Need a contract attorney to make a court appearance?

The State Bar of California has issued formal ethics opinion No. 2004-165 to address the ethical responsibilities of a member who uses outside contract attorneys to make appearances on behalf of the member’s clients.

In a nutshell:

First, the member must disclose the arrangement to the client when the appearance (or other use of a contract attorney) constitutes a significant development in the case. While a CMC likely never constitutes a significant development in a case, the same cannot be said of a dispositive motion hearing or a post-trial motion hearing. Members must use their judgment in deciding whether the delegation of legal work to a contract attorney constitutes a significant development that would trigger the duty to disclose to the client.

Second, the Member must adequately prepare the contract attorney for the appearance and the contract attorney must be competent to handle the appearance.

Third, if the Member has anticipated the need to hire contract attorneys at the outset of the engagement, the Member should disclose that in the fee agreement with his or her client.

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