Bar Counsel Notes: Prospective Clients
Attorney X has met with prospective client C, currently represented by counsel Y in a pending contested divorce action. C sought legal advice from Attorney X that included concerns and questions as to whether Attorney Y has been properly handling C's family matter. May Attorney X disclose to Attorney Y that such a meeting has occurred, e.g. to try to help repair C's legal relationship with Y?
No - Under MRPC 1.18 (prospective clients), Attorney X must not make any such disclosure to Y. Under that Rule, as a potential client, C has the right to explore new attorneys if she's unhappy with her existing one, notwithstanding the fact that Attorney X may believe that current Attorney Y is very competent. C is entitled and permitted to expect that her entire discussion with Attorney X will be protected and kept confidential by X. Rule 1.18(a)(b) requires such confidentiality by X, unless waived by C under MRPC 1.6(a).
*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.