Legal Ethics Committee Adopts Opinion 379 on Charging Liens
December 09, 2020
The D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee has issued Opinion 379 (Attorneys’ Charging Liens and Client Confidentiality), providing guidance in contingency fee matters on a predecessor lawyer’s ability to ethically provide notice of a charging lien to successor counsel.
The opinion analyzes the ethical mandates surrounding a predecessor lawyer’s ability to use or reveal Rule 1.6 confidences or secrets in providing such notice to a successor lawyer, or, in accordance with Rule 1.8(i), to retain any part of a former client’s file. The opinion also discusses a successor counsel’s ethical duties under Rules 1.5 and 1.15 to (1) alert a client that their former lawyer may claim or be due a fee out of any potential recovery, and (2) safeguard funds that come into a successor counsel’s possession to which a predecessor counsel has a just claim and about which the successor lawyer is aware.