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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Florida Legal Ethics

1.3   Rule 1.3 Diligence

1.3:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

1.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

The Florida Rule is identical to MR 1.3.

1.3:102      Model Code Comparison

DR 6-101(A)(3) prohibits a lawyer from neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him. DR 7-101(A)(1) prohibits a lawyer from intentionally failing to seek the lawful objectives of the client through reasonably available means.

1.3:200   Diligence and "Zeal"

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:401, ALI-LGL 16, Wolfram 10.3

"Failing to represent one's client zealously, failing to communicate effectively with one's client, and failing to provide competent representation are all serious deficiencies, even when there is no evidence of intentional misrepresentation or fraud." Florida Bar v. Roberts, 689 So. 2d 1049, 1051 (Fla. 1997). In Florida Bar v. Maier, 784 So. 2d 411 (Fla 2001), a lawyer with a history of previous discipline was suspended for 60 days for failing to act diligently in pursuing her client's application for alien labor certification, failing to keep the client reasonably informed and failing to timely respond to Bar inquiries.

FL Rule 4-1.3 does not required a lawyer to file suit, on behalf of a litigation client who has disappeared, to toll the statute of limitations if the client's unavailability is not caused by the lawyer's neglect or inaction and (1) the lawyer believes that there is no reasonable chance that the client will return; or (2) the client's unavailability is a breach of the attorney-client employment agreement (such as a requirement that the client promptly notify the lawyer of any change of address). FL Eth. Op. 72-36 (Reconsideration) (July 1, 1987). The committee noted, "[h]owever, even in these situations it would not be unethical for the attorney to file suit in order to toll the statute of limitations." Id.

1.3:300   Promptness

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:401, ALI-LGL 16, Wolfram 10.3

"Prompt and competent attention to legal matters is a paramount duty of the legal profession, and every legal matter, no matter how small, deserves the diligence and proficiency the public expects from a Florida lawyer." Florida Bar v. Morse, 784 So. 2d 414 (Fla. 2001). In Morse, the lawyer was suspended for knowingly failing to perform services for a client. FL Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 4.43 says that public reprimand is appropriate when a lawyer negligently fails to act diligently. 4.43 says that suspension is appropriate when such failure is knowing rather than merely negligent. The court found the client's repeated contact with the lawyer and his repeated assurances that the matter would be resolved showed knowing neglect, not mere negligence.