1.13 Conflicts: Public Interests Activities

A lawyer serving as a director, officer or member of a legal services, civic, charitable or law reform organization, apart from the law firm in which the lawyer practices, shall not knowingly participate in a decision or action of the organization:

(a) if participating in the decision would violate the lawyers obligations to a client under Rule 1.06; or

(b) where the decision could have a material adverse effect on the representation of any client of the organization whose interests are adverse to a client of the lawyer.

Comment:

1. Lawyers are encouraged to serve as directors, officers or members of legal services, civic, charitable or law reform organizations, and, with two exceptions, they may do so notwithstanding that the organization either itself has interests adverse to a client of the lawyer or else serves persons having such adverse interests.

2. When the lawyer is a director, officer or member of a legal services organization, further problems can arise when a client served by the organization has interests adverse to those of a client served by the lawyer. A lawyer-client relationship with persons served by the organization does not result solely from the lawyer's service in those capacities. Nonetheless, if the lawyer were to participate in an action or decision of the organization concerning that representation, a real danger of having this quality of the organizational client's representation being dictated by its adversary would be presented. To avoid that possibility, paragraph (b) prohibits a lawyer's participation in actions or decisions of the organization that could have a material adverse effect on the representation of any client of the organization, if that client's interests are adverse to those of a client of the lawyer.

3. Law reform organizations (like civic and charitable organizations) generally do not have clients, in which event paragraph (b) does not apply. For reasons of public policy, it is not generally considered a conflict of interest for a lawyer to engage in law reform activities even though such activities are adverse to the interests of the lawyer's private clients. A lawyer's representation of a client does not constitute an endorsement of the client's political, economic, social or moral views, nor does he forego his own. When the lawyer knows that the interests of a client may be materially benefitted by a law reform decision in which the lawyer participates, the lawyer should disclose that fact but need not identify the client.
 

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