1. Client-Lawyer Relationship
Related Opinions

ER 1.2.     Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer

(a) Subject to paragraphs (c) and (d), a lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and, as required by ER 1.4, shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.  A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.  A lawyer shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter.  In a criminal case, the lawyer shall abide by the client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial and whether the client will testify.
(b) A lawyer's representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client's political, economic, social or moral views or activities.
(c) A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.
(d) A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law. 


Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer

[1] Paragraph (a) confers upon the client the ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by law and the lawyer's professional obligations.  At the same time, a lawyer is not required to pursue objectives or employ means simply because a client may wish that the lawyer do so.  The decisions specified in paragraph (a), such as whether to settle a civil matter, must also be made by the client.  See ER 1.4(a)(1) for the lawyer's duty to communicate with the client about such decisions.  With respect to the means by which the client's objectives are to be pursued, the lawyer shall consult with the client as required by ER 1.4(a)(2) and may take such action as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.

[2] On occasion, however, a lawyer and a client may disagree about the means to be used to accomplish the client's objectives.  Clients normally defer to the special knowledge and skill of their lawyer with respect to the means to be used to accomplish their objectives, particularly with respect to technical, legal and tactical matters.  Conversely, lawyers usually defer to the client regarding such questions as the expense to be incurred and concern for third persons who might be adversely affected.  Because of the varied nature of the matters about which a lawyer and client might disagree and because the actions in question may implicate the interests of a tribunal or other persons, this Rule does not prescribe how such disagreements are to be resolved.  Other law, however, may be applicable and should be consulted by the lawyer.  The lawyer should also consult with the client and seek a mutually acceptable resolution of the disagreement.  If such efforts are unavailing and the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client, the lawyer may withdraw from the representation.  See ER 1.16(b)(4).  Conversely, the client may resolve the disagreement by discharging the lawyer.  See ER 1.16(a)(3).

[3] At the outset of a representation, the client may authorize the lawyer to take specific action on the client's behalf without further consultation.  Absent a material change in circumstances and subject to ER 1.4, a lawyer may rely on such an advance authorization.  The client may, however, revoke such authority at any time. 

[4] In a case in which the client appears to have diminished capacity, the lawyer's duty to abide by the client's decisions is to be guided by reference to ER 1.14. 

Independence from Client's Views or Activities

[5] Legal representation should not be denied to people who are unable to afford legal services, or whose cause is controversial or the subject of popular disapproval.  By the same token, representing a
client does not constitute approval of the client's views or activities. 

Agreements Limiting Scope of Representation

[6] The scope of services to be provided by a lawyer may be limited by agreement with the client or by the terms under which the lawyer's services are made available to the client.  Representation provided through a legal aid agency may be subject to limitations on the types of cases the agency handles.  When a lawyer has been retained by an insurer to represent an insured, for example, the representation may be limited to matters related to the insurance coverage.  A limited representation may be appropriate because the client has limited objectives for the representation.  In addition, the terms upon which representation is undertaken may exclude specific means that might otherwise be used to accomplish the client's objectives.  Such limitations may exclude actions that the client thinks are too costly or that the lawyer regards as repugnant or imprudent.

[7] Although this Rule affords the lawyer and client substantial latitude to limit the representation, the limitation must be reasonable under the circumstances.  If, for example, a client's objective is limited to securing general information about the law the client needs in order to handle a common and typically uncomplicated legal problem, the lawyer and client may agree that the lawyer's services will be limited to a brief telephone consultation.  Such a limitation, however, would not be reasonable if the time allotted was not sufficient to yield advice upon which the client could rely.  Although an agreement for a limited representation does not exempt a lawyer from the duty to provide competent representation, the limitation is a factor to be considered when determining the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.  See ER 1.1.

[8] Although paragraph (c) does not require that the client's informed consent to a limited representation be in writing, a specification of the scope of representation will normally be a necessary part of the lawyer's written communication of the rate or basis of the lawyer's fee as required by ER 1.5(b).  See ER 1.0(e) for the definition of "informed consent". 

[9] All agreements concerning a lawyer's representation of a client must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other law.  See, e.g., ERs 1.1, 1.8 and 5.6. 

Criminal, Fraudulent and Prohibited Transactions

[10] Paragraph (d) prohibits a lawyer from knowingly counseling or assisting a client to commit a crime or fraud.  This prohibition, however, does not preclude the lawyer from giving an honest opinion about the actual consequences that appear likely to result from a client's conduct.  Nor does the fact that a client uses advice in a course of action that is criminal or fraudulent of itself make a lawyer a party to the course of action.  There is a critical distinction between presenting an analysis of legal aspects of questionable conduct and recommending the means by which a crime or fraud might be committed with impunity. 

[11] When the client's course of action has already begun and is continuing, the lawyer's responsibility is especially delicate.  The lawyer is required to avoid assisting the client, for example, by drafting or delivering documents that the lawyer knows are fraudulent or by suggesting how the wrongdoing might be concealed.  A lawyer may not continue assisting a client in conduct that the lawyer originally supposed was legally proper but then discovers is criminal or fraudulent.  The lawyer must, therefore, withdraw from the representation of the client in the matter.  See ER 1.16(a).  In some cases, withdrawal alone might be insufficient.  It may be necessary for the lawyer to give notice of the fact of withdrawal and to disaffirm any opinion, document, affirmation or the like.  In extreme cases, a lawyer may be required to disclose information relating to the representation to avoid being deemed to have assisted the client's crime or fraud.  See ER 4.1. 

[12] Where the client is a fiduciary, the lawyer may be charged with special obligations in dealings with a beneficiary. 

[13] Paragraph (d) applies whether or not the defrauded party is a party to the transaction.  Hence, a lawyer must not participate in a sham transaction; for example, a transaction to effectuate criminal or fraudulent escape of tax liability.  Paragraph (d) does not preclude undertaking a criminal defense incident to a general retainer for legal services to a lawful enterprise.  The last clause of paragraph (d) recognizes that determining the validity or interpretation of a statute or regulation may require a course of action involving disobedience of the statute or regulation or of the interpretation placed upon it by governmental authorities.

[14] If a lawyer comes to know or reasonably should know that a client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law or if the lawyer intends to act contrary to the client's instructions, the lawyer must consult with the client regarding the limitations on the lawyer's conduct.  See ER 1.4(a)(5).