California Lawyers Now Have Duties To Clients “Who Got Away”


By: Greg Fayard
Under Rule 1.18 of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers must now protect the confidences of prospective clients–even if a formal lawyer-client relationship never materializes.
That is, confidential information conveyed by a would-be client to a California lawyer, but where the potential client does not retain the lawyer, must be protected and can impact other matters handled by another lawyer in the firm.
For example, in a law firm that does family law, if Wife consults lawyer A in a divorce case and says she has a secret bank account, but Wife does not retain lawyer A, and Husband then consults lawyer A, lawyer A would need the informed written consent from both Husband and Wife to represent Husband.
Lawyer B in the law firm could represent Husband, but only if lawyer A is screened from Husband’s case and written notice is provided to both Husband and Wife. Consent from Wife is not needed.
This is an example of duties to the prospective client, the Wife—the client “who got away.” Just know that in situations where prospective clients meet with a lawyer, but no official attorney-client relationship results from that meeting, for future matters, sometimes informed written consent is needed, and sometimes notice and screening is needed.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Greg Fayard at, or any other member of our Lawyers Professional Liability Practice Group, a list of which can be found at