If you are a member of The State Bar of California, then you probably already know that several new rules were either added or changed to the Rules of Professional Conduct. In fact, there were 70 of them, and they all took effect on Nov. 1, 2018.
It’s been about 30 years since this type of revision to the rules has occurred. This means that numerous lawyers out there could easily forget to take the time to familiarize themselves with the new rules. If you fail to take the time to review them, you could find yourself in trouble.
Let’s hit the highlights
The State Bar of California chose some of the rules to highlight. They include the following:
- Rule 1.8.10 imposes stricter bans on sexual relationships with clients. The only exception is if such a consensual relationship existed prior to the attorney-client relationship.
- Rule 8.4.1 prohibits and addresses discrimination and harassment in the operations of a law office and the representation of clients. It also expands the definition of protected persons to include gender expression and gender identity and allows the State Bar to investigate complaints without the need for a civil filing.
- Rule 3.8 went into effect in Nov. 2017, and it pertains to the special responsibilities of prosecutors when it comes to exculpatory evidence and discovery in criminal cases.
- Rule 1.2.1 gives California attorneys guidance regarding state laws regarding issues such as immigration and marijuana businesses as they differ from federal law.
The implications of violating these four rules alone could substantially affect your license and livelihood. Another 66 rules require your review as well. The State Bar announced that it will provide a program to help attorneys familiarize themselves with all of the new rules at some point in the future. Of course, it comes with MCLE credit. A free hotline also exists to help.
However, to truly understand the overhaul of the rules, it may help to speak with an attorney who routinely represents other lawyers before the State Bar. Doing so may provide you with a less sugar-coated explanation of the rules and the ramifications of violating them.
If you do end up violating one or more of these new rules, or any of the rules, it would be beneficial not to attempt to deal with the State Bar on your own, especially since it’s possible that a misinterpretation of the rules is what started your problems.