Current Rules

Rules of Professional Conduct

Rule 3-110 Failing to Act Competently

(A) A member shall not intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence.

(B) For purposes of this rule, "competence" in any legal service shall mean to apply the 1) diligence, 2) learning and skill, and 3) mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service.

(C) If a member does not have sufficient learning and skill when the legal service is undertaken, the member may nonetheless perform such services competently by 1) associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer reasonably believed to be competent, or 2) by acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required.


The duties set forth in rule 3-110 include the duty to supervise the work of subordinate attorney and non-attorney employees or agents. (See, e.g., Waysman v. State Bar (1986) 41 Cal.3d 452; Trousil v. State Bar (1985) 38 Cal.3d 337, 342 [211 Cal.Rptr. 525]; Palomo v. State Bar (1984) 36 Cal.3d 785 [205 Cal.Rptr. 834]; Crane v. State Bar (1981) 30 Cal.3d 117, 122; Black v. State Bar (1972) 7 Cal.3d 676, 692 [103 Cal.Rptr. 288; 499 P.2d 968]; Vaughn v. State Bar (1972) 6 Cal.3d 847, 857-858 [100 Cal.Rptr. 713; 494 P.2d 1257]; Moore v. State Bar (1964) 62 Cal.2d 74, 81 [41 Cal.Rptr. 161; 396 P.2d 577].)

In an emergency a lawyer may give advice or assistance in a matter in which the lawyer does not have the skill ordinarily required where referral to or consultation with another lawyer would be impractical. Even in an emergency, however, assistance should be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances. (Amended by order of Supreme Court, operative September 14, 1992.)