Bar Rules


Ethics & Discipline / Current Rules / Part IV (After January 1 / 2001) - Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (also includes Disciplinary Proceedings and Advisory Opinion rules) / CHAPTER 1 GEORGIA RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND ENFORCEMENT THEREOF

  1. A lawyer shall neither enter into a business transaction with a client if the client expects the lawyer to exercise the lawyer's professional judgment therein for the protection of the client, nor shall the lawyer knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:
    1. the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner which can be reasonably understood by the client;
    2. the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel in the transaction; and
    3. the client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, to the essential terms of the transaction and the lawyer's role in the transaction, including whether the lawyer is representing the client in the transaction.
  2. A lawyer shall not use information gained in the professional relationship with a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client gives informed consent, except as permitted or required by these Rules.
  3. A lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee.
  4. Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.
  5. A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:
    1. a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter; or
    2. a lawyer representing a client unable to pay court costs and expenses of litigation may pay those costs and expenses on behalf of the client.
  6. A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
    1. the client gives informed consent;
    2. there is no interference with the lawyer's independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and
    3. information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.
  7. A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims for or against the clients, nor in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client. The lawyers disclosure shall include the existence and nature of all claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.
  8. A lawyer shall not make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer's liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement, or settle a claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewith.
  9. A lawyer related to another lawyer as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling or spouse shall not represent a client in a representation directly adverse to a person whom the lawyer has actual knowledge is represented by the other lawyer unless his or her client gives informed consent regarding the relationship. The disqualification stated in this paragraph is personal and is not imputed to members of firms with whom the lawyers are associated.
  10. A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may:
    1. acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer's fees or expenses as long as the exercise of the lien is not prejudicial to the client with respect to the subject of the representation; and
    2. contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case, except as prohibited by Rule 1.5.

The maximum penalty for a violation of Rule 1.8(b) is disbarment. The maximum penalty for a violation of Rule 1.8(a) and 1.8(c)-(j) is a public reprimand.


Transactions Between Client and Lawyer

[1A] As a general principle, all transactions between client and lawyer should be fair and reasonable to the client. The client should be fully informed of the true nature of the lawyer's interest or lack of interest in all aspects of the transaction. In such transactions a review by independent counsel on behalf of the client is often advisable. Furthermore, a lawyer may not exploit information relating to the representation to the client's disadvantage. For example, a lawyer who has learned that the client is investing in specific real estate may not, without the client's informed consent, seek to acquire nearby property where doing so would adversely affect the client's plan for investment. Paragraph (a) does not, however, apply to standard commercial transactions between the lawyer and the client for products or services that the client generally markets to others, for example, banking or brokerage services, medical services, products manufactured or distributed by the client, and utilities' services. In such transactions, the lawyer has no advantage in dealing with the client, and the restrictions in paragraph (a) are unnecessary and impracticable.
Use of Information to the Disadvantage of the Client
[1B] It is a general rule that an attorney will not be permitted to make use of knowledge, or information, acquired by the attorney through the professional relationship with the client, or in the conduct of the client's business, to the disadvantage of the client. Paragraph (b) follows this general rule and provides that the client may waive this prohibition. However, if the waiver is conditional, the duty is on the attorney to comply with the condition.

Gifts from Clients

[2] A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted. If effectuation of a substantial gift requires preparing a legal instrument such as a will or conveyance, however, the client should have the objective advice that another lawyer can provide. Paragraph (c) recognizes an exception where the client is a relative of the donee or the gift is not substantial.

Literary Rights

[3] An agreement by which a lawyer acquires literary or media rights concerning the subject of the representation creates a conflict between the interest of the client and the personal interest of the lawyer. Measures suitable in the representation of the client may detract from the publication value of an account of the representation. Paragraph (d) does not prohibit a lawyer representing a client in a transaction concerning literary property from agreeing that the lawyer's fee shall consist of a share in ownership in the property, if the arrangement conforms to Rule 1.5 and paragraph (j) of this Rule.

Financial Assistance to Clients

[4] Paragraph (e) eliminates the former requirement that the client remain ultimately liable for financial assistance provided by the lawyer. It further limits permitted assistance to court costs and expenses directly related to litigation. Accordingly, permitted expenses would include expenses of investigation, medical diagnostic work connected with the matter under litigation and treatment necessary for the diagnosis, and the costs of obtaining and presenting evidence. Permitted expenses would not include living expenses or medical expenses other than those listed above.

Payment for a Lawyer's Services from One Other Than The Client
[5] Lawyers are frequently asked to represent a client under circumstances in which a third person will compensate the lawyer, in whole or in part. The third person might be a relative or friend, an indemnitor (such as a liability insurance company) or a co-client (such as a corporation sued along with one or more of its employees). Because third-party payers frequently have interests that differ from those of the client, including interests in minimizing the amount spent on the representation and in learning how the representation is progressing, lawyers are prohibited from accepting or continuing such representations unless the lawyer determines that there will be no interference with the lawyer's independent professional judgment and there is informed consent from the client. See also Rule 5.4(c) (prohibiting interference with a lawyer's professional judgment by one who recommends, employs or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another).

Settlement of Aggregated Claims

[6] Paragraph (g) requires informed consent. This requirement is not met by a blanket consent prior to settlement that the majority decision will rule.

Agreements to Limit Liability

[7] A lawyer may not condition an agreement to withdraw or the return of a client's documents on the client's release of claims. However, this paragraph is not intended to apply to customary qualifications and limitations in opinions and memoranda.

[8] A lawyer should not seek prospectively, by contract or other means, to limit the lawyer's individual liability to a client for the lawyer's malpractice. A lawyer who handles the affairs of a client properly has no need to attempt to limit liability for the lawyer's professional activities and one who does not handle the affairs of clients properly should not be permitted to do so. A lawyer may, however, practice law as a partner, member, or shareholder of a limited liability partnership, professional association, limited liability company, or professional corporation.

Family Relationships Between Lawyers

[9] Paragraph (i) applies to related lawyers who are in different firms. Related lawyers in the same firm are governed by Rules 1.7, 1.9, and 1.10.

Acquisition of Interest in Litigation

[10] Paragraph (j) states the traditional general rule that lawyers are prohibited from acquiring a proprietary interest in litigation. This general rule, which has its basis in the common law prohibition of champerty and maintenance, is subject to specific exceptions developed in decisional law and continued in these Rules, such as the exception for reasonable contingent fees set forth in Rule 1.5 and the exception for lawyer's fees and for certain advances of costs of litigation set forth in paragraph (e).

Return to handbook browser.