RPC 6.5: NONPROFIT AND COURT-ANNEXED LIMITED LEGAL SERVICE PROGRAMS

(a) A lawyer who, under the auspices of a program sponsored by a nonprofit organization or court, provides short-term limited legal services to a client without expectation by either the lawyer or the client that the lawyer will provide continuing representation in the matter and without expectation that the lawyer will receive a fee from the client for the services provided:

(1) is subject to Rules 1.7, 1.9(a), and 1.18(c) only if the lawyer knows that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest, except that those Rules shall not prohibit a lawyer from providing limited legal services sufficient only to determine eligibility of the client for assistance by the program and to make an appropriate referral of the client to another program;

(2) is subject to Rule 1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer or LLLT associated with the lawyer in a law firm is disqualified by Rule 1.7 or 1.9(a) or by LLLT RPC 1.7 and LLLT RPC 1.9(a) with respect to the matter; and

(3) notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), is not subject to Rules 1.7, 1.9(a), 1.10, or 1.18(c) in providing limited legal services to a client if: (i) the program lawyers or LLLTs representing the opposing clients are screened by effective means from information relating to the representation of the opposing client; (ii) each client is notified of the conflict and the screening mechanism used to prohibit dissemination of information relating to the representation; and (iii) the program is able to demonstrate by convincing evidence that no material information relating to the representation of the opposing client was transmitted by the personally disqualified lawyers or LLLTs to the lawyer representing the conflicting client before implementation of the screening mechanism and notice to the opposing client.

(b) Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2), Rule 1.10 is inapplicable to a representation governed by this Rule.

[Adopted effective October 29, 2002; amended effective September 1, 2006; April 14, 2015.]

Comment

[1] [Washington revision] Legal services organizations, courts and various nonprofit organizations have established programs through which lawyers provide short-term limited legal services - such as advice or the completion of legal forms - that will assist persons to address their legal problems without further representation by a lawyer. In these programs, such as legal-advice hotlines, advice-only clinics or pro se counseling programs, a client-lawyer relationship is established, but there is no expectation that the lawyer's representation of the client will continue beyond the limited consultation. Such programs are normally operated under circumstances in which it is not feasible for a lawyer to systematically screen for conflicts of interest as is generally required before undertaking a representation. See, e.g., Rules 1.7, 1.9, 1.10, and 1.18.

[2] [Washington revision] A lawyer who provides short-term limited legal services pursuant to this Rule must secure the client's informed consent to the limited scope of the representation. See Rule 1.2(c). If a short-term limited representation would not be reasonable under the circumstances, the lawyer may offer advice to the client but must also advise the client of the need for further assistance of a legal practitioner. Except as provided in this Rule, the Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c), are applicable to the limited representation. [Comment [2] amended effective April 14, 2015.]

[3] [Washington revision] Because a lawyer who is representing a client in the circumstances addressed by this Rule ordinarily is not able to check systematically for conflicts of interest, paragraph (a) requires compliance with Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a), or 1.18(c) only if the lawyer knows that the representation presents a conflict of interest for the lawyer, and with Rule 1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer in the lawyer's firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a) in the matter.

[4] Because the limited nature of the services significantly reduces the risk of conflicts of interest with other matters being handled by the lawyer's firm, paragraph (b) provides that Rule 1.10 is inapplicable to a representation governed by this Rule except as provided by paragraph (a)(2). Paragraph (a)(2) requires the participating lawyer to comply with Rule 1.10 when the lawyer knows that the lawyer's firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a). By virtue of paragraph (b), however, a lawyer's participation in a short-term limited legal services program will not preclude the lawyer's firm from undertaking or continuing the representation of a client with interests adverse to a client being represented under the program's auspices. Nor will the personal disqualification of a lawyer participating in the program be imputed to other lawyers participating in the program.

[5] If, after commencing a short-term limited representation in accordance with this Rule, a lawyer undertakes to represent the client in the matter on an ongoing basis, Rules 1.7, 1.9(a) and 1.10 become applicable.

Additional Washington Comments (6 - 7)

[6] Washington's version of this Rule differs from the Model Rule. The differences accommodate the unique civil legal services delivery system, which uses a statewide centralized telephone intake and referral system for low-income persons to access free civil legal services. The Rule recognizes that lawyers who provide intake and referral services such as these will necessarily at times receive confidential information from adverse parties. The risk that such information will be used against the material interests of either party is relatively low in comparison to the need for services, and when such a risk exists, protections of lawyer screening and notice to the client are required by the Rule.

[7] Paragraph (a)(3) was taken from former Washington RPC 6.5(a)(3) as enacted in 2002. The replacement of "confidences and secrets" in paragraph (a)(3) with "information relating to the representation" was necessary to conform the language of the Rule to a terminology change in Rule 1.6. No substantive change is intended. See Comment [19] to Rule 1.6.

[Comments adopted effective September 1, 2006.]

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