California Rules of Profession Conduct rule 1-650, operative 8/28/29, says that an attorney who provides short-term limited legal services under the auspices of a program sponsored by a court, government agency, bar association, law school or nonprofit organization is subject to rule 3-310 (which prohibits representing multiple parties whose interests are mutually adverse) only if the member knows that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest or if the member knows that another lawyer associated with the member in a law firm would have a conflict of interest with respect to the matter. If, after commencing a short-term limited representation in accordance with rule 1-650, a member undertakes to represent the client in the matter on an ongoing basis, rule 3-310 and all other rules become applicable.
According to the State Bar of California Website:
“Courts, government agencies, bar associations, law schools and various nonprofit organizations have established programs through which lawyers provide short-term limited legal services – such as advice or the completion of legal forms that will assist persons in addressing their legal problems without further representation by a lawyer. In these programs…there is no expectation that the lawyer’s representation of the client will continue beyond that limited consultation. Such programs are normally operated under circumstances in which it is not feasible for a lawyer to systematically screen for conflicts of interest as is generally required before undertaking a representation.
“A member who provides short-term limited legal services pursuant to rule 1-650 must secure the client’s informed consent to the limited scope of the representation. If a short-term limited representation would not be reasonable under the circumstances, the member may offer advice to the client but must also advise the client of the need for further assistance of counsel.”
More information on this new rule can be found at the California State Bar Rules page.