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Supreme Court Adopts New Rule on Prospective Clients

On January 6, 2005, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted a new Rule 1.18 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, dealing with prospective clients.

A prospective client is defined as "A person who discusses with a lawyer the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship with respect to a matter." Even if no client-lawyer relationship is formed as a result of such a discussion, the lawyer would be prohibited from using or revealing "information which may be significantly harmful to that person learned in the consultation."

Also, if the lawyer has received such information, the lawyer would be prohibited from representing another person whose interests were materially adverse to that prospective client. The lawyer's firm would be disqualified from such representation as well, unless certain precautions including screening the lawyer from participation and giving written notice to the client are taken.

The full text of the new rule is available here. The notice adopting the rule is available online here. The Order adopting the Rule states, "New Rule 1.18 shall take effect immediately and shall govern matters thereafter commenced and, insofar as just and practicable, matters then pending."