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Rule 1.18: Duties to Prospective Clients


Adopted, Effective Jan. 1, 2008

Rule 1.18: Duties To Prospective Client

(a) A person who provides information to a lawyer regarding the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a prospective client.

(b) Even when no client-lawyer relationship ensues, a lawyer who has received and reviewed information from a prospective client shall not use or reveal that information except as Rule 1.9 would permit with respect to information of a former client.

(c) A lawyer subject to paragraph (b) shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received and reviewed information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the matter, except as provided in paragraph (d). If a lawyer is disqualified from representation under this paragraph, no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter, except as provided in paragraph (d).

(d) When the lawyer has received and reviewed disqualifying information as defined in paragraph (c), representation is permissible if:

    (1) both the affected client and the prospective client have given informed consent, confirmed in writing, or:

    (2) the lawyer who received and reviewed the information took reasonable measures to avoid exposure to more disqualifying information than was reasonably necessary to determine whether to represent the prospective client; and

        a.  the disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and

        b.  written notice is promptly given to the prospective client.


1. The New Hampshire rule expands upon the ABA Model Rule in one area.  The ABA Model Rule 1.18(a) defines a prospective client as one who “discusses” possible representation with an attorney.  Similarly, ABA Model Rule 1.18(b) establishes a general rule for protection of information received in “discussions” or “consultations”. 

    In its version of these provisions, New Hampshire’s rule eliminates the terminology of “discussion” or “consultation” and extends the protections of the rule to persons who, in a good faith search for representation, provide information unilaterally to a lawyer who subsequently receives and reviews the information.  This change recognizes that persons frequently initiate contact with an attorney in writing, by e-mail, or in other unilateral forms, and in the process disclose confidential information that warrants protection.

2. Not all persons who communicate information to an attorney unilaterally are entitled to protection under this Rule.  A person who communicates information unilaterally to a lawyer, without any reasonable expectation that the lawyer is willing to discuss the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship (see ABA Model Rule comment No. 2); or for the purpose of disqualifying an attorney from participation in a matter; or through contemporaneous contact with numerous attorneys; is not a “prospective client” within the meaning of paragraph (a).

3. New Hampshire has concerns with ABA Comment 5, which purports to allow an attorney to secure prior “informed consent” from a prospective client that information provided in initial consultations would not preclude subsequent representation of another client in the matter. Unlike the more detailed analysis contemplated by Comment 22 to Rule 1.7, a prospective client’s prior consent may be made more quickly and less likely to be “informed” as to the potential adverse consequences of such an agreement.


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