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By: Greg Fayard
Not necessarily. Under Rule 1.4.1 of the ethics rules for California lawyers, in criminal matters, all terms and conditions of plea bargains or other dispositive offers, whether written or oral, have to be communicated to the client promptly. In non-criminal matters, all WRITTEN offers have to be promptly communicated. But what about a VERBAL offer in a non-criminal case? That’s a judgment call for the lawyer. If the lawyer believes the verbal offer is a “significant development,” then, yes, an oral offer should be promptly conveyed to the client. If, however, only a nuisance value oral offer is made, and the lawyer does not believe such offer is significant, then the lawyer cannot be disciplined for failing to communicate said offer. Of course, in the off chance the State Bar investigated the lawyer’s decision to not convey a verbal offer, the Bar would determine if the oral offer was significant or not.
That said, the best practice is to convey all offers, regardless of form, to the client, and to do so promptly.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Greg Fayard at firstname.lastname@example.org, or any other member of our Lawyers Professional Liability Practice Group, a list of which can be found at stage.fmglaw.com.