Opinion 88-14
(May 1988)

You have asked the Professional Guidance Committee for an opinion concerning what actions, if any, you should take with respect to your taking a leave of absence from your practice. It is anticipated that you will be out of your office from approximately June 10, 1988, through Labor Day.

In your supplemental letter of April 18, 1988, you have provided us with details of efforts you have undertaken within your office staff to insure that the open matters are properly handled. Those efforts to insure that matters are not neglected in your absence, are obviously steps which must be taken, and we encourage you to make sure that they are accomplished.

The question which you posed to the Committee is obviously a very broad one and is incapable of a precise answer without looking at each factual scenario for each client. However, there are a number of broad general propositions which we would like to bring to your attention:

(1) Under the Rules of Professional Conduct you are obligated, inter alia, to be competent, diligent, and to communicate with your client on all aspects of the attorney/client relationship. See Rules 1.1, 1.3 and 1.4. The practicalities of the practice of law do not require a lawyer retained by a client to perform any and all activities on behalf of the client. Indeed, it is very common to have an attorney delegate certain tasks to be performed, under the supervision of that attorney, to other lawyers and non-lawyer personnel. In connection with your matters, you must make a determination, in the first instance, whether you can properly delegate these functions while you are out of the office . It may be that a client has specifically come to your office because of you and will expect you to personally handle a matter. In such an instance, it is incumbent upon you to communicate directly with the client and to advise the client that you will be taking a leave of absence. It may be necessary to make other arrangements to transfer the file to another lawyer, if the client so chooses.

(2) Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, you are also responsible for supervising the activities of lawyers and non-lawyers within your office to insure that they comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. See Rules 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3. You have attempted to delegate this responsibility to others during your absence. Although this may be feasible, we would suggest that you stay in communication with your office on a regular basis to insure that this supervisory authority is being carried out.

Beyond the foregoing, you will be required to evaluate each case to determine whether there are any special circumstances which require special handling. Obviously, we are not in a position to comment upon those special cases.

We hope the foregoing is of some value to you.
   

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.