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Ethics 2000 Changes to Rules of Professional Conduct Take Effect

On August 23, 2004, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania entered an order adopting the most sweeping set of changes to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct since the adoption of that ethical code in April 1988. As of January 1, 2005, these changes are now in effect and apply to all legal matters currently in progress.

The amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct span 110 pages. Three new rules are added: Rule 1.0, an extensive definitions section, a new Rule 2.4 regarding lawyers serving as third-party neutrals in disputes, and a new Rule 6.5 regarding Nonprofit and Court Appointed Limited Legal Services Programs. Two rules have been repealed – Rule 2.2, regarding lawyers as intermediaries, and Rule 7.6, regarding advertising certifications. 38 other Rules have been revised, ranging from changes in terminology to extensive redefinitions of the duties imposed. Changes to the rules regarding conflicts of interest and duties of candor are particularly noteworthy. Some of these changes impose new duties, such as a specific prohibition on sexual relations with clients in Rule 1.8 and expanded duties as to third persons under Rule 4.4. Some rules which were formerly stated in nonmandatory terms now create mandatory duties, such as Rule 5.3 regarding responsibility for the conduct of nonlawyer assistants.

In a concurring statement, Justice Saylor joined in the adoption of the rules, and also expressed support for allowing the Rules of Professional Conduct to be used as evidence of the applicable standard of conduct in appropriate cases outside the disciplinary arena.

The changes made do not include any changes as to responsibility for handling client property.