Former Rules

Former Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 2.2--Intermediary

This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the Amended Rules took effect.

   (a) A lawyer may act as intermediary between clients if:
     (1) The lawyer consults with each client concerning the implications of the common representation, including the advantages and risks involved, and the effect on the attorney-client privileges, and obtains each client’s consent to the common representation;
     (2) The lawyer reasonably believes that the matter can be resolved on terms compatible with the client’s best interests, that each client will be able to make adequately informed decisions in the matter, and that there is little risk of material prejudice to the interests of any of the clients if the contemplated resolution is unsuccessful; and
     (3) The lawyer reasonably believes that the common representation can be undertaken impartially and without improper effect on other responsibilities the lawyer has to any of the clients.
   (b) A lawyer should, except in unusual circumstances that may make it infeasible, provide both clients with an explanation in writing of the risks involved in the common representation and of the circumstances that may cause separate representation later to be necessary or desirable. The consent of the clients shall also be in writing.
   (c) While acting as intermediary, the lawyer shall consult with each client concerning the decisions to be made and the considerations relevant in making them, so that each client can make adequately informed decisions.
   (d) A lawyer shall withdraw as intermediary if any of the clients so request, or if any of the conditions stated in paragraph (a) are no longer satisfied. Upon withdrawal, the lawyer shall not continue to represent any of the clients in the matter that was the subject of the intermediation.

Comment

   [1] A lawyer acts as intermediary under this Rule when the lawyer represents two or more parties with potentially conflicting interests. A key factor in defining the relationship is whether the parties share responsibility for the lawyer’s fee, but the common representation may be inferred from other circumstances. Because confusion can arise as to the lawyer’s role where each party is not separately represented, it is important that the lawyer make clear the relationship.
   [2] Because the potential for confusion is so great, paragraph (b) imposes the requirement that an explanation of the risks of the common representation be furnished in writing, except in unusual circumstances. The process of preparing the writing causes the lawyer involved to focus specifically on those risks, a process that may suggest to the lawyer that the particular situation is not suited to the use of the lawyer as an intermediary. In any event, the writing performs a valuable role in educating the client to such risks as may exist—risks that many clients may not otherwise comprehend. Mere agreement by a client to waive the requirement for a written analysis of the risks does not constitute the "unusual circumstances" that justify omitting the writing. The "unusual circumstances" requirement may be met in rare situations where an assessment of risks is not feasible at the beginning of the intermediary role. In such circumstances, the writing should be provided as soon as it becomes feasible to assess the risks with reasonable clarity. The consent required by paragraph (b) should refer to the disclosure upon which it is based.
   [3] The Rule does not apply to a lawyer acting as arbitrator or mediator between or among parties who are not clients of the lawyer, even where the lawyer has been appointed with the concurrence of the parties. In performing such a role the lawyer may be subject to applicable codes of ethics, such as the Code of Ethics for Arbitration in Commercial Disputes prepared by a Joint Committee of the American Bar Association and the American Arbitration Association.
   [4] A lawyer acts as intermediary in seeking to establish or adjust a relationship between clients on an amicable and mutually advantageous basis; for example, in helping to organize a business in which two or more clients are entrepreneurs, working out the financial reorganization of an enterprise in which two or more clients have an interest, arranging a property distribution in settlement of an estate, or mediating a dispute between clients. The lawyer seeks to resolve potentially conflicting interests by developing the parties’ mutual interests. The alternative can be that each party may have to obtain separate representation, with the possibility in some situations of incurring additional cost, complication, or even litigation. Given these and other relevant factors, all the clients may prefer that the lawyer act as intermediary.
   [5] In considering whether to act as intermediary between clients, a lawyer should be mindful that if the intermediation fails the result can be additional cost, embarrassment, and recrimination. In some situations the risk of failure is so great that intermediation is plainly impossible. For example, a lawyer cannot undertake common representation of clients between whom contentious litigation is imminent or who contemplate contentious negotiations. More generally, if the relationship between the parties has already assumed definite antagonism, the possibility that the clients’ interests can be adjusted by intermediation ordinarily is not very good.
   [6] The appropriateness of intermediation can depend on its form. Forms of intermediation range from informal arbitration where each client’s case is presented by the respective client and the lawyer decides the outcome, to mediation, to common representation where the clients’ interests are substantially though not entirely compatible. One form may be appropriate in circumstances where another would not. Other relevant factors are whether the lawyer subsequently will represent both parties on a continuing basis and whether the situation involves creating a relationship between the parties or terminating one.
   [7] Since the lawyer is required to be impartial between commonly represented clients, intermediation is improper when that impartiality cannot be maintained. For example, a lawyer who has represented one of the clients for a long period of time and in a variety of matters could have difficulty being impartial between that client and one to whom the lawyer has only recently been introduced.

Confidentiality and Privilege
   [8] A particularly important factor in determining the appropriateness of intermediation is the effect on client-lawyer confidentiality and the attorney-client privilege. In a common representation, the lawyer is still required both to keep each client adequately informed and to maintain confidentiality of information relating to the representation. See Rules 1.4 and 1.6. Complying with both requirements while acting as intermediary requires a delicate balance. If the balance cannot be maintained, the common representation is improper. With regard to the attorney-client privilege, the prevailing rule is that as between commonly represented clients the privilege does not attach. Hence, it must be assumed that if litigation eventuates between the clients, the privilege will not protect any such communications, and the clients should be so advised.

Consultation
   [9] In acting as intermediary between clients, the lawyer is required to consult with the clients on the implications of doing so, and proceed only upon consent based on such a consultation. The consultation should make clear that the lawyer’s role is not that of partisanship normally expected in other circumstances.
   [10] Paragraph (c) is an application of the principle expressed in Rule 1.4. Where the lawyer is intermediary, the clients ordinarily must assume greater responsibility for decisions than when each client is independently represented.

Withdrawal
   [11] Common representation does not diminish the rights of each client in the client-lawyer relationship. Each has the right to loyal and diligent representation, the right to discharge the lawyer as stated in Rule 1.16, and the protection of Rule 1.9 concerning obligations to a former client.