Chapter Membership in Legal

JurisdictionWashington

iii. RPC 6.3: MeMbership in LegaL serviCes organizations

RPC 6.3 addresses the role of a lawyer who serves as director, officer, or member of a legal services organization (LSO) apart from the law firm in which the lawyer practices. The rule is intended to deal with the potential conflicts that might arise between the LSO role and the lawyer's practice. It was adopted by Washington in 1985 verbatim from MRPC 6.3, and it has not been changed by the ABA or by Washington since then, except that Washington has now adopted the ABA comments to the model rule. Washington RPC 6.3 simply states that lawyers are permitted to serve in such a role "notwithstanding that the organization serves persons having interests adverse to a client of the lawyer," but such a lawyer

shall not knowingly participate in a decision or action of the organization: (a) if participating in the decision or action would be incompatible with the lawyer's obligations to a client under Rule 1.7; or (b) where the decision or action could have a material adverse effect on the representation of a client of the organization whose interests are adverse to a client of the lawyer.

The comments make clear that the purpose of the rule is to encourage lawyers to "support and participate" in LSOs. The use of the "knowingly" standard in RPC 6.3 is intended to reassure lawyers who might be worried about the potential conflicts that always exist in such law reform work. "If the possibility of such conflict disqualified a lawyer from serving on the board of a legal services organization, the profession's involvement in such organizations would be severely curtailed."55

There appear to be no Washington decisions dealing with this rule and none elsewhere in the country either. The WSBA Rules of Professional Conduct Committee seems to have mentioned the rule only twice and in neither case very helpfully.56 For a detailed discussion of RPC 1.7, which is cross-referenced in RPC 6.3, see Chapter 7 on conflicts of interest.


55.RPC 6.3 cmt. [1].

56.WSBA Ethics Advisory Op. 1194 (1988); WSBA Ethics Advisory Op. 1102...

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