View proposed ethics opinion in full here.
This proposed opinion involves a situation where a client retained Lawyer A but later dismissed Lawyer A and retained Lawyer B to handle the matter. Subsequently, Lawyer B settled the matter. Lawyer A was never compensated and now seeks disclosure of the settlement terms in order to calculate the amount of shared fee due to Lawyer A. The client requested that Lawyer B keep this information confidential, and Lawyer B has obliged that request.
The proposed opinion rules that Lawyer B may not disclose the details of the settlement agreement. In arriving at this conclusion, the opinion distinguishes 2003 Formal Ethics Opinion 11 from the facts of the current situation. In 2003 FEO 11, the underlying issue was the duty of lawyers who have practiced together to deal honestly with each other regarding interrelated claims. By contrast, the lawyers in the current factual situation never practiced together; Lawyer A’s claim arises from Lawyer A’s separate representation of the client.
Client confidentiality is “paramount among the duties a lawyer owes to the client.” Absent client consent or applicability of one of the Rule 1.6(b) exceptions, Lawyer B is not permitted to disclose the settlement information. Lawyer A has a claim for quantum meruit recovery from the proceeds of the matter and may file that claim against either the client or Lawyer B. If Lawyer A files a claim against Lawyer B, Rule 1.6(b)(6) will allow Lawyer B to disclose the information in order “to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client.”
If you wish to respond or otherwise offer a guest contribution discussing this proposed ethics opinion, please contact the ethics editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.