Attorneys must abide by certain duties to their current and former clients. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct enacted these regulations to avoid conflicts of interest and ensure that attorneys provide clients the best and most ethical representation possible. Rule 1.7 and Rule 1.8 govern conduct involving a current client within the attorney–client relationship, while Rule 1.9 governs conduct involving former clients. Beyond current and former clients, lawyers owe a duty to prospective clients as well. The prospective client regulation is found in Rule 1.18 and its subsections. Rule 1.18(a) states that “a person who consults with a lawyer about the possibility of forming a client–lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a prospective client.” Further, Rule 1.18(b) details that “even when no client-lawyer relationship ensues, a lawyer who has learned information from a prospective client shall not use or reveal information, except as Rule 1.9 would permit with respect to information of a former client.” Thus, attorneys still owe duties to these individuals even if an attorney–client relationship is not established.

The rule also discusses the scope in which a conflict of interest would arise for prospective clients. Rule 1.18(c) states “A lawyer subject to paragraph (b) shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the matter.” The “same or substantially related matter” bar guides an attorney to behave ethically when an individual qualifies as a prospective client under Rule 1.18(a). Lastly, Rule 1.18(c) states that if an attorney is disqualified from representing a client due to a conflict of interest, no other attorney associated with the same law firm can knowingly undertake representation of that client unless qualified under the list of exceptions in Rule 1.18(d), such as receiving informed consent and taking reasonable measures to avoid disqualifying information.

Thanks to the personal injury lawyers at Eglet Adams for their insight on The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.18