In an effort to clarify the duties lawyers owe prospective clients under a 2009 court rule, the New York City Bar’s Committee on Professional Ethics has issued an opinion on the scope of Rule 1.18 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule governs the duty owed to potential clients after “beauty contests” and other preliminary meetings but before any lawyer-client relationship has been established.

City Bar Rule 1.18, which was adopted in 2009, establishes duties that did not previously appear in the ethics rules but could be gleaned from case law. Its opinion advises that under the new rule “a lawyer is restricted from using or revealing information learned in the consultation to the same extent that a lawyer would be restricted with regard to information of a former client.” The City Bar also said Rule 1.18 “prohibits a lawyer from representing a client with interests materially adverse to those of the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the information received from the prospective client could be significantly harmful to the prospective client in the matter.”