Legal Ethics

Proposed Texas Ban on Sex with Clients Is Subject of Hot Debate

An ethics rule that would bar lawyers from having sex with clients is raising controversy in Texas, one of a minority of states that don’t have such a ban.

The Dallas Morning News calls the failure to ban such relationships “one of Texas’ longest-running legal dramas.” It took lawyers acting on behalf of the state supreme court seven years to draft proposed ethics revisions, but the client-sex ban is “the biggest sticking point,” the story says.

The proposed rule bars lawyers from having sex with a client whom they are “personally representing,” Texas Lawyer reports. Exceptions permit representation if the client is a spouse or a person with whom the lawyer had a pre-existing consensual sexual relationship.

The proposal also says lawyers may not condition representation on sex, and may not solicit sex as payment for fees. The ethics rule revisions must be reviewed by the state supreme court and approved by a vote of the entire bar, the story says.

On the one side are lawyers who say the rule doesn’t go far enough to protect clients. Some of the critics take issue with the personal representation language, saying it allows lawyers to have sex with a client, as long as they send the case to someone else in their law firm. On the other side are lawyers who say the rule paves the way to lawsuits by unhappy clients.

The ABA adopted a model rule barring sex with clients in 2002, Texas Lawyer says. It states, “A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”

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