Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 44

ASK THE ETHICS EXPERTS

GET
PUBLISHED
IN
WASHINGTON
LAWYER

'CAN I DELAY
INFORMING
MY CLIENT?'

COMMUNITY * CAREER * PROFESSION * PRACTICE MANAGEMENT * SERVICE

By Saul Jay Singer

THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BAR MAGAZINE

BORDERS,

REFUGEES

35,000 firms and
Rated '5-Star' on

& A GLOBAL CRISIS

PAYMENT INBOX
INVOICE PAID

MAY 2019

$775.00

receipts@lawpay.com

INVOICE PAID

$1,500.00
$1,500
00

CLIMATE CHANGE

receipts@lawpay.com

INVOICE PAID

Turning to Law
in Race Against Time

$900.00

receipts@lawpay.com
m

PAYMENT RECEIVED

!

Proud Member
Benefit Provider

We welcome submissions
from attorneys and other
professionals who wish to share
their expertise on law-related
topics in Washington Lawyer
and at dcbar.org. Articles must
be original and previously
unpublished. All submissions
are open to editorial review and
revisions.

Q
A

●

●

44 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

JULY/AUGUST 2019

A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the
status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable
requests for information.

That is because in most cases, when a lawyer hesitates to convey information to a client, it is
not because it is in the client's interests not to disclose but, rather, because the lawyer is
protecting his or her own personal interests. Thus, as Comment [5] to Rule 1.4 makes clear:
"A lawyer may not withhold information to serve the lawyer's own interest or convenience."
Your scenario, however, presents the narrow exception to this broad general rule, as
comment [5] further explains:
In rare circumstances, a lawyer may be justified in delaying transmission of
information when the client would be likely to react imprudently to an immediate communication. Thus, a lawyer might withhold a psychiatric diagnosis
of a client when the examining psychiatrist indicates the disclosure would
harm the client. Similarly, a lawyer may be justified, for humanitarian reasons,
in not conveying certain information, for example, where the information
would merely be upsetting to a terminally ill patient . . . .

Law-related articles/
features:
1,500-2000 words
Practice areas/
professional development:
500 words
Essays/humor: 500 words

For more information,
email editorial@dcbar.org.

Pursuant to Rule 1.4(a) (Communication):

The duty to communicate relevant information under Rule 1.4 is very
broad, to the point that whenever a lawyer on the Legal Ethics Helpline
asks me, "Must I tell my client . . . ?" I interrupt and answer: Yes. Now you may finish your
question.

Manuscripts should adhere to
the following word counts:
●

My client, whom I believe to be emotionally unstable, announced yesterday that
if he receives one more piece of bad news, he will "take action to relieve [his] pain,
once and for all." This morning, I received notice that summary judgment had
been entered against him, and I fear what he might do if I tell him that he has lost
his case. What are my responsibilities here?

As such, if you reasonably believe that keeping the client reasonably informed, as mandated
by Rule 1.4, may cause serious harm to the client in this case, you may use your best
judgment to delay doing so until improved circumstances arise.

D.C. Bar legal ethics counsel Saul Jay Singer, Hope C. Todd, and Erika Stillabower are available for inquiries on
the Legal Ethics Helpline at 202-737-4700, ext. 1010, or at ethics@dcbar.org.
*


http://www.dcbar.org https://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Leading The Bar In Pursuit Of Service
2019 D.C. Bar Election Coverage
Our Membership: Adapting To A Changing Legal Landscape
Finding Community In Voluntary Bars
Bar Business: Annual Report
Member Spotlight
Enforcing the Rules feature
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Leading The Bar In Pursuit Of Service
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 2019 D.C. Bar Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Our Membership: Adapting To A Changing Legal Landscape
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Enforcing the Rules feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Finding Community In Voluntary Bars
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Bar Business: Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 32
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - 51
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2019 - Cover4
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June/July2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/March2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/February2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/November2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/july2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/february2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2016/
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2016
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com