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Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.

Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct


Comment - Rule 1.4

Keeping the Client Reasonably Informed

[1] Reasonable communication between the lawyer and the client is necessary for the client to effectively participate in the representation. When a decision about the representation must be made by the client, the lawyer must consult with and secure the client’s consent prior to taking action. Thus, a lawyer who receives from opposing counsel an offer of settlement in a civil controversy or a proffered plea bargain in a criminal case should promptly inform the client of its substance, unless prior discussions with the client have left it clear that the proposal would be unacceptable. With respect to the decisions for which the client’s prior consent is not required by Rule 1.2, the lawyer’s responsibility is to keep the client reasonably informed. In some situations—depending on both the importance of the action under consideration and the feasibility of consulting with the client—this duty will require consultation prior to taking the action. In other circumstances, such as during a trial when an immediate decision must be made, practical exigency may also require a lawyer to act for a client without prior consultation. In such cases, and in other situations in which the client has impliedly or expressly delegated authority to the lawyer to take action without prior consultation, the lawyer must nonetheless act reasonably to keep the client informed of actions the lawyer has taken on the client’s behalf.

Explaining the Matters

[2] The client should have sufficient information to participate intelligently in decisions concerning the objectives of the representation and the means by which they are to be pursued, to the extent the client is willing and able to do so. For example, a lawyer negotiating on behalf of a client should provide the client with facts relevant to the matter, inform the client of communications from another party, and take other reasonable steps that permit the client to make a decision regarding a serious offer from another party.

[3] Ordinarily, the information to be provided is that appropriate for a client who is a comprehending and responsible adult. However, fully informing the client according to this standard may be impracticable, for example, where the client is a child or has a mental disability. See RPC 1.14. When the client is an organization or group, it is often impossible or inappropriate to inform every one of its members about its legal affairs, and ordinarily, the lawyer should address communications to the appropriate officials of the organization. See RPC 1.13. Where many routine matters are involved, a system of limited or occasional reporting may be arranged with the client. Practical exigency may also require a lawyer to act for a client without prior consultation.

Withholding Information

[4] In some circumstances, a lawyer may be justified in delaying transmission of information when the client would be likely to react imprudently to an immediate communication. Thus, a lawyer might withhold a psychiatric diagnosis of a client when the examining psychiatrist indicates that disclosure would harm the client. A lawyer may not withhold information to serve the lawyer’s own interest or convenience. Rules or court orders governing litigation may provide that information supplied to a lawyer may not be disclosed to the client. Rule 3.4(c) directs compliance with such rules or orders.