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Court Adopts Amendments to Rules 1.10, 1.15, and 7.1

October 16, 2015

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has amended the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct to include revisions to Rules 1.10 and 7.1 and the comments to those rules, and the addition of a new comment to Rule 1.15. The amended Rules are effective immediately.

The proposed amendments were submitted to the court for its consideration by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors, on recommendation of the Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee.

The amendments are summarized below:

A. Rule 1.10 (Imputed Disqualification: General Rule)

Rule 1.10 and its comments are amended to allow ethical screening (without client consent) of lawyers moving laterally between private employers with certain initial notice requirements to former clients. There is also the addition of a new subparagraph (f) to address situations in which a law firm cannot provide required notifications without violating confidentiality obligations to an existing client.

B. Rule 7.1 (Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services)

Rule 7.1 and its comments are amended to prohibit the payment of referral fees. Lawyers are still permitted to pay the usual and reasonable fees of a lawyer referral service and may still share fees with other lawyers under Rule 1.5(e). These changes restore the approach the District of Columbia used prior to the 1991 adoption of a rule allowing the use of paid intermediaries or "runners," which was repealed in 2007.

C. Rule 1.15 (Safekeeping Property)

A new Comment [2] of Rule 1.15 is adopted to provide more detailed guidance to lawyers on financial record keeping for trust accounts. The guidance on financial record keeping was revised to (1) reflect the purpose of the "complete records" language of Rule 1.15 as interpreted and explained by the D.C. Court of Appeals in In re Clower, 831 A.2d 1030 (D.C. 2003);and (2) encourage lawyers to consult the 2010 ABA Model Rules on Client Trust Records.

Read the court's order as well as additional information about the Bar's proposal, including the report of the Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee and a red-lined version showing change from former Rules to effective Rules.