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Rule 1.14 Client With Diminished Capacity

ABA RULE 1.14   

Adopted, Effective Jan. 1, 2008

Rule 1.14 Client With Diminished Capacity

(a) When a client's capacity to make adequately considered decisions in connection with a representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment or for some other reason, the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client.

(b) When the lawyer reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial or other harm unless action is taken and cannot adequately act in the client's own interest, the lawyer may take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator or guardian.

(c) Information relating to the representation of a client with diminished capacity is protected by Rule 1.6. When taking protective action pursuant to paragraph (b), the lawyer is impliedly authorized under Rule 1.6(a) to reveal information about the client, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to protect the client's interests.

1.  ABA Comment 3 says that the presence of family members or other persons during discussions with the lawyer, at the clients request "generally does not affect the applicability of the attorney-client evidentiary privilege."  This comment raises concerns.  The lawyer should determine if the privilege would be waived.

2.  ABA Comment 5 addresses consulting with traditional "family members."  For some clients, non-traditional relationships such as unmarried heterosexual, gay, or lesbian partners may be at least as important as blood or marital relationships.  There may be substantial conflict between the non-traditional partner and the traditional family.   Evidence of the importance of a particular relationship to the client would include express client directions set out in planning documents such as letters of intent, health care or general power of attorney, or nomination of guardian.

3.  ABA Comment 7 highlights that the least restrictive action should be taken, based upon the circumstances of each client.  This is consistent with the approach of New Hampshire's probate courts, in considering a guardianship over an incapacitated adult.

4.  ABA Comment 4 says that the lawyer would "ordinarily look to" any legal representative (such as a guardian) for decisions.  The situations in which the client's legal representative should not be the person making decisions are limited to two situations: where the lawyer represents the client in a matter against the interests of the legal representative or where that the legal representative  instructs the lawyer to act in a manner that will violate that  person's legal duties toward the client.  See Restatement Third, The Law Governing Lawyers§ 24(c) (2000).

5.  ABA Comment 10 states that "[n]ormally, a lawyer would not seek compensation for such emergency actions taken."  In these situations there is no ethical bar to requesting compensation, where the person benefiting from the action can afford to pay for the legal services.

ABA RULE 1.14   

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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