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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.

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Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct


Comment - Rule 1.8

Transactions Between Client and Lawyer

As a general principle, all transactions between client and lawyer should be fair and reasonable to the client. In such transactions a review by independent counsel on behalf of the client is often advisable. Furthermore, a lawyer may not exploit information relating to the representation to the client’s disadvantage. For example, a lawyer who has learned that the client is investing in specific real estate may not, without the client’s consent, seek to acquire nearby property where doing so would adversely affect the client’s plan for investment. Paragraph (a) does not, however, apply to standard commercial transactions between the lawyer and the client for products or services that the client generally markets to others, for example, banking or brokerage services, medical services, products manufactured or distributed by the client, and utilities’ services. In such transactions, the lawyer has no advantage in dealing with the client, and the restrictions in paragraph (a) are unnecessary and impracticable.

A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted. If effectuation of a substantial gift requires preparing a legal instrument such as a will or conveyance, however, the client should have the detached advice that another lawyer can provide. Paragraph (c) recognizes an exception where the client is a relative of the donee or the gift is not substantial.

Emergency Financial Assistance

On occasion, a client of a lawyer may suffer a financial emergency. The client may be totally unable to turn to traditional sources of emergency financial assistance such as banks, families, or neighbors to obtain necessary assistance in meeting such a financial emergency. While the client may have an expectation that a recovery in a pending lawsuit would provide ample funds from which to repay a loan, the collateralization of a loan with the anticipated proceeds of litigation is not generally accepted as a good business practice. In these circumstances, the only alternative to whom the client may realistically be able to turn is the lawyer handling the lawsuit. For true financial emergencies, arising from circumstances beyond the control of the client, the Rule permits the lawyer either to advance a loan to the client or to guarantee the repayment of a loan by a third party to the client.

A lawyer departs from the role of advocate when the lawyer becomes a lender to the client. The lawyer as lender is placed in a position adverse to the client, particularly if the client refuses to repay. Since the repayment by the client may not be contingent on the outcome of a matter, the client is always responsible for repayment of any loan, whether the client wins or loses the pending lawsuit.

Rule 1.8(e)(3) permits the lawyer to act as both advocate for and lender to the client under only the narrowest and most compelling of circumstances. The lawyer must not, prior to employment, directly or indirectly have assured the client of the availability of emergency financial assistance. The assistance must meet a true emergency. Emergency financial assistance does not include the regular provision of income and support to a client. Rather, the Rule is intended to permit the lawyer to help in those few cases which rise to the level of an emergency. The lawyer is never obligated to provide such assistance, and he is obligated to attempt collection from the client regardless of the outcome of the matter.

Literary Rights

An agreement by which a lawyer acquires literary or media rights concerning the conduct of the representation creates a conflict between the interests of the client and the personal interests of the lawyer. Measures suitable in the representation of the client may detract from the publication value of an account of the representation. Paragraph (d) does not prohibit a lawyer representing a client in a transaction concerning literary property from agreeing that the lawyer’s fee shall consist of a share in ownership in the property, if the arrangement conforms to Rule 1.5 and paragraph (j).

Person Paying for Lawyer's Service

Paragraph (f) requires disclosure of the fact that the lawyer’s services are being paid for by a third party. Subsection (1) in this paragraph expressly recognizes that in the insurance defense practice, attorneys are appointed by insurers to represent insureds as clients. The insurer’s authority to appoint counsel springs from its contract with the insured. In the normal insurance defense relationship where, for example, there are no coverage issues, appointed counsel has two clients, the insured and the insurer. Hence, the insurer is not a third party. Additionally, all arrangements pursuant to paragraph (f) must also conform to the requirements of Rule 1.6 concerning confidentiality and Rule 1.7 concerning conflict of interest. Where the client is a class, consent may be obtained on behalf of the class by court-supervised procedure.

Limiting Liabililty

Paragraph (h) is not intended to apply to customary qualifications and limitations in legal opinions and memoranda.

Family Relationships Between Lawyer's

Paragraph (i) applies to related lawyers who are in different firms. Related lawyers in the same firm are governed by Rules 1.7, 1.9, and 1.10. The disqualification stated in paragraph (i) is personal and is not imputed to members of firms with whom the lawyers are associated.

Acquisition of Interest in Litigation

Paragraph (j) states the traditional general rule that lawyers are prohibited from acquiring a proprietary interest in litigation. This general rule, which has its basis in common law champerty and maintenance, is subject to specific exceptions developed in decisional law and continued in these Rules, such as the exception for reasonable contingent fees set forth in Rule 1.5 and the exception for certain advances of the costs of litigation set forth in paragraph (e).

Representation of Both Parties in Domestic Cases

In domestic relations cases, the lawyer is prohibited from representing both of the opposing parties, who generally are spouses or former spouses. This prohibition is applicable in a broad range of domestic relations cases, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, or other proceedings which generally fall under this category. The prohibition applies even in uncontested matters; thus, representation of both parties is not allowed even if the lawyer concludes that he could conduct the representation in a manner consistent with Rule 1.7, concerning conflicts of interest generally, or Rule 2.2, concerning intermediation between clients. This Rule is grounded in the view that, in domestic relations matters, the appropriate policy is a broad-based proscription not subject to waiver by the parties or the lawyer.

Often a lawyer is confronted with a situation in which the opposing parties in a divorce case have agreed, or can agree, on the terms of the divorce concerning such matters as alimony, child custody, and child support. In such a situation, paragraphs (k)(1)-(4) permit a lawyer representing one of the parties to provide an answer and waiver to the unrepresented party if the unrepresented party knowingly executes a specified form of document, which must be filed in the proceeding. The document contains disclosures and disclaimers directed towards the unrepresented party. Having complied with paragraphs (k)(1)-(4), the lawyer may have contact with the unrepresented party. Upon request of the unrepresented party, the lawyer may prepare an answer to a petition or complaint, as well as other appropriate pleadings and agreements, for the signature of the unrepresented party. This Rule thus permits a lawyer to facilitate his representation of one party by preparing documents for the unrepresented party to sign. If these activities are performed in accordance with the specified procedure, the lawyer is not in violation of the prohibition upon representation of opposing parties in domestic proceedings.