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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

MSBA Assembly will weigh petitioning changes to MPRC

The MSBA Rules of Professional Conduct Committee is proposing that the MSBA petition the court for amendments to MRPC 1.6 and MRPC 5.5. The MSBA Assembly will consider these proposals at its December 8 meeting. Rule 1.6 addresses confidentiality of information, while Rule 5.5 pertains to the unauthorized practice of law.

The amendments to Rule 5.5 are meant to accomplish the following goals, according to the Committee’s report:

  • Respond directly to the Court’s invitation in In re Panel File 39302, 884 N.W.2d 661 (Minn. 2016) to amend and expand that rule to better reflect the bar’s understanding of the meaning of fields of practice that are “reasonably related” to a lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed.
  • Remove certain client relationships from the purview of Rule 5.5—including current and former clients, family members, close friends, and other professional relationships—to reflect the common current practices of lawyers and to allow client preference and client trust to take priority over the geographic restrictions that may otherwise be imposed by Rule 5.5.
  • Allow lawyers to continue to practice the law of the jurisdictions in which they are licensed when they relocate to Minnesota. This follows recent similar amendments in Arizona and New Hampshire.

The amendments to Rule 1.6 address:

  • how the development of electronic social media and other electronic publication modes affect the issues contained in Rule 1.6(b)(8); and
  • problems with Opinion 24 issued by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. The OLPR article appears to take the position that the controversy provision would apply only in public debates, especially on the internet, “that have substantial ramifications for persons other than those engaged in [the debates].”  The OLPR article regards such ramifications as “unlikely” in the case of internet ratings of a lawyer. The committee, in considering whether such ramifications would include decisions by prospective clients as to retaining lawyers who were the subject of such ratings, concluded that there are circumstances, outside of legal proceedings, in which a lawyer should be permitted to disclose confidential information to respond to a client’s serious, specific allegations of the lawyer’s misconduct.

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