GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY AS THE CLIENT
DUTIES TO POTENTIAL CLIENT
(a) A lawyer employed or retained to represent a governmental entity represents the governmental entity as distinct from its officials or employees. (b) In dealing with a governmental entity's officials or employees, a lawyer shall explain the identity of the client when the lawyer reasonably believes that the entity's interests are or are likely to become adverse to those of the persons with whom the lawyer is dealing. (c) A lawyer representing a governmental entity may also represent any of its officials or employees, subject to the provisions of Rule 1.7. If the entity's consent to the dual representation is required by Rule 1.7, the consent shall be given by an appropriate official of the entity other than the individual who is to be represented. The Governmental Entity as the Client In general, the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to a lawyer representing a governmental entity in the same manner as they apply to a lawyer for a private client. In the government context, however, defining precisely the identity of the client and prescribing the resulting obligations of the lawyer may be more difficult. The duties of lawyers employed by the government or lawyers in military service may be defined by statute or regulation. Although in some circumstances the client may be a specific agency, it is generally the government as a whole. In a matter involving the conduct of a government official, a government lawyer may have more extensive authority to question the official's conduct than would a lawyer for a private organization in similar circumstances. This Rule does not limit that authority. In addition, when the client is a governmental organization, a different balance may be appropriate between maintaining confidentiality and assuring that a wrongful official act is prevented or rectified, for public business is involved. Client-Lawyer Relationship Under various legal provisions, including constitutional, statutory and common law, the responsibilities of government lawyers may include authority concerning legal matters that ordinarily reposes in the client in private client-lawyer relationships. For example, a lawyer for a government agency may have authority on behalf of the government to decide upon settlement or whether to appeal from an adverse judgment. This authority in various respects is generally vested in the attorney general and the state's attorney in state government, and their federal counterparts, and the same may be true of other government law officers. Also, lawyers under the supervision of these officers may be authorized to represent several government agencies in intragovernmental legal controversies in circumstances where a private lawyer could not represent multiple private clients. They also may have authority to represent the "public interest" in circumstances where a private lawyer would not be authorized to do so. These Rules do not abrogate this authority. Clarifying the Lawyer's Role There are times when the governmental entity's interests may be or become adverse to those of one or more of its officials or employees. In these circumstances the lawyer should advise any official or employee, whose interest the lawyer reasonably believes is or is likely to become adverse to that of the governmental entity, of the conflict or potential conflict of interest, that the lawyer cannot represent the official or employee, and that the official or employee may wish to obtain independent representation. Care must be taken to assure that the official or employee understands that, when there is an adversity of interest, the lawyer for the governmental entity cannot provide legal representation for the official or employee, and that discussions between the lawyer for the governmental entity and the official or employee may not be privileged. Whether and when this warning should be given by the lawyer may turn on the facts of each case. Dual Representation Paragraph (c) recognizes that a lawyer for a governmental entity may also represent an official or employee. Rule 1.7 may require consent to the dual representation, and this consent may be given by an appropriate official of the entity but not by the person who is to be represented.
(a) A person who discusses with a lawyer the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a potential client.
(b) Even when no lawyer-client relationship ensues, a lawyer who has had discussions with a potential client shall not use or reveal significantly harmful information learned in that consultation, except as Rule 1.9 would permit with respect to information of a former client.
(c) A lawyer subject to paragraph (b) shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a potential client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the potential client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the matter, except as provided in paragraph (d). If a lawyer is disqualified from representation under this paragraph, no lawyer in a firm with which that lawyer is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter, except as provided in paragraph (d).
(d) When the lawyer has received significantly harmful information, representation is permissible if:
(1) both the affected client and the potential client have given consent; or
(2) the lawyer who received the information took reasonable measures to avoid exposure to more significantly harmful information than was reasonably necessary to determine whether to represent the potential client and written notice is promptly given to the potential client.
Definition of Potential Client
 The term "potential client" is used in this Rule to eliminate any confusion with the term "prospective client" as used in Rule 7.3. Potential clients, like clients, may disclose information to a lawyer, place documents or other property in the lawyer's custody, or rely on the lawyer's advice. A lawyer's discussions with a potential client usually are limited in time and depth and leave both the potential client and the lawyer free (and sometimes required) to proceed no further. Hence, potential clients should receive some but not all of the protection afforded clients.
 Not all persons who communicate information to a lawyer are entitled to protection under this Rule. A person who communicates information unilaterally to a lawyer, without any reasonable expectation that the lawyer is willing to discuss the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship, is not a "potential client" within the meaning of paragraph (a).
 It is often necessary for a potential client to reveal information to the lawyer during an initial consultation prior to the decision about formation of a client-lawyer relationship. The lawyer often must learn such information to determine whether there is a conflict of interest with an existing client and whether the matter is one that the lawyer is willing to undertake. Paragraph (b) prohibits the lawyer from using or revealing that information, except as permitted by Rule 1.9, even if the client or lawyer decides not to proceed with the representation. The duty exists regardless of how brief the initial conference may be. A lawyer is not prohibited from revealing to an existing client that an opposing party has contacted the lawyer seeking representation.
 In order to avoid acquiring significantly harmful information from a potential client, a lawyer considering whether or not to undertake a new matter should limit the initial interview to only such information as reasonably appears necessary for that purpose. Where the information indicates that a conflict of interest or other reason for non-representation exists, the lawyer should so inform the potential client or decline the representation. If the potential client wishes to retain the lawyer, and if consent is allowed under Rule 1.7(c), then consent from all affected present or former clients must be obtained before accepting the representation.
 A lawyer may condition conversations with a potential client on the person's consent that no information disclosed during the consultation will prohibit the lawyer from representing a different client in the matter. If the agreement expressly so provides, the potential client may also consent to the lawyer's subsequent use of information received from the potential client.
 Even in the absence of an agreement, under paragraph (c), the lawyer is not prohibited from representing a client with interests adverse to those of the potential client in the same or a substantially related matter unless the lawyer has received from the potential client information that could be significantly harmful if used in the matter.
 Under paragraph (c), the prohibition in this Rule is imputed to other lawyers as provided in Rule 1.10, but, under paragraph (d)(1), imputation may be avoided if the lawyer obtains consent from both the potential and affected clients. While it is not a requirement, it is a preferable practice to obtain the consent in writing. In the alternative, imputation may be avoided if the conditions of paragraph (d)(2) are met and all disqualified lawyers are timely screened and written notice is promptly given to the potential client.
 Notice, including a general description of the subject matter about which the lawyer was consulted generally should be given as soon as practical.
 For the duty of competence of a lawyer who gives assistance on the merits of a matter to a potential client, see Rule 1.1. For a lawyer's duties when a potential client entrusts valuables or papers to the lawyer's care, see Rule 1.15.
Reference: Minutes of the Professional Conduct Subcommittee of the Attorney Standards Committee on 11/08/85, 01/31/86 and 03/15/86; Minutes of the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards Meetings of 09/15/95, 12/01/95, 06/11/96; 02/27/04; 04/16/04, 03/18/05, 06/14/05, 09/09/05.