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After more than three years’ work, the American Bar Association’s Ethics 2000 Commission has released a set of proposed changes to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. If those proposals are approved by the ABA House of Delegates this summer, the organization will suggest that states: � Require lawyers to detail the scope of representation and the basis for fees in writing. � Require that clients sign any contingent fee or fee-splitting agreement and provide guidance on determining when contingent fees are reasonable. � Prohibit lawyers from having sex with clients, except if the sexual relationship predates the legal representation. � Spell out procedures for screening laterals, government lawyers and other lawyers in cases that otherwise would present ethical conflicts. � Require written confirmation in situations in which clients may waive conflicts. � More clearly define the standards covering conflicts of current and former government lawyers. � Provide several “safe harbors” for lawyers practicing outside the states where they are licensed. � Tighten the obligations on lawyers who learn that their clients have lied or committed fraud on a court. � State that lawyers have a professional responsibility to take on pro bono work. NO CONFIDENCE One proposal that may prove contentious is a change that would permit, though not require, a lawyer to reveal client confidences to prevent death or substantial bodily harm or to prevent or rectify a client’s financial fraud that has been committed through the use of the lawyer’s services. A number of states already allow this exception to the confidentiality rules, but the ABA has rejected similar proposals twice in the past 20 years, said commission member Margaret Colgate Love of Brand & Frulla in Washington, D.C. “We are hoping that the House of Delegates will be persuaded that the time has come to expand discretionary disclosure,” she said. Since the adoption of the Model Rules in 1983, versions have been adopted by 41 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “What we have done to the Model Rules is an update, not an overhaul,” said commission member Lucian Pera of Armstrong Allen in Memphis, Tenn. “The most important thing that the commission did was come to a verdict on the Model Rules and the Model Rules work.” The recommendations can be found at http://www.abanet.org/cpr/ethics2k.html.

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