Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tennessee does not adopt ABA Model Rules banning sexual relations with clients and allowing screening for lawyers who move to a new firm

About a month ago, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced its latest revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct, which will take effect January 1, 2011. With these new rules, Tennessee joins the majority of jurisdictions in adopting most of the recent changes to the ABA Model Rules.

The rules, however, depart from the ABA Model Rules in at least two important ways. First, the Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected the adoption of the Model Rule that regulates sexual relations with clients. Instead, it has adopted three comments to Rule 1.7 on conflicts of interest that explain why sexual relations with clients is a bad idea, including the fact that the intimate relationship can exploit the client, impair the lawyer's judgment and endanger the attorney-client relationship. (You may remember that I recently noted that Texas is currently debating whether to ban sexual relations with clients -- more on that here.

Second, the new rules in Tennessee have retained its approach to conflicts of interest in cases where a new attorney joins a firm. Tennessee's rule does not recognize screening if the disqualified lawyer was substantially involved in the representation of the former client, the lawyer’s representation of the former client was in connection with an adjudicative proceeding that is directly adverse to the interests of a current client of the firm and the proceeding between the firm’s current client and the lawyer’s former client is still pending at the time the lawyer changes firms.

UPDATE (10-25-10) Here is a link to more information on the newly adopted rules in Tennessee. Go here for a summary of the key changes. Go here for a copy of the new rules.

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