1.3 Diligence

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.


[1] A lawyer should pursue a matter on behalf of a client despite opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience to the lawyer, and take whatever lawful and ethical measures are required to vindicate a client?s cause or endeavor. A lawyer must also act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client. A lawyer is not bound, however, to press for every advantage that might be realized for a client. For example, a lawyer may have authority to exercise professional discretion in determining the means by which a matter should be pursued. See Rule 1.2. The lawyer?s duty to act with reasonable diligence does not require the use of offensive tactics or preclude the treating of all persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect.

[2] A lawyer?s workload must be controlled so that each matter can be handled competently.

[3] Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination or neglect. A client?s interests often can be adversely affected by the passage of time or the change of conditions; in extreme instances, as when a lawyer overlooks a statute of limitations, the client?s legal position may be destroyed. Even when the client?s interests are not affected in substance, however, unreasonable delay can cause a client needless anxiety and undermine confidence in the lawyer?s trustworthiness. A lawyer?s duty to act with reasonable promptness, however, does not preclude the lawyer from agreeing to a reasonable request for a postponement that will not prejudice the lawyer?s client.

[4] Unless the relationship is terminated as provided in Rule 1.16, a lawyer should carry through to conclusion all matters undertaken for a client. If a lawyer?s employment is limited to a specific matter, the relationship terminates when the matter has been resolved. If a lawyer has served a client over a substantial period in a variety of matters, the client sometimes may assume that the lawyer will continue to serve on a continuing basis unless the lawyer gives notice of withdrawal. Doubt about whether a client-lawyer relationship still exists should be clarified by the lawyer, preferably in writing, so that the client will not mistakenly suppose the lawyer is looking after the client?s affairs when the lawyer has ceased to do so. For example, if a lawyer has handled a judicial or administrative proceeding that produced a result adverse to the client and the lawyer and the client have not agreed that the lawyer will handle the matter on appeal, the lawyer must consult with the client about the possibility of appeal before relinquishing responsibility for the matter. See Rule 1.4(a)(2). Whether the lawyer is obligated to prosecute the appeal for the client depends on the scope of the representation the lawyer has agreed to provide to the client. See Rule 1.2.

[5] To prevent neglect of client matters in the event of a sole practitioner?s death or disability, the duty of diligence requires that each sole practitioner prepare a plan, in conformity with applicable rules, that designates another competent lawyer to review client files, notify each client of the lawyer?s death or disability, and determine whether there is a need for immediate protective action.


Model Rule 1.3 (2002) corresponds to and is substantively equivalent to M. Bar R. 3.6(a). The Task Force liked the positive language in Model Rule 1.3 (2002) and recommended its adoption.

The Task Force discussed the use of the term ?zeal? as used in Model Rule 1.3 Comment [1] (2002). The Task Force determined that the term ?zeal? was often used as a cover for a lawyer?s inappropriate behavior. Moreover, the Task Force thought the term was not needed to describe a lawyer?s ethical duties. Accordingly, the Task Force recommended its deletion.

The Task Force recommended the inclusion of the term ?neglect? in Comment [3]. The Task Force believed that neglect is a broader concept than procrastination, and thus ought to be specifically referenced in the Comment.

With respect to Comment [5], the Task Force observed that a sole practitioner?s duty of diligence includes preparation of a plan designating another responsible lawyer to act in the event of a sole practitioner?s death or disability. This is not a new requirement and has been addressed in a Professional Ethics Commission Opinion.