Rule 6.4. Law Reform Activities Affecting Client Interests

A lawyer may serve as a director, officer or member of an organization involved in reform of the law or its administration notwithstanding that the reform may affect the interests of a client of the lawyer. When the lawyer knows that the interests of a client may be materially benefitted by a decision in which the lawyer participates, the lawyer shall disclose that fact but need not identify the client.

Background

The Louisiana Supreme Court adopted this rule on January 20, 2004. It became effective on March 1, 2004, and has not been amended since. This rule is identical to ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.4 (2002).

Comment to ABA Model Rule 6.4

[1] Lawyers involved in organizations seeking law reform generally do not have a client-lawyer relationship with the organization. Otherwise, it might follow that a lawyer could not be involved in a bar association law reform program that might indirectly affect a client. See also Rule 1.2(b). For example, a lawyer specializing in antitrust litigation might be regarded as disqualified from participating in drafting revisions of rules governing that subject. In determining the nature and scope of participation in such activities, a lawyer should be mindful of obligations to clients under other Rules, particularly Rule 1.7. A lawyer is professionally obligated to protect the integrity of the program by making an appropriate disclosure within the organization when the lawyer knows a private client might be materially benefitted.

Annotations

Generally

This rule permits lawyers to engage in law-reform activities–for example Louisiana State Bar Association or Louisiana State Law Institute activities–that may affect the interests of one or more clients. Thus, there is no conflict of interest or other breach of the duty of loyalty for a lawyer to advocate law reform of which his client may disapprove.

Furthermore, the second sentence of the rule requires a lawyer who serves a law-reform organization to be forthright about the lawyer’s loyalties when participating in organizational activities. Thus, when a lawyer participating in the decision-making process of the organization “knows” that a particular decision “may” materially benefit a client, the lawyer must “disclose that fact,” but need not identify the client. La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 6.5 (2004). Thus, this rule furthers similar interests to those addressed by Rule 3.9.

Disciplinary Sanctions

Absent aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the following sanctions are generally appropriate in cases involving lawyers who engage in conduct that violates the public trust: disbarment, when the lawyer knowingly misuses a position with the intent to obtain a significant benefit for the lawyer or another, or with the intent to cause serious or potentially serious injury to a party or to the integrity of the legal process; suspension, when the lawyer knowingly fails to follow proper procedures or rules, and causes injury or potential injury to a party or to the integrity of the legal process; reprimand, when the lawyer negligently fails to follow proper procedures or rules, and causes injury or potential injury to a party or to the integrity of the legal process; and, admonition, when the lawyer engages in an isolated instance of negligence in not following proper procedures or rules, and causes little or no actual or potential injury to a party or to the integrity of the legal process. See ABA Stds. for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions stds. 5.2-5.24 (1992).

Notes

This page was updated on August 7, 2013.