The Client Comes First: Lawyers Must Report Co-Counsel’s Potential Malpractice

The sanctity of the attorney-client relationship relies in large part on establishing and preserving a bedrock of trust between the parties. A recently released opinion by The New York State Bar reinforces this principle by concluding that a lawyer to must disclose to his client any potential malpractice of a co-counsel

This obligation arises when a lawyer “reasonably believes” that a co-counsel has committed a “significant error or omission.” The example used in the opinion is that of a lawyer who has learned that his co-counsel did not conduct discovery even though certain documents may have been critical to effective representation in the case.

The opinion recognizes that while a lawyer may desire to maintain a good relationship with co-counsel, the right of the client to be fully informed pursuant to New York Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4 (Communication) is paramount. However, the opinion notes that there is a potential that some lawyers could abuse this new duty to unfairly criticize co-counsel. The opinion addresses this fear and states that a lawyer cannot “wrongfully or improperly disparage the other lawyer in an endeavor to supplant him.”

To read the full opinion, click here.

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