Attorney Code of Ethics

RPC 1.0 Terminology

(a) “Belief” or “believes” denotes that the person involved actually supposed the fact in question to be true. A person’s belief may be inferred from circumstances.
(b) “Confirmed in writing,” when used in reference to the informed consent of a person, denotes informed consent that is given in writing by the person or a writing that a lawyer promptly transmits to the person confirming an oral informed consent. See paragraph (e) for the definition of “informed consent.”
(c) “Firm” or “law firm” denotes a lawyer or lawyers in a law partnership, professional corporation, sole proprietorship or other association authorized to practice law; or lawyers employed in a legal services organization or the legal department of a corporation or other organization.
(d) “Fraud” or “fraudulent” denotes conduct that is fraudulent under the substantive or procedural law of the applicable jurisdiction and has a purpose to deceive.
(e) “Informed consent” denotes the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.
(f) “Knowingly,” “known,” or “knows” denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person’s knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.
(g) “Partner” denotes a member of a partnership, a shareholder in a law firm organized as a professional corporation, or a member of an association authorized to practice law.
(h) “Primary responsibility” denotes actual participation in the management and direction of the matter at the policy-making level or responsibility at the operational level as manifested by the continuous day-to-day responsibility for litigation or transaction decisions
(i) “Reasonable” or “reasonably” when used in relation to conduct by a lawyer denotes the conduct of a reasonably prudent and competent lawyer.
(j) “Reasonable belief” or “reasonably believes” when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that the lawyer believes the matter in question and that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.
(k) “Reasonably should know” when used in reference to a lawyer denotes that a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question.
(l) “Screened” denotes the isolation of a lawyer from any participation in a matter through the timely adoption and enforcement by a law firm of a written procedure pursuant to RPC 1.10(f) which is reasonably adequate under the circumstances to protect information that the isolated lawyer is obligated to protect under these Rules or other law.
(m) “Substantial” when used in reference to degree or extent denotes a material matter of clear and weighty importance.
(n) “Tribunal” denotes a court, an arbitrator in an arbitration proceeding or a legislative body, administrative agency or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity. A legislative body, administrative agency or other body acts in an adjudicative capacity when a neutral official, after the presentation of evidence or legal argument by a party or parties, will render a binding legal judgment directly affecting a party’s interests in a particular matter.
(o) “Writing” or “written” denotes a tangible or electronic record of a communication or representation, including handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photography, audio or videorecording and e-mail. A “signed” writing includes an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a writing and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the writing.

Note: Adopted November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004. RPC 1.1 Competence

1.1 Competence

A lawyer shall not:

(a) Handle or neglect a matter entrusted to the lawyer in such manner that the lawyer’s conduct constitutes gross negligence.
(b) Exhibit a pattern of negligence or neglect in the lawyer’s handling of legal matters generally.
Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984.

RPC 1.2. Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer

(a) A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the scope and objectives of representation, subject to paragraphs (c) and (d), and as required by RPC 1.4 shall consult with the client about the means to pursue them. A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation. A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter. In a criminal case, the lawyer shall consult with the client and, following consultation, shall abide by the client’s decision on the plea to be entered, jury trial, and whether the client will testify.
(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.
(c) A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.
(d) A lawyer shall not counsel or assist a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal, criminal or fraudulent, or in the preparation of a written instrument containing terms the lawyer knows are expressly prohibited by law, but a lawyer may counsel or assist a client in a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; caption amended, paragraphs (a) and (c) amended, and paragraph (e) deleted and redesignated as RPC 1.4(d) November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.3. Diligence

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984.

RPC 1.4. Communication

(a) A lawyer shall fully inform a prospective client of how, when, and where the client may communicate with the lawyer.
(b) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(c) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
(d) When a lawyer knows that a client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law, the lawyer shall advise the client of the relevant limitations on the lawyer’s conduct.
Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; new paragraphs (a) and (d) adopted and former paragraphs (a) and (b) redesignated as paragraphs (b) and (c) November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.5. Fees

(a) A lawyer’s fee shall be reasonable. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services;
(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated in writing to the client before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.
(c) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by law or by these rules. A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
(d) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, charge, or collect:
(1) any fee in a domestic relations matter, the payment or amount of which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support, or property settlement in lieu thereof; or
(2) a contingent fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
(e) Except as otherwise provided by the Court Rules, a division of fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer, or, by written agreement with the client, each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation; and
(2) the client is notified of the fee division; and
(3) the client consents to the participation of all the lawyers involved; and
(4) the total fee is reasonable.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; new subparagraph (e)(2) added and former subparagraphs (e)(2) and (e)(3) redesignated as subparagraphs (e)(3) and (e)(4) November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.6. Confidentiality of Information

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in paragraphs (b), (c), and (d).
(b) A lawyer shall reveal such information to the proper authorities, as soon as, and to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary, to prevent the client or another person:
(1) from committing a criminal, illegal or fraudulent act that the lawyer reasonably believes is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm or substantial injury to the financial interest or property of another;
(2) from committing a criminal, illegal or fraudulent act that the lawyer reasonably believes is likely to perpetrate a fraud upon a tribunal.
(c) If a lawyer reveals information pursuant to RPC 1.6(b), the lawyer also may reveal the information to the person threatened to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes is necessary to protect that person from death, substantial bodily harm, substantial financial injury, or substantial property loss.
(d) A lawyer may reveal such information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:
(1) to rectify the consequences of a client’s criminal, illegal or fraudulent act in the furtherance of which the lawyer’s services had been used;
(2) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, or to establish a defense to a criminal charge, civil claim or disciplinary complaint against the lawyer based upon the conduct in which the client was involved; or
(3) to comply with other law.
(e) Reasonable belief for purposes of RPC 1.6 is the belief or conclusion of a reasonable lawyer that is based upon information that has some foundation in fact and constitutes prima facie evidence of the matters referred to in subsections (b), (c), or (d).

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; paragraphs (a) and (b) amended, new paragraph (c) added, former paragraph (c) redesignated as paragraph (d), and former paragraph (d) amended and redesignated as paragraph (e) November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.7. Conflict of Interest: General Rule

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:
(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.
(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:
(1) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing, after full disclosure and consultation, provided, however, that a public entity cannot consent to any such representation. When the lawyer represents multiple clients in a single matter, the consultation shall include an explanation of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved;
(2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;
(3) the representation is not prohibited by law; and
(4) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; text deleted and new text adopted November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.8. Conflict of Interest: Current Clients; Specific Rules

(a) A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:
(1) the transaction and terms in which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner that can be understood by the client;
(2) the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel of the client’s choice concerning the transaction; and
(3) the client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, to the essential terms of the transaction and the lawyer’s role in the transaction, including whether the lawyer is representing the client in the transaction.
(b) Except as permitted or required by these rules, a lawyer shall not use information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client after full disclosure and consultation, gives informed consent.
(c) A lawyer shall not solicit any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, or prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any substantial gift unless the lawyer or other recipient of the gift is related to the client. For purposes of this paragraph, related persons include a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative or individual with whom the lawyer or the client maintains a close, familial relationship.
(d) Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.
(e) A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:
(1) a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter; and
(2) a lawyer representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of the client; and
(3) a non-profit organization authorized under R. 1:21-1(e) may provide financial assistance to indigent clients whom it is representing without fee.
(f) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
(1) the client gives informed consent;
(2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the lawyer-client relationship; and
(3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by RPC 1.6.
(g) A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or no contest pleas, unless each client gives informed consent after a consultation that shall include disclosure of the existence and nature of all the claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.
(h) A lawyer shall not:
(1) make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer’s liability to a client for malpractice unless the client fails to act in accordance with the lawyer’s advice and the lawyer nevertheless continues to represent the client at the client’s request. Notwithstanding the existence of those two conditions, the lawyer shall not make such an agreement unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement; or
(2) settle a claim or potential claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client unless that person is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advise of independent legal counsel in connection therewith.
(i) A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may: (1) acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses, (2) contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case.
(j) While lawyers are associated in a firm, a prohibition in the foregoing paragraphs (a) through (i) that applies to any one of them shall apply to all of them.
(k) A lawyer employed by a public entity, either as a lawyer or in some other role, shall not undertake the representation of another client if the representation presents a substantial risk that the lawyer’s responsibilities to the public entity would limit the lawyer’s ability to provide independent advice or diligent and competent representation to either the public entity or the client.
(l) A public entity cannot consent to a representation otherwise prohibited by this Rule.

Note: Adopted September 10, 1984 to be effective immediately; paragraph (e) amended July 12, 2002 to be effective September 3, 2002; caption amended, paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (f), (g), (h) amended, former paragraph (i) deleted, former paragraph (j) redesignated as paragraph (i), former paragraph (k) deleted, and new paragraphs (j) , (k) and (l) added November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.9 Duties to Former Clients

(a) A lawyer who has represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another client in the same or a substantially related matter in which that client’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent confirmed in writing.
(b) A lawyer shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which a firm with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client,
(1) whose interests are materially adverse to that person; and
(2) about whom the lawyer, while at the former firm, had personally acquired information protected by RPC 1.6 and RPC 1.9(c) that is material to the matter unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

Notwithstanding the other provisions of this paragraph, neither consent shall be sought from the client nor screening pursuant to RPC 1.10 permitted in any matter in which the attorney had sole or primary responsibility for the matter in the previous firm.
(c) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:
(1) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or
(2) reveal information relating to the representation except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client.
(d) A public entity cannot consent to a representation otherwise prohibited by this Rule.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; caption amended, paragraphs (a) and (b) amended, and new paragraphs (c) and (d) added November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004.

RPC 1.10. Imputation of Conflicts of Interest: General Rule

(a) When lawyers are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so by RPC 1.7 or RPC 1.9, unless the prohibition is based on a personal interest of the prohibited lawyer and does not present a significant risk of materially limiting the representation of the client by the remaining lawyers in the firm.
(b) When a lawyer has terminated an association with a firm, the firm is not prohibited from thereafter representing a person with interests materially adverse to those of a client represented by the formerly associated lawyer and not currently represented by the firm, unless:
(1) the matter is the same or substantially related to that in which the formerly associated lawyer represented the client; and
(2) any lawyer remaining in the firm has information protected by RPC 1.6 and RPC 1.9(c) that is material to the matter.
(c) When a lawyer becomes associated with a firm, no lawyer associated in the firm shall knowingly represent a person in a matter in which that lawyer is disqualified under RPC 1.9 unless:
(1) the matter does not involve a proceeding in which the personally disqualified lawyer had primary responsibility;
(2) the personally disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
(3) written notice is promptly given to any affected former client to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule.
(d) A disqualification prescribed by this rule may be waived by the affected client under the conditions stated in RPC 1.7.
(e) The disqualification of lawyers associated in a firm with former or current government lawyers is governed by RPC 1.11.
(f) Any law firm that enters a screening arrangement, as provided by this Rule,shall establish appropriate written procedures to insure that: (1) all attorneys and other personnel in the law firm screen the personally disqualified attorney from any participation in the matter, (2) the screened attorney acknowledges the obligation to remain screened and takes action to insure the same, and (3) the screened attorney is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; paragraph (b) corrected in Dewey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 109 N.J. 201, 217-18 (1988); caption and paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) amended, paragraph (d) deleted, former paragraph (e) amended and redesignated as paragraph (d), new paragraphs (e) and (f) adopted November 17, 2003

RPC 1.11. Successive Government and Private Employment

(a) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, and subject to RPC 1.9, a lawyer who formerly has served as a government lawyer or public officer or employee of the government shall not represent a private client in connection with a matter:
(1) in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a public officer or employee, or
(2) for which the lawyer had substantial responsibility as a public officer or employee; or
(3) when the interests of the private party are materially adverse to the appropriate government agency, provided, however, that the application of this provision shall be limited to a period of six months immediately following the termination of the attorney’s service as a government lawyer or public officer.
(b) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer who formerly has served as a government lawyer or public officer or employee of the government:
(1) shall be subject to RPC 1.9(c)(2) in respect of information relating to a private party or information that the lawyer knows is confidential government information about a person acquired by the lawyer while serving as a government lawyer or public officer or employee of the government, and
(2) shall not represent a private person whose interests are adverse to that private party in a matter in which the information could be used to the material disadvantage of that party.
(c) In the event a lawyer is disqualified under (a) or (b), the lawyer may not represent a private client, but absent contrary law a firm with which that lawyer is associated may undertake or continue representation if:
(1) the disqualified lawyer is screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom, and
(2) written notice is given promptly to the appropriate government agency to enable it to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this Rule.
(d) Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer serving as a government lawyer or public officer or employee of the government:
(1) shall be subject to RPC 1.9(c)(2) in respect of information relating to a private party acquired by the lawyer while in private practice or nongovernmental employment,
(2) shall not participate in a matter (i) in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, or (ii) for which the lawyer had substantial responsibility while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, or (iii) with respect to which the interests of the appropriate government agency are materially adverse to the interests of a private party represented by the lawyer while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, unless under applicable law no one is, or by lawful delegation may be, authorized to act in the lawyer’s stead in the matter or unless the private party gives its informed consent, confirmed in writing, and
(3) shall not negotiate for private employment with any person who is involved as a party or as attorney for a party in a matter in which the lawyer is participating personally and substantially or for which the lawyer has substantial responsibility, except that a lawyer serving as a law clerk shall be subject to RPC 1.12(c).
(e) As used in this Rule, the term:
(1) “matter” includes any judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, investigation, charge, accusation, arrest or other particular matter involving a specific party or parties; and any other matter covered by the conflict of interest rules of the appropriate government agency;
(2) “confidential government information” means information that has been obtained under governmental authority and that, at the time this rule is applied, the government is prohibited by law from disclosing to the public or has a legal privilege not to disclose, and that is not otherwise available to the public.

Note: Adopted July 12, 1984 to be effective September 10, 1984; paragraph (a) amended, text of paragraph (b) deleted and new text adopted, new paragraph (c) adopted, former paragraphs (c) and (d) amended and redesignated as paragraphs (d) and (e), and former paragraph (e) merged into redesignated paragraph (e) November 17, 2003 to be effective January 1, 2004; paragraph (c) amended July 9, 2008 to be effective September 1, 2008.

Comment by Court (Regarding 2008 Amendment). In In re ACPE Opinion 705, 192 N.J. 46 (2007), the Court deferred to the Legislature in the spirit of comity and held that the post-government employment restrictions imposed by the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law, N.J.S.A. 52:13D-17, apply in the context of former State attorneys.