15.04 Violations of Duties Owed to Clients

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A. Lack of Diligence

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and upon application of the factors set out in Rule 15.02, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving neglect, frequent failure to carry out completely the obligations owed to a client, failure to communicate, failure to provide competent representation, or failure to abide by client decisions:

1. Disbarment is generally appropriate when:

  • (a) a Respondent abandons the practice and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client; or
  • (b) a Respondent knowingly fails to perform services for a client, fails to adequately communicate with a client, fails to provide competent representation, or fails to abide by client decisions and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client; or
  • (c) a Respondent engages in a pattern of neglect with respect to client matters, inadequate client communications, lack of competent representation, or failure to abide by client decisions and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client.

2. Suspension is generally appropriate when:

  • (a) a Respondent knowingly fails to perform services for a client, fails to adequately communicate with a client, fails to provide competent representation, or fails to abide by client decisions and causes injury or potential injury to a client, or
  • (b) a Respondent engages in a pattern of neglect with respect to client matters, inadequate client communications, lack of competent representation, or failure to abide by client decisions and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

3. Public reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent does not act with reasonable diligence in representing a client, communicating with a client, providing competent representation, or abiding by client decisions and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

4. Private reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent does not act with reasonable diligence in representing a client, communicating with a client,providing competent representation or abiding by client decisions and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client.

B. Failure to Preserve the Client’s Property

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and upon application of the factors set out in Rule 15.02, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving the failure to preserve client property, including the failure to surrender papers and property or to refund any advance payment of fee that has not been earned on the termination of representation:

1. Disbarment is generally appropriate when a Respondent knowingly converts client property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

2. Suspension is generally appropriate when a Respondent knows or should know that he is dealing improperly with client property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

3. Public reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent is negligent in dealing with client property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

4. Private reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent is negligent in dealing with client property and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client.

C. Failure to Preserve the Client’s Confidences

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and upon application of the factors set out in Rule 15.02, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving improper disclosure of information relating to the representation of a client:

1. Disbarment is generally appropriate when a Respondent, with the intent to benefit the Respondent or another, knowingly reveals information relating to the representation of a client not otherwise lawfully permitted to be disclosed, and this disclosure causes injury or potential injury to a client.

2. Suspension is generally appropriate when a Respondent knowingly reveals information relating to the representation of a client not otherwise lawfully permitted to be disclosed, and this disclosure causes injury or potential injury to a client.

3. Public reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent negligently reveals information relating to representation of a client not otherwise lawfully permitted to be disclosed, and this disclosure causes injury or potential injury to a client.

4. Private reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent negligently reveals information relating to representation of a client not otherwise lawfully permitted to be disclosed and this disclosure causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client.

D. Failure to Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and upon application of the factors set out in Rule 15.02, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving conflicts of interest:

1. Disbarment is generally appropriate when a Respondent, without the informed
consent of client(s):

  • (a) engages in representation of a client knowing that the Respondent’s interests are adverse to the client’s with the intent to benefit the lawyer or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to the client; or
  • (b) simultaneously represents clients that the Respondent knows have adverse interests with the intent to benefit the lawyer or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client; or
  • (c) represents a client in a matter substantially related to a matter in which the interests of a present or former client are materially adverse, and knowingly uses information relating to the representation of a client with the intent to benefit the Respondent or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client.

2. Suspension is generally appropriate when a Respondent knows of a conflict of interest and does not fully disclose to a client the possible effect of that conflict, and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

3. Public reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent is negligent in determining whether the representation of a client may be materially affected by the Respondent’s own interests, or whether the representation will adversely affect another client, and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

4. Private reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent engages in an isolated instance of negligence in determining whether the representation of a client may be materially affected by the Respondent’s own interests, or whether the representation will adversely affect another client, and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a client.

E. Lack of Candor

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and upon application of the factors set out in Rule 15.02, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases where the lawyer engages in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation directed toward a client:

1. Disbarment is generally appropriate when a Respondent knowingly deceives a client with the intent to benefit the Respondent or another, and causes serious injury or potential serious injury to a client.

2. Suspension is generally appropriate when a Respondent knowingly deceives a client, and causes injury or potential injury to the client.

3. Public reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent is negligent in determining the accuracy or completeness of information provided to a client, and causes injury or potential injury to the client.

4. Private reprimand is generally appropriate when a Respondent engages in an isolated instance of negligence in determining the accuracy or completeness of information provided to a client, and causes little or no actual or potential injury to the client.

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