Note that the Rules of Professional Conduct were substantially revised in 2006. The language and citations in any Advisory Opinion issued prior to this date may not be consistent with the current rules.
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RPC 1.2; 1.4(b); 1.13(b); 3.1
Missing client; lawyer's duty with respect to statute of limitations
The inquirer posed the following situation: A lawyer who has entered into an attorney-client relationship with a personal injury client lost contact with the client before a compliant was filed and before receiving instructions on whether to file a complaint. The inquiring lawyer wonders what his obligation may be to file an action before the statute of limitations runs.
Whether or not it is appropriate under the Rules of Professional Conduct for you to file suit depends upon the scope of your representation. See RPC 1.2. The scope of representation may be influenced by any fee agreement and the nature of prior communications with the client. The question of whether filing suit is or was implicit or express depends upon the totality of the communications between the lawyer and the client. Whether refraining from or commencing suit without further direction from the client would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct turns on whether the lawyer can articulate a good faith belief that he was authorized to file suit or refrain from filing. In considering the scope of representation, review of RPC 1.4(b) is warranted. Based upon the nature and extent of the lawyer’s contacts with his client, consideration of RPC 1.13(b) may be warranted. See also RPC 3.1.