Legal Ethics Corner

Ethics Corner is designed to present ethical issues that practitioners might well face on a daily basis. It is a service of the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association for SDCBA members.  

Geographic Scope of the Rule of Professional Conduct

“This land is your land/This land is my land/From California/To the New York island….” No, I do not mean to convey that I am a member of the Tea Party. I am noting, however, the geographic scope of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, Rule 1-100(D)(1) provides that as to licensed California attorneys, “These rules shall govern the activities of members in and outside this state, except as members lawfully practicing outside this state may be specifically required by a jurisdiction in which they are practicing to follow Rules of Professional Conduct different from these rules.” (Italics added.) (Subdivision (D)(2) notes that the rules also apply to non-California lawyers while performing “lawyer functions in this state.”) Given that many attorneys engage in legal activities that cross state lines, one must remain sensitive to the fact that wherever you go, you take the California’s rules with you. Equally important is that one must consult the rules of the local jurisdiction. What might be permissible, required, or prohibited by California’s rules, as the case may be, might not be elsewhere, and it is best not to find out the hard way. As you walk that ribbon of highway keep in mind that the ribbon generally leads back to the Golden State.

--Luis E. Ventura
**No portion of this summary is intended to constitute legal advice. Be sure to perform independent research and analysis. Any views expressed are those of the author only and not of the SDCBA or its Legal Ethics Committee.**