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ABA Releases New Ethics Guidance on Dealing With Disasters

ABA Releases New Ethics Guidance on Dealing With Disasters

"Recent large-scale disasters like Hurricane Florence and wildfires on the West Coast have reinforced the need for the ABA to address the myriad rules that lawyers must consider under these challenging circumstances. ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 482, released on Wednesday by the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, clarifies the variety of ethical obligations attorneys face when disaster strikes.

Perhaps most fundamentally, lawyers must follow the duty of communication required by Rule 1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires lawyers to communicate regularly with clients and keep clients reasonably apprised of their cases. Following a disaster, a lawyer must evaluate available methods to maintain communication with clients. The opinion instructs that lawyers should keep electronic lists of current clients in a manner that is “easily accessible.”

Lawyers should also remember that the duty of competency, Rule 1.1 includes a technology clause that requires lawyers to consider the benefits and risks of relevant technology. Because a disaster can destroy lawyers’ paper files, lawyers “must evaluate in advance storing files electronically” so that they can access those files after a disaster. Storing client files through cloud technology requires lawyers to consider confidentially obligations..."

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Topics:
  • Disaster Assistance