These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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2-Adversity to Former Clients

16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

36-Withdrawal from Representations

43-Conflicts of Interest - Miscellaneous

49-Lawyers - Miscellaneous

The Model Rules require a lawyer to inform a current client if the lawyer believes that he or she may have materially erred in the client’s representation. Recognizing that errors occur along a continuum, an error is material if a disinterested lawyer would conclude that it is (a) reasonably likely to harm or prejudice a client; or (b) of such a nature that it would reasonably cause a client to consider terminating the representation even in the absence of harm or prejudice. The lawyer must so inform the client promptly under the circumstances. Whether notification is prompt is a case- and fact-specific inquiry. No similar duty of disclosure exists under the Model Rules where the lawyer discovers after the termination of the attorney-client relationship that the lawyer made a material error in the former client’s representation. Good business and risk management reasons may exist for lawyers to inform former clients of their material errors when they can do so in time to avoid or mitigate any potential harm or prejudice to the former client. An attorney-client relationship ends when: the engagement letter specifies such a time, the lawyer or the client explicitly end the relationship, "when overt acts inconsistent with the continuation of the attorney-client relationship indicate that the relationship has ended," or "when it would be objectively unreasonably to continue to bind the parties to each other." An "episodic" client might be a continuing client in the absence of any ongoing matter if the client periodically engaged the lawyer, and the client "reasonably expects that the professional relationship will span any [such] intervals and that the lawyer will be available when the client next needs representation."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn