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Watch for changes in the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct

Watch for possible changes in the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, thanks to a petition for proposed amendments by the Minnesota State Bar Association and Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.  The proposed amendments are attached to a Minnesota Supreme Court order inviting public comments until November 18.

Some of the proposed amendments reflect changes in technology, which have transformed the practice of law. They include:

1) Rule 1.0 – Terminology. The word “e-mail” is replaced with the term “electronic communications” in the definition of “writing” or “written.” This accounts for the many ways of communicating by electronic media besides email.  Comment (9) is also amended to clarify that screening procedures must screen a lawyer from electronically stored information, not just physical documents.

2) Rule 1.1 – Competence. Former comment (6) is renumbered (8) and amended to require the lawyer to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks of relevant technology.

3) Rule 1.4. – Communication. Comment (4) is amended to replace the last sentence, “Client telephone calls should be promptly returned or acknowledged.” with “A lawyer should promptly respond to or acknowledge client communications.” This is to reflect that lawyers not only must return or acknowledge telephone calls, but also email, instant messaging, Skype and other electronic communications from clients.

While these proposed amendments are not earth-shattering, they heighten the professional standards for Minnesota lawyers to meet.

The State Bar Association and Lawyers Board based its petition largely on recommendations by the American Bar Association Commission on Ethics 20/20. The Court has amended the MRPC from time to time for good cause shown.

This article provides general information only. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation.   The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

The author, Dyan Williams, is admitted to the Minnesota state bar and focuses on the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct in her articles.  Check your individual state rules of professional conduct, regulations, ethics opinions and case precedents, instead of relying on this article for specific guidance.