Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
RULE 8.5: DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY; CHOICE OF LAW

(a) Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer's conduct occurs. A lawyer not admitted in this jurisdiction is also subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction if the lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in this jurisdiction. A lawyer may be subject to the disciplinary authority of both this jurisdiction and another jurisdiction for the same conduct.

(b) Choice of Law. In any exercise of the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, the rules of professional conduct to be applied shall be as follows:

(1) for conduct in connection with a matter pending before a tribunal, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise; and

(2) for any other conduct, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer's conduct occurred, or, if the predominant effect of the conduct is in a different jurisdiction, the rules of that jurisdiction shall be applied to the conduct. A lawyer shall not be subject to discipline if the lawyer's conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction in which the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect of the lawyer's conduct will occur.  Any communication made for the purpose of soliciting clients from within South Carolina or advertising a lawyer’s services in South Carolina shall be deemed to have its predominant effect within South Carolina and shall be subject to the provisions of Rules 7.1 through 7.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule 418, SCACR, regardless of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed or in which the matter may be pending.

(c) A lawyer giving advice or providing services that would be considered to be the practice of law if provided while the lawyer was affiliated with a law firm is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the giving of such advice or the providing of such services whether or not the lawyer is actively engaged in the practice of law or affiliated with a law firm.  In giving such advice and in providing such services, a lawyer shall be considered to be representing a client for the purposes of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Comment

Disciplinary Authority

[1] It is longstanding law that the conduct of a lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction. Extension of the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction to other lawyers who provide or offer to provide legal services in this jurisdiction is for the protection of the citizens of this jurisdiction. Reciprocal enforcement of a jurisdiction's disciplinary findings and sanctions will further advance the purposes of this Rule. See Rule 29 of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR.  A lawyer who is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction under Rule 8.5(a) appoints an official to be designated by this Court to receive service of process in this jurisdiction. The fact that the lawyer is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction may be a factor in determining whether personal jurisdiction may be asserted over the lawyer for civil matters.

Choice of Law

[2] A lawyer may be potentially subject to more than one set of rules of professional conduct which impose different obligations. The lawyer may be licensed to practice in more than one jurisdiction with differing rules, or may be admitted to practice before a particular court with rules that differ from those of the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which the lawyer is licensed to practice. Additionally, the lawyer's conduct may involve significant contacts with more than one jurisdiction.

[3] Paragraph (b) seeks to resolve such potential conflicts. Its premise is that minimizing conflicts between rules, as well as uncertainty about which rules are applicable, is in the best interest of both clients and the profession (as well as the bodies having authority to regulate the profession). Accordingly, it takes the approach of (i) providing that any particular conduct of a lawyer shall be subject to only one set of rules of professional conduct, (ii) making the determination of which set of rules applies to particular conduct as straightforward as possible, consistent with recognition of appropriate regulatory interests of relevant jurisdictions, and (iii) providing protection from discipline for lawyers who act reasonably in the face of uncertainty.

[4] Paragraph (b)(1) provides that as to a lawyer's conduct relating to a proceeding pending before a tribunal, the lawyer shall be subject only to the rules of the jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits unless the rules of the tribunal, including its choice of law rule, provide otherwise. As to all other conduct, including conduct in anticipation of a proceeding not yet pending before a tribunal, paragraph (b)(2) provides that a lawyershall be subject to the rules of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer's conduct occurred, or if the predominant effect of the conduct is in another jurisdiction, the rules of that jurisdiction shall be applied to the conduct. In the case of conduct in anticipation of a proceeding thatis likely to be before a tribunal, the predominant effect of such conduct could be where the conduct occurred, where the tribunal sits or in another jurisdiction.

[5] When a lawyer's conduct involves significant contacts with more than one jurisdiction, it may not be clear whether the predominant effect of the lawyer's conduct will occur in a jurisdiction other than the one in which the conduct occurred. So long as the lawyer's conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction in which the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect will occur, the lawyer shall not be subject to discipline under this Rule.

[6] If two admitting jurisdictions were to proceed against a lawyer for the same conduct, they should, applying this rule, identify the same governing ethics rules. They should take all appropriate steps to see that they do apply the same rule to the same conduct, and in all events should avoid proceeding against a lawyer on the basis of two inconsistent rules.

[7] The choice of law provision applies to lawyers engaged in transnational practice, unless international law, treaties or other agreements between competent regulatory authorities in the affected jurisdictions provide otherwise.

[8] The Rules of Professional Conduct apply to a lawyer giving advice or providing services that are not prohibited as the unauthorized practice of law when provided by a non-lawyer but are considered the practice of law when provided by a lawyer. For instance, an accountant giving tax advice to a client is not normally engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. However, if a lawyer gives the same advice, he or she is giving legal advice and is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct, whether working for a law firm, or an accounting firm, a consulting firm, or another enterprise. Of course, this is also true if the lawyer is giving advice or providing services that would constitute the unauthorized practice of law by a non-lawyer. In giving both kinds of advice and in providing both kinds of services, a lawyer is considered to be representing a client for the purposes of determining which of these Rules govern the lawyer’s conduct. This rule does not permit lawyers to engage in activities that would otherwise violate Rules 5.4 or 5.5 or any of the other Rules of Professional Conduct.