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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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Colorado Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct


Comment - Rule 1.1

Legal Knowledge and Skill

[1] In determining whether a lawyer employs the requisite knowledge and skill in a particular matter, relevant factors include the relative complexity and specialized nature of the matter, the lawyer's general experience, the lawyer's training and experience in the field in question, the preparation and study the lawyer is able to give the matter and whether it is feasible to refer the matter to, or associate or consult with, a lawyer of established competence in the field in question. In many instances, the required proficiency is that of a general practitioner. Expertise in a particular field of law may be required in some circumstances.

[2] While the licensing of a lawyer is evidence that the lawyer has met the standards then prevailing for admission to the bar, a lawyer generally should not accept employment in any area of the law in which the lawyer is not qualified. However, a lawyer may accept such employment if in good faith the lawyer expects to become qualified through study and investigation, as long as such preparation would not result in unreasonable delay or expense to clients. Proper preparation and representation may require the association by the lawyer of professionals in other disciplines. A lawyer offered employment in a matter in which the lawyer is not and does not expect to become so qualified should either decline the employment or, with the consent of the client, accept the employment and associate with a lawyer who is competent in the matter.

[3] In an emergency lawyer may give advice or assistance in a matter in which the lawyer does not have the skill ordinarily required where referral to or consultation or association with another lawyer would be impractical. Even in an emergency, however, assistance should be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances, for ill considered action under emergency conditions can jeopardize the client's interest.

[4] A lawyer may accept representation where the requisite level of competence can be achieved by reasonable preparation. This applies as well to a lawyer who is appointed as counsel for an unrepresented person.

Thoroughness and Preparation

[5] Competent handling of a particular matter includes inquiry into and analysis of the factual and legal elements of the problem, and use of methods and procedures meeting the standards of competent practitioners. It also includes adequate preparation. The required attention and preparation are determined in part by what is at stake; major litigation and complex transactions ordinarily require more elaborate treatment than matters of lesser consequence.

[6] Because of a lawyer's vital role in the legal process, a lawyer should act with competence and proper care in representing clients. The lawyer should strive to become and remain proficient in law practice and should accept employment only in matters which the lawyer is or intends to become competent to handle.

Maintaining Competence

[7] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should engage in continuing study and education. If a system of peer review has been established, the lawyer should consider making use of it in appropriate circumstances.

[8] A lawyer is aided in attaining and maintaining competence by keeping abreast of current legal literature and developments, participating in continuing legal education programs, concentrating in particular areas of the law, and by utilizing other available means. A lawyer has the additional ethical obligation to assist in improving the legal profession, and may do so by participating in bar activities intended to advance the quality and standards of members of the profession. Of particular importance is the careful training of younger associates and giving sound guidance to all lawyers who consult the lawyer. In short, a lawyer should strive at all levels to aid the legal profession in advancing the highest possible standards of integrity and competence and to personally meet those standards.

[9] Having undertaken representation, a lawyer should use proper care to safeguard the interests of the client. If a lawyer has accepted employment in a matter beyond the lawyer's competence but in which the lawyer is expected to become competent, the lawyer should diligently undertake the work and study necessary to qualify. In addition to being qualified to handle a particular matter, the lawyer's obligation to the client requires the lawyer to prepare adequately for and give appropriate attention to all legal work.

[10] Lawyers should have pride in their professional endeavors. The lawyer's obligation to act competently calls for higher motivation than that arising from fear of civil liability or disciplinary penalty.

Committee Comment

[11] Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility deals with competent representation but defines competence negatively. Model Rule 1.1 more fully particularizes the elements of competence and does so affirmatively by requiring that the lawyer be competent.

[12] The Committee integrated salutary provisions of the Ethical Considerations found in the Code into the Comments to Rule 1.1.