Back to Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct
10. The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct are rules of reason. The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct define proper conduct for purposes of professional discipline. They are imperatives, cast in the terms shall or shall not. The Comments are cast often in the terms of may or should and are permissive, defining areas in which the lawyer has professional discretion. When a lawyer exercises such discretion, whether by acting or not acting, no disciplinary action may be taken. The Comments also frequently illustrate or explain applications of the rules, in order to provide guidance for interpreting the rules and for practicing in compliance with the spirit of the rules. The Comments do not, however, add obligations to the rules and no disciplinary action may be taken for failure to conform to the Comments.
11. The rules presuppose a larger legal context shaping the lawyer's role. That context includes court rules and statutes relating to matters of licensure, laws defining specific obligations of lawyers and substantive and procedural law in general. Compliance with the rules, as with all law in an open society, depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer and public opinion and finally, when necessary, upon enforcement through disciplinary proceedings. The rules and Comments do not, however, exhaust the moral and ethical considerations that should guide a lawyer, for no worthwhile human activity can be completely defined by legal rules.
12. Most of the duties flowing from the client-lawyer relationship attach only after the client has requested the lawyer to render legal services and the lawyer has agreed to do so. For purposes of determining the lawyer's authority and responsibility, individual circumstances and principles of substantive law external to these rules determine whether a client-lawyer relationship may be found to exist. But there are some duties, such as of that of confidentiality, that may attach before a client-lawyer relationship has been established.
13. The responsibilities of government lawyers, under various legal provisions, including constitutional, statutory and common law, may include authority concerning legal matters that ordinarily reposes in the client in private client-lawyer relationships. For example, a lawyer for a government agency may have authority on behalf of the government to decide upon settlement or whether to appeal from an adverse judgment. Such authority in various respects is generally vested in the attorney general and the state's attorney in state government, and their federal counterparts, and the same may be true of other government law officers. Also, lawyers under the supervision of these officers may be authorized to represent several government agencies in intragovernmental legal controversies in circumstances where a private lawyer could not represent multiple private clients. They also may have authority to represent the public interest in circumstances where a private lawyer would not be authorized to do so. These rules do not abrogate any such authority.
14. These rules make no attempt to prescribe either disciplinary procedures or penalties for violation of a rule.
15. These rules do not undertake to define standards of civil liability of lawyers for professional conduct. Violation of a rule does not give rise to a private cause of action nor does it create any presumption that a legal duty to a client has been breached. Likewise, these rules are not designed to be standards for procedural decisions. Furthermore, the purpose of these rules can be abused when they are invoked by opposing parties as procedural weapons. The fact that a rule is a just basis for a lawyer's self-assessment, or for sanctioning a lawyer under the administration of a disciplinary authority, does not imply that an antagonist in a collateral proceeding or transaction has standing to seek enforcement of the rule. Accordingly, nothing in the rules should be deemed to augment any substantive legal duty of lawyers or the extra-disciplinary consequences of violating such a duty.
16. Moreover, these rules are not intended to govern or affect judicial application of either the attorney-client or work product privilege. The fact that in exceptional situations the lawyer under the Rules has a limited discretion to disclose a client confidence does not vitiate the proposition that, as a general matter, the client has a reasonable expectation that information relating to the client will not be voluntarily disclosed and that disclosure of such information may be judicially compelled only in accordance with recognized exceptions to the attorney-client and work product privileges.