Browse Previous PageTable of ContentsBrowse Next Page

Professional Conduct Rules Table of Contents



The Rules of Professional Conduct constitute the disciplinary standard for New Hampshire lawyers.  Together with law and other regulations governing lawyers, the Rules establish the boundaries of permissible and impermissible lawyer conduct.

       The Rules of Professional Conduct are rules of reason.  They should be interpreted with reference to the context of legal representation and of law itself.  Some of the Rules are imperatives, expressed by the terms "shall" or "shall not".  Others, generally expressed by the term "may", are permissive and define areas in which the lawyer may exercise professional judgment. 

       The Rules are not designed to be a basis for civil liability.  The purpose of the Rules can be subverted when the Rules are invoked by opposing parties as procedural weapons.  Violation of a Rule should not itself give rise to a cause of action against a lawyer nor should it create any presumption in such a case that a legal duty has been breached.  Violation of a Rule does not necessarily warrant any other nondisciplinary remedy, such as disqualification of a lawyer from a position or from pending litigation.  Nevertheless, as the Rules establish a standard of conduct for lawyers, a lawyer's violation of a Rule may be evidence of breach of the applicable standard of conduct.

       The Rules of Professional Conduct are promulgated and amended by the Supreme Court of the State of New Hampshire with due input from members of the New Hampshire Bar and interested members of the public.  Each Rule is published together with the applicable ABA Comment, as adopted by the American Bar Association in conjunction with its Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Preceding the ABA Comment may be found an Ethics Committee Comment, which may describe distinctions between the Rule as adopted in New Hampshire and the respective ABA Model Rule.   The ABA and Ethics Committee Comments are intended to be interpretive, not mandatory. The Ethics Committee Comments are provided by the Ethics Committee of the New Hampshire Bar Association and are updated as soon as possible after the Court receives notice from the Ethics Committee that the comment has been amended.  The Court does not always receive notice when ABA comments are amended and therefore recommends consulting the ABA model rule comments online at

       Lawyers have traditionally aspired to higher standards of professionalism than should be made mandatory in the Rules.  Professionalism encompasses civility, competence, conscience, contribution to the quality of the legal system including equal access to the courts, and public service.

Ethics Committee Comment

The Statement of Purpose replaces the ABA Model Preamble and Scope in their entirety.  The New Hampshire Supreme Court has not adopted the existing ABA Model Preamble and Scope, so that there is no base text to amend.   The NHBA Ethics Committee found that, in both the existing and the proposed ABA Model Preamble and Scope, the following defects exist:

Much of the Preamble and Scope consists of imprecise restatements or summaries of the Rules, which are generally unnecessary, potentially confusing, or both.

        It is inappropriate for the Statement of Purpose to attempt to codify when the Rules should or should not be used by disciplinary bodies, or how degrees of punishment for violations should be determined.

        Portions of the Preamble and Scope are aspirational in nature, which runs the risk of converting goals into mandates.  The Rules will succeed better if the distinction between worthy aspirations and basic mandates is kept clear.

        The length and lack of clarity in the wording of the Preamble and Scope materially diminish their utility to their readers.

Browse Previous PageTable of ContentsBrowse Next Page

Professional Conduct Rules Table of Contents