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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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.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 - 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] A lawyer need not necessarily have special training or prior experience to handle legal problems of a type with which the lawyer is unfamiliar. A newly admitted lawyer can be as competent as a practitioner with long experience. Some important legal skills, such as the analysis of precedent, the evaluation of evidence and legal drafting, are required in all legal problems. Perhaps the most fundamental legal skill consists of determining what kind of legal problems a situation may involve, a skill that necessarily transcends any particular specialized knowledge. A lawyer can provide adequate representation in a wholly novel field through necessary study. Competent representation can also be provided through the association of a lawyer of established competence in the field in question.


[4] A lawyer may accept representation where the requisite level of competence can be achieved through study and investigation, as long as such additional work would not result in unreasonable delay or expense to the client. This applies as well to a lawyer who is appointed as counsel for an unrepresented person. See also Rule 6.2.

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 extensive treatment than matters of lesser complexity and consequence. An agreement between the lawyer and the client regarding the scope of the representation may limit the matters for which the lawyer is responsible. See Rule 1.2(c). The lawyer should consult with the client about the degree of thoroughness and the level of preparation required, as well as the estimated costs involved under the circumstances.

Maintaining Competence

[6] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

Comparison to former Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility

Rule 1.1, requiring a lawyer to handle each matter competently, replaces DR 6-101(A)(1) and DR 6-101(A)(2). The rule eliminates the existing tension between DR 6-101(A)(1), which forbids a lawyer to handle a legal matter that the lawyer knows or should know that the lawyer is not competent to handle, without associating with a lawyer who is competent to handle the matter, and EC 6-3, which suggests that a lawyer can accept a matter that the lawyer is not initially competent to handle “if in good faith he expects to become qualified through study and investigation, as long as such preparation would not result in unreasonable delay or expense to his client.” Rule 1.1 does not confine a lawyer to associating with competent counsel in order to satisfy the lawyer’s duty to provide competent representation. As highlighted by the addition to Comment [4], no matter how a lawyer gains the necessary competence to handle a matter, the lawyer must be diligent and may charge no more than a reasonable fee.

Comparison to ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 1.1 is identical to Model Rule 1.1. Certain comments have been revised.

Comment [3] is stricken. The rule itself recognizes that competence is evaluated in the context of what is reasonably necessary under the circumstances. To the extent that Comment [3] was intended to affirm that this test would apply in an emergency situation, it does not add to the rule. On the other hand, Comment [3], as written, could erroneously be understood by practitioners to create an exception to the duty of competence.

Comment [4] is amended to incorporate language of EC 6-3. EC 6-3 cautions that if a lawyer intends to achieve the requisite competence to handle a matter through study and investigation, the lawyer’s additional work must not result in unreasonable delay or expense to the client.

Although a lawyer must always perform competently, a lawyer can provide competent assistance within a range of thoroughness and preparation. Comment [5] is revised to suggest that a lawyer consult with a client regarding the costs and extent of work to be performed.