Bar Counsel Notes: Safekeeping Property - Former Client's File
When Lawyer terminated his divorce client's case he copied her entire file and gave it to her, and has record confirmation that he did so. Now, some three years later, that former client wants another copy of that huge file to give to her new attorney. Is Lawyer required to provide and "give" a 2nd copy of client's file to her?
No - Bar Counsel interprets Lawyer's earlier copying of client's file for her as proper compliance with M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(b)(2)(iv). That is, when Lawyer terminated his representation of client, he had then properly provided her with all "...properties (her complete file) in the possession of the lawyer which the client is entitled to receive." If client persists in her request for a 2nd copy of her file, Lawyer may require her to pay for those copies.
*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.