Ethics Committee Advisory Opinion #1986/7-1
February 10, 1986
While an attorney-client agreement may provide for the retention of certain parts of an attorneys file (upon termination of representing that client), it cannot broadly include all “personal notes,” unless modified to exclude such personal notes which client needs to protect client’s interest in the case. (Rules 1.16(d); 1.15(b); 1.1(b)(5), 1.1(c)(4).)
The attorney sent copies of the two written fee agreements used in the attorney’s practice. Both agreements provide that if the attorney’s employment is terminated the attorney will deliver the contents of the file to the client, with the exception of the attorney’s “personal notes.” The attorney explained in the letter of inquiry that such “personal notes” are used to evaluate a client’s credibility, and to indicate confidential information obtained from parties who have revealed information to the attorney about a client with the specific agreement that the client not learn the information. The attorney has questioned why the Committee decided to include in the category of information to be returned to the client following termination of employment the attorney’s own personal file notes (see, Practical Ethics, Attorneys’ Liens) and requests reconsideration of that opinion.