WHO ARE "CLIENTS"? (AND WHY IT MATTERS)
AbstractAlthough the lawyer-client relationship is fundamental to the lawyer’s ethical and legal role, there has been little close attention paid to defining exactly who “clients” are. This article explores the shifting and multi-dimensional nature of the lawyer-client relationship. Consistent with the aspirational and pragmatic function of law and practice that underlies legal ethics and professional responsibility, the article argues there is no ideal taxonomy for categorizing “clients” and the obligations owed them. The identity of a client is neither fast nor fixed, and lawyers are subject to a spectrum of differing ethical duties and legal obligations that can vary in weight and effect with the context. The article explores the general duties and obligations lawyers have to members of society, notwithstanding any client-based relationship with an individual; identifies the circumstances in which people become "current clients" and the special legal and moral obligations that come into play; discusses the duties and obligations that continue when, and if, clients cease to have a formal and/or continuing relationship with their lawyers; and examines the particular complexities involved when lawyers deal with groups or organisations.
Keywords:Professional Responsibility, Ethics, Duty of loyalty, Conflicts of interest, Codes, Clients
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