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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.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

1.3   Rule 1.3 Diligence

1.3:100   Comparative Analysis of Rhode Island

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions

1.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

Rhode Island has adopted MR 1.3 including the Comments thereto.

1.3:102      Model Code Comparison

Rhode Island has not adopted a Model Code comparison. See MR 1.3 and other jurisdictions.

1.3:200   Diligence and "Zeal"

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31:401, ALI-LGL § 16, Wolfram § 10.3

Where, inter alia, an attorney failed to act with reasonable diligence by failing to promptly file a claim, to promptly record the judgment as a lien against real estate, to levy on an execution issued by the court, and to take affirmative steps to collect the amount owed to his client, the proper disciplinary action was suspension until the attorney could prove to the court that he was capable of resuming the practice of law and attending to representing his clients. In re MacLean, 774 A.2d 888 (R.I. 2001).

An attorney's failure to exercise diligence by failing to provide his clients with documents, to communicate with them to resolve the matter, and to respond during disciplinary investigations, and when he had a history of receiving admonishments and reprimands, the proper disciplinary action was indefinite suspension. In re Cozzolino, 774 A.2d 891 (R.I. 2001)

Attorney's neglect of interests of ward throughout attorney's involvement in guardianship estate violated Rule 1.3, which requires a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. In the Matter of Krause, 737 A.2d 874 (R.I. 1999).

Failure to act with reasonable diligence in effectuating service on defendant, which resulted in dismissal of client's claim, failure to advise clients concerning ramifications of dismissal, and engaging in deceitful conduct warranted public censure and requirement that attorney receive additional legal education. In re D'Ambrosio, 714 A.2d 1198 (R.I. 1998).

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 without merit and had not been filed, warranted public censure. In re Frank, 706 A.2d 927 (R.I. 1998). Attorney's failure to finalize client's divorce for two years following trial violated Rule 1.3, which requires exercise of due diligence in representation with clients. In the Matter of A. Cozzolino, 767 A.2d 71 (R.I. 2001).

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 1.3,, and the proper disciplinary action was public censure. In re Veiga, 783 A.2d 911 (R.I. 2001).

Where a client retained other counsel to pursue a legal malpractice action against predecessor counsel, the attorney-client relationship had been terminated and predecessor counsel had no ethical obligation under Rules1.3 or 1.4 to continue to advise the client regarding the previous matter. Predecessor counsel would also violate Rule 4.2 if he/she communicated with the client about the previous matter without the malpractice attorney's consent. RI Eth. Op. 2002-01.

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).

1.3:300   Promptness

Primary Rhode Island References: RI Rule 1.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA § 31:401, ALI-LGL § 16, Wolfram § 10.3

RI Rule 1.3 requires a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

Persistent Neglect

Failure to implement client's wishes after his professional advice was rejected violated this rule. In re Brousseau, 697 A.2d 1079 (R.I. 1997). Repeated delay in paying client medical bills resulted in suspension although client was not actually harmed by the delay. In re Watt, 701 A.2d 319 (R.I. 1997).

Discipline was warranted when an attorney failed to timely file an appeal (RI Rule 1.3) together with failure to keep the client informed. In re Grochowski, 701 A.2d 1013 (R.I. 1997). Attorney was disbarred when, on several occasions he represented to clients that action had been taken on their cases when in fact attorney had failed to act. Lisi v. Biafore, 615 A.2d 473 (R.I. 1992).

Attorney's tumultuous home life, overwhelming caseload, and lack of support staff did not mitigate failure to proceed with client's case with reasonable diligence and promptness, to keep client reasonably informed, or to cooperate with disciplinary counsel, and warranted public censure. In re Watt, 701 A.2d 1011 (R.I. 1997).

Public censure was warranted for attorney with prior disciplinary history who failed to diligently pursue clients' claims and stopped communicating with clients, even though terminal illness of attorney's father was mitigating factor. In re Fishbein, 701 A.2d 1018 (R.I. 1997).

Failure to settle decedent's estate for more than six years after attorney was retained and knowing failure to respond to disciplinary counsel's lawful demands for information, in addition to continued failure to exercise due diligence on client's behalf after conduct became subject of disciplinary proceedings, warranted three-month suspension from practice of law. In re Grochowski, 687 A.2d 77 (R.I. 1996). Failure to commence probate proceedings for two and a half years after having been retained, with the result of financial harm to client, respondent violated RI Rule 1.3. In re Holland, 713 A.2d 227 (R.I. 1998).

Note: Violation of RI Rule 1.3 generally results in discipline when accompanied by other rule violations. See, e.g., In re Rosen, 637 A.2d 1378 (R.I. 1994) (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 required of attorneys warrants public censure and supervision of practice).