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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.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

1.16   Rule 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation

1.16:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island Rule

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

1.16:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island has adopted MR 1.16, including the Comments thereto, as RI Rule 1.17.

1.16:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 1.16 and other jurisdictions.

1.16:200   Mandatory Withdrawal

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17(a)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16(a), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:1001, ALI-LGL 32, Wolfram 9.54

1.16:210      Discharge by Client

A client has a right to discharge a lawyer at any time with or without cause. RI Eth. Op. 2002-04.

1.16:220      Incapacity of Lawyer

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.16:230      Withdrawal to Avoid Unlawful Conduct

A law firm may not represent one long-term client in a matter, which is to the detriment of a current client's interests where the firm, against the current client's objections, withdrew from that client's ongoing and unrelated representation. RI Eth. Op. 93-44 (1993).

A lawyer shall withdraw from representation if the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. RI Eth. Op. 94-29 (1994). If an attorney believes his or her interests will impact the representation due to a conflict of interest pursuant to RI Rule 1.7, then he or she should withdraw from representing the client. See id.

If an attorney believes a conflict of interest has arisen between the interests of his co-clients, he must withdraw. RI Eth. Op. 96-08 (1996).

An attorney who continued to represent a divorce client, while entering into a sexual relationship with that client, violated RI Rule 1.17(a)(1). See In re DiPippo, 678 A.2d 454 (R.I. 1996). "An attorney who desires to engage in sexual relations with a divorce client, when issues of child custody, support, and distribution of marital assets are at stake, must choose between furthering an intimate relationship or acting as a lawyer for the client. It is impermissible to do both." Id.

Where an attorney, hired by an insurance company to represent both its insured and the alleged driver of the insured's car, acquires information that is adverse to the interests of the driver and favorable to the insured, the attorney is prohibited from representing the insured. RI Eth. Op. 98-01 (1998).

1.16:300   Permissive Withdrawal

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17(b)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16(b), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:1101, ALI-LGL 32, Wolfram 9.5.3

Unless the attorney is permitted to terminate the representation, he or she must continue to protect the client's interests. RI Eth. Op. 92-94 (1993).

So long as the withdrawal would not prejudice the client's interests, an attorney may withdraw. RI Eth. Op. 93-35 (1993).

1.16:310      Withdrawal to Undertake Adverse Representation

A law firm may not represent on long-term client in a matter, which is to the detriment of a current client's interests where the firm, against the current client's objections, withdrew from that client's ongoing and unrelated representation. RI Eth. Op. 93-44 (1993). An attorney, who represented a corporation in a single litigation matter, may not represent an officer and shareholder of that corporation in a dispute against other shareholders, unless the corporation and the officer/shareholder consent after consultation. See id.

1.16:320      Circumstances Justifying Discretionary Withdrawal

Missing Client

An attorney is under obligation to exercise diligence in locating his client to advise him that the statute of limitations for filing his case is near expiration. RI Eth. Op. 92-94 (1993). The attorney should make affirmative efforts to locate the client, perhaps by personal visitation to his or her last know address or a search of post office or registry of motor vehicles. See id.

Fraudulent Claims

If an attorney reasonably believes a claim is fraudulent, withdrawal is permitted. RI Eth. Op. 92-94 request (1993); RI Eth. Op. 93-35 (1993).

Other good cause for withdrawal

When there is no conflict of interest, but a serious appearance of impropriety, the attorney should give serious consideration to withdraw. RI Eth. Op. 97-02 (1997).

1.16:400   Order by Tribunal to Continue Representation

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17(c)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16(c), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:1101, ALI-LGL 32, Wolfram 9.5.1

A lawyer shall continue representation when ordered by a tribunal to do so, notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.

There is no authority in Rhode Island on this topic.

1.16:500   Mitigating Harm to Client Upon Withdrawal

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17(d)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16(d), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:1201, ALI-LGL 32, 33, Wolfram 9.5.1

(a) Surrendering papers and property upon termination of representation.

Client is entitled to the contents of his or her file, excluding the attorney's work product. RI Eth. Op. 92-88 (1993).

A client is not entitled to the lawyer's own personal notes that are unrelated to legal analysis such as time records, notes of conversations with the client, requests written to the advisory panel, and other record-keeping documents. RI Eth. Op. 93-76 (1993).

Where the attorney represents a birthmother for the purpose of finding adoptive parents and all parties agreed that the identities of prospective adoptive parents were to remain confidential, the attorney may withhold the prospective and actual adoptive parent's identities when he or she surrenders papers to the birth mother. RI Eth. Op. 95-13 (1995).

Where an attorney misled her client to believe that she filed a civil action on her client's behalf and was attempting to resolve the case, failed to respond to her client's inquiries, and delayed the return of her client's file and fees, the attorney violated Rule 1.17(d), and the proper disciplinary action was public censure. In re Veiga, 783 A.2d 911 (R.I. 2001).

(b) Making copies for attorney's record

Attorney is obligated to return to the client the original documents; however, the attorney may, at his own expense, produce photocopies for himself. RI Eth. Op. 93-84 (1993).

(c) Cost of copying record

"Papers which were prepared for the client's benefit must be furnished without the cost of copying. Other papers, particularly internal notes, need not be furnished at all and to the extent the attorney consents to release them, forwarding may be conditioned upon a reasonable copying charge." RI Eth. Op. 94-41 (1994). "An attorney must furnish all 'end products' whose preparation was paid for by the client, regardless of whether the client will pay for copying." Id.

(d) Refund any advance payment of fee

The attorney must undertake efforts to determine from the arbitrator his actual fee to date, then return to the client, with an accounting, the portion of the fund that exceeds the actual fee of the arbitrator. RI Eth. Op. 96-33 (1996).

Where an attorney misled her client to believe that she filed a civil action on her client's behalf and was attempting to resolve the case, failed to respond to her client's inquiries, and delayed the return of her client's file and fees, the attorney violated Rule 1.17(d), and the proper disciplinary action was public censure. In re Veiga, 783 A.2d 911 (R.I. 2001).

When an attorney fails to exercise diligence by neglecting to pursue the legal matters of his clients, fails to keep his clients reasonably informed of the state of their legal matters, and fails to provide either an accounting or refund of unearned portions of fees to his clients when requested upon termination of his representation, he should be publicly censored. In re Foster, 826 A.2d 94 (R.I. 2003).

Attorney's desire to withdraw is warranted where there has been an irreparable breakdown in the relationship between attorney and client. The hearing justice should consider the reasons necessitating the withdrawal, the efficient and proper operation of the court, and the effect that granting or denying the motion will have on the parties. Court allowed attorney to withdraw when client repeatedly questioned attorney's competence and threatened to report him to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board. Decision did not significantly affect the proper operation of the court because at the time of the hearing there were no additional motions pending before the court in the matter. Decision to allow attorney to withdraw did not negatively affect the client because client retained new counsel approximately one week after attorney withdrew. Mills v. State Sales, Inc., 824 A.2d 461 (R.I. 2003).

1.16:600   Fees on Termination

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.17(d)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.16(d), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 31:701, 31:1001, 31:1101 , ALI-LGL 43, 52, Wolfram 9.5

1.16:610      Termination of Lawyer's Authority [see 1.2:270]

[The discussion of this topic has not yet been written.]