Informal Opinion Number: 20030047

Rules: 4-1.16; 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Declining or Terminating Representation
Trust Accounts and Property of Others
Summary: courtesy copies provided during representation



Reference Note:  Rule 4-1.15 was amended, effective July 1, 2013.  This opinion is based on the rule in effect prior to that date.  Please see the July 1, 2013 version of Rule 4-1.15 and 4-1.22

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.22 of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.22 adopted in lieu thereof. This opinion is based on Rule 4 in effect prior to that date.

QUESTION: If Attorney sends a client a courtesy copy of all pleadings at the time of filing and a copy of all pleadings filed by opposing counsel (with a notation that it is a courtesy copy for the client’s information and safekeeping), is it necessary to copy the file and provide the documents again to the client? May attorney charge for copies of documents previously sent to client?
ANSWER: It is permissible for copies provided to the client during the course of the representation to serve as client’s file, or a portion of the client’s file, if two conditions are met. First, Attorney would have had to provide an explanation of this process prior to sending the copies. Second, the original of the file belongs to the client. Therefore, if there is an original in the file, a copy does not fulfill the obligation to the client unless the attorney and client have agreed that it will. If both conditions are not met, attorney should provide the file to the client and keep copies at Attorney’s own expense.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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