Tip of the Month

Tip for January 2013

Think first to avoid fiduciary breaches

Lawyers are required to comply with the ethical duties identified in the rules of professional conduct, to comply with the standard of care in representing the client and to discharge their fiduciary duties. It is important to understand the fiduciary duties that lawyers owe to their clients. Fiduciary duties include confidentiality, undivided loyalty and full disclosure of information the client needs to know. Breaching one of these duties, whether intentionally or negligently, can result in significant liability. Reading the rules of professional conduct applicable to your jurisdiction is a good way to start to understand these duties, but many fiduciary breaches are addressed in the rules only generally, not specifically. When acting as a fiduciary, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of the client and ask yourself what would I want my lawyer to do in a specific situation? Would I want my lawyer to disclose certain information to me? Would I want my lawyer to keep certain information confidential? Would I want my lawyer to take action that I might perceive to be disloyal? Even after asking such questions, a lawyer might want to research case law to see how the courts in their jurisdictions have addressed these issues.