language the well-established rule that “[a] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” However, Colo.RPC 1.3 additionally provides that “[a] lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to that lawyer.” The Committee Comment to Colo.RPC 1.3 explains that this second sentence was added “in order to establish an enforceable standard as well as an affirmative obligation to act with reasonable diligence and promptness.”

The Comment to Colo.RPC 1.3 is identical to the Model Rule Comment, with one exception. Comment [1] to MR 1.3 states that “[a] lawyer has professional discretion in determining the means by which a matter should be pursued. See Rule 1.2.” The Comment to Colo.RPC 1.3 omits that language.

1.3:102      Model Code Comparison

The Committee Comment to Colo.RPC 1.3 notes that the second sentence in Colo.RPC 1.3 restates DR 6-101(A)(3).

1.3:200   Diligence and "Zeal"

Primary Colorado References: CO Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31:401, ALI-LGL § 28, Wolfram § 10.3

Virtually no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination. See Lewis, Ten of the Easiest Ethics Violations for Honest Lawyers, 27Colo. Law. 75, 76 (Aug. 1998). This, in part, is why Colo.RPC 1.3 requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence in representing a client and prohibits an attorney from neglecting a client’s legal matter. The rule’s prohibition of attorney neglect is a restatement of DR 6-101(A)(3) which provided that “[a] lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him.”

Attorneys may be disciplined under Colo.RPC 1.3 for a wide variety of misconduct. Some examples include: failing to disclose the names of expert witnesses in accordance with a court’s discovery order, see, e.g., People v. Fager, 925 P.2d 280 (Colo. 1996); failing to advise a client of discovery sanctions or settlement offers and failing to prepare a client for their deposition, see, e.g., People v. Holmes, 921 P.2d 44 (Colo. 1996); neglecting two matters which resulted in their dismissal, see, e.g., People v. Calvert, 915 P.2d 1310 (Colo. 1996); failing to pay a client’s bills from funds created by a divorce settlement and failing to communicate with a client regarding those unpaid bills, see, e.g., People v. Murray, 912 P.2d 554 (Colo. 1996); failing to write a letter on behalf of a client and failing to return a client’s phone calls, see, e.g., People v. Regan, 831 P.2d 893 (Colo. 1992); an eight month delay in distributing settlement proceeds and a one year delay in preparing a final dissolution decree, see, e.g., People v. Genchi, 824 P.2d 815 (Colo. 1992); and failing to perform any professional services whatsoever for a client after being retained, see, e.g., People v. McGrath, 833 P.2d 731 (Colo. 1992).

The extent of disciplinary action under Colo.RPC 1.3 varies considerably depending on the seriousness of the violation and the surrounding circumstances. A violation of Rule 1.3 can therefore result in any of the following: public censure, see, e.g., People v. Bonner, 927 P.2d 836 (Colo. 1996) (criminal defense attorney publicly censured for failing to review district attorney’s file and transcripts of preliminary hearing); suspension, see, e.g., People v. Paulson, 930 P.2d 582 (Colo. 1997) (attorney suspended for one year and one day for neglecting client’s legal matters and failing to communicate with client); and even disbarment when the neglect is serious or coupled with other violations of the professional rules, see, e.g., People v. Wallace, 936 P.2d 1282 (Colo. 1997) (attorney disbarred for abandoning client and misappropriating client funds); People v. Hebenstreit, 823 P.2d 125 (Colo. 1992) (attorney disbarred for extensive pattern of neglect and misrepresenting to client the status of proceedings).

1.3:300   Promptness

Primary Colorado References: CO Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31:401, ALI-LGL § 28, Wolfram § 10.3

See Section 1.3:200. The promptness requirement of Rule 1.3 does not appear to impose a requirement beyond the scope of the diligence requirements. The annotations to Rule 1.3 illustrate the many types of conduct that violate the diligence and promptness requirements.