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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.

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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - 2.4

[1] Alternative dispute resolution has become a substantial part of the civil justice system. Aside from representing clients in dispute-resolution processes, lawyers often serve as third-party neutrals. A third-party neutral is a person, such as a mediator, arbitrator, conciliator, or evaluator, who assists the parties, represented or unrepresented, in the resolution of a dispute or in the arrangement of a transaction. Whether a third-party neutral serves primarily as a facilitator, evaluator, or decision-maker depends on the particular process that is either selected by the parties or mandated by a court.

[2] In the role of a third-party neutral, the lawyer may be subject to statutes, court rules, or other laws that apply either to third-party neutrals generally or to lawyers serving as third-party neutrals. Lawyer-neutrals may also be subject to various codes of ethics, including but not limited to the Code of Ethics for Arbitration in Commercial Disputes prepared by a joint committee of the American Bar Association and the American Arbitration Association or the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators jointly prepared by the American Bar Association, the American Arbitration Association, and the Association for Conflict Resolution.

[3] Unlike nonlawyers who serve as third-party neutrals, lawyers serving in this role may experience unique problems as a result of differences between the role of a third-party neutral and a lawyer’s service as a client representative. The potential for confusion is significant when the parties are unrepresented in the process. Thus, division (b) requires a lawyer-neutral to inform unrepresented parties that the lawyer is not representing them. For some parties, particularly parties who frequently use dispute-resolution processes, this information will be sufficient. For others, particularly those who are using the process for the first time, more information will be required. Where appropriate, the lawyer should inform unrepresented parties of the important differences between the lawyer’s role as third-party neutral and a lawyer’s role as a client representative, including the inapplicability of the attorney-client evidentiary privilege. The extent of disclosure required under this division will depend on the particular parties involved and the subject matter of the proceeding, as well as the particular features of the dispute-resolution process selected.

[4] A lawyer who serves as a third-party neutral subsequently may be asked to serve as a lawyer representing a client in the same matter. The conflicts of interest that arise for both the individual lawyer and the lawyer’s law firm are addressed in Rule 1.12.

[5] Lawyers who represent clients in alternative dispute-resolution processes are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct. When the dispute-resolution process takes place before a tribunal, as in binding arbitration [see Rule 1.0(o)], the lawyer’s duty of candor is governed by Rule 3.3. Otherwise, the lawyer’s duty of candor toward both the third-party neutral and other parties is governed by Rule 4.1.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

There is no Disciplinary Rule comparable to Rule 2.4. EC 5-21, while not specifically addressing the exact same role of the lawyer, nonetheless does embody some of the same responsibilities as contained in the rule.

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment [2] is modified to include “statutes” that may govern the conduct of a third-party neutral. This is consistent with the Ohio situation in which mediators are governed by statutory requirements.