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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Rhode Island Legal Ethics

I. CLIENT-LAWYER RELATIONSHIP

1.1   Rule 1.1 Competence

1.1:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

1.1:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island has adopted MR 1.1 including the Comments thereto.

1.1:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 1.1 and other jurisdictions.

1.1:200   Disciplinary Standard of Competence

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31:201, ALI-LGL § 16, Wolfram § 5.1

Attorney's failure to effectuate service of process in timely manner, and his inability to appreciate requirement of timely service, demonstrate incompetence. In the Matter of Krause, 737 A.2d 874 (R.I. 1999). There is no other authority in RI concerning the disciplinary standard of competence. As stated in the Comment to the Rule, in determining whether a lawyer employs the requisite knowledge and skill in a particular matter, relevant factors include the complexity and specialized nature of the matter, the lawyer's general experience and other related factors.

1.1:300   Malpractice Liability

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 301:101, ALI-LGL § 49-54 , Wolfram § 5.6

Plaintiff in a legal malpractice action based on negligence must produce evidence of any damages resulting to her legal position or to her legal detriment personally as a result of her attorney's activities, i.e., inappropriate sexual activities. Dal Rosario Vallinoto v. DiSandro, 688 A.2d 830 (R.I. 1997). In this case the Court found that plaintiff failed to produce any evidence of damages and therefore failed in her legal action.

1.1:310      Relevance of Ethics Codes in Malpractice Actions

The Scope section of the Preamble of the RI Rules provides that violation of a Rule should neither give rise to a cause of action nor should it create any presumption that a legal duty has been breached. The section further provides that the Rules are not designed to be the basis for civil liability. There is no other authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:320      Duty to Client

Notarizing Photostatted deed containing signatures of parties to correct error in deed's transcription, and recording Photostatted deed in land records without notifying parties, constitutes dishonesty and fraud, and justifies suspension from practice of law for six months, despite attorney's sincere remorse. Lisi v. Gallucci, 602 A.2d 938 (R.I. 1992).

Failure to communicate with clients regarding reasonable requests for information, failure to respond to lawful demands for information from disciplinary counsel, and failure to act with necessary competence and due diligence warrants public censure and supervision of practice. In re Rosen, 637 A.2d 1378 (1994).

Attorney's public reprimand in Massachusetts for leading client to believe that case had been filed, but then waiting almost three years to notify client that case was meritless and had not been filed, warranted reciprocal discipline of public censure. In re Frank, 706 A.2d 927 (R.I. 1998).

Attorney failed to provide competent representation to client by advising client to list property for sale in absence of proper foreclosure; attorney's poor advice evidenced that he lacked the legal knowledge necessary to represent client in foreclosure proceedings. In re Holland, 713 A.2d 227 (R.I. 1998).

An attorney may not condition continued representation of client upon client's release of another lawyer from liability. To do so would impermissibly circumscribe Client's options and compromise the quality of the representation, contrary to RI Rule 1.1. RI Eth. Op. 90-37 (1990).

As stated in RI Rule 1.1, a lawyer has the duty to provide competent representation to a client and to provide that representation loyally and in the exercise of the lawyer's independent professional judgment. See also Comment to RI Rule 1.7.

1.1:330      Standard of Care

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:335      Requirement of Expert Testimony

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:340      Causation and Damages

See DiSandro case, supra, under 1.1:300 Malpractice Liability, supra.

1.1:350      Waiver of Prospective Liability

See Section 1.2:240, infra.

1.1:360      Settlement of Client's Malpractice Claim

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:370      Defenses to Malpractice Claim

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:380      Liability to Client for Breach of Contract, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Other Liabilities

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:390      Liability Where Non-Lawyer Would Be Liable

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:400   Liability to Certain Non-Clients

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 71:1101, ALI-LGL § 51, Wolfram § 5.6

1.1:410      Duty of Care to Certain Non-Clients

An attorney has no general duty to the opposing party, although an attorney does owe a duty to an adverse party not to participate in fraudulent conduct. Thus, a third party ordinarily does not have standing to pursue a claim for tortuous interference with a contract against his/her adversary's attorney. Toste Farm Corp. v. Hadbury, Inc., 798 A.2d 901 (R.I. 2002). Beneficiaries of trust had standing to bring suit against law firm because the court determined that a trustee's attorney owes a duty of care to the trust beneficiaries. The voluntary assignment of a legal malpractice claim by a trustee to the beneficiary is permissible under Rhode Island law because the assignment is similar to market assignments involving purely economic transactions rather than to freestanding malpractice personal injury claims. Am. Kennel Club Museum of the Dog ex rel. Camilla Lyman Unitrust v. Edwards & Angell, LLP, 2002 WL 1803923, (R.I. Super. Jul. 26, 2002).

1.1:420      Reliance of Lawyer's Opinion [See also 2.3:300]

See Section 2.3:300, infra.

1.1:430      Assisting Unlawful Conduct [See also 1.2:600-1.2:630, infra]

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:440      Knowledge of Client's Breach of Fiduciary Duty

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:450      Failing to Prevent Death or Bodily Injury

See Section on Rule 1.6, infra.

1.1:500   Defenses and Exceptions to Liability

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 301:1001, ALI-LGL §§ 54, 57, Wolfram § 5.6

1.1:510      Advocate's Defamation Privilege

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:520      Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings; Abuse of Process; False Arrest

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:530      Assisting Client to Break a Contract

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.1:600   Vicarious Liability [See 5.1:500]

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.1
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 91:201, ALI-LGL § 58, Wolfram § 5.6