Rule 1.13 Organization As Client
(a) A lawyer employed or retained by an organization represents the organization acting through its duly authorized constituents.
(b) If a lawyer for an organization knows that an officer, employee. or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action, intends to act or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization, or a violation of law which reasonably might be imputed to the organization, and is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the lawyer shall proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. Unless the lawyer reasonably believes that it is not necessary in the best interest of the organization to do so, the lawyer shall refer the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the circumstances, to the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.
(c) If, despite the lawyer's efforts in accordance with paragraph (b), the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization insists upon action, or a refusal to act, that is clearly a violation of law and is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, the lawyer may reveal such information outside the organization to the extent permitted by Rule 1.6 and may resign in accordance with Rule 1.16.
(d) Paragraph (c) shall not apply with respect to information relating to a lawyer's representation of an organization to investigate an alleged violation of law, or to defend the organization or an officer, employee, or other constituent associated with the organization against a claim arising out of an alleged violation of law.
(e) A lawyer who reasonably believes that he or she has been discharged because of the lawyer's actions taken pursuant to paragraphs (b) or (c), or who withdraws under circumstances that require or permit the lawyer to take action under these Rules, shall proceed as the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to assure that the organization's highest authority is informed of the lawyer's discharge or withdrawal.
(f) In dealing with an organization’s directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, a lawyer shall explain the identity of the client when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the organization’s interests are adverse to those of the constituents with whom the lawyer is dealing.
(g) A lawyer representing an organization may also represent any of its directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, subject to the provisions of Rule 1.7. If the organization’s consent to the dual representation is required by Rule 1.7, the consent shall be given by an appropriate official of the organization other than the individual who is to be represented, or by the shareholders.
The Entity as the Client
 An organizational client is a legal entity, but it cannot act except through its officers, directors, employees, shareholders and other constituents. Officers, directors, employees and shareholders are the constituents of the corporate organizational client. The duties defined in this Rule apply equally to unincorporated associations. “Other constituents” as used in this Rule means the positions equivalent to officers, directors, employees and shareholders held by persons acting for organizational clients that are not corporations.
 When one of the constituents of an organizational client communicates with the organization’s lawyer in that person’s organizational capacity, the communication is protected by Rule 1.6. Thus, by way of example, if an organizational client requests its lawyer to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, interviews made in the course of that investigation between the lawyer and the client’s employees or other constituents are covered by Rule 1.6. This does not mean, however, that constituents of an organizational client are the clients of the lawyer. The lawyer may not disclose to such constituents information relating to the representation except for disclosures explicitly or impliedly authorized by the organizational client in order to carry out the representation or as otherwise permitted by Rule 1.6.
 When constituents of the organization make decisions for it, the decisions ordinarily must be accepted by the lawyer even if their utility or prudence is doubtful. Decisions concerning policy and operations, including ones entailing serious risk, are not as such in the lawyer’s province. Paragraph (b) makes clear, however, that when the lawyer knows that the organization may be substantially injured by action of an officer or other constituent that violates a legal obligation to the organization or is a violation of the law that might be imputed to the organization, the lawyer must proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. As defined in Rule 1.0(g), knowledge can be inferred from circumstances, and a lawyer cannot ignore the obvious.
 In determining how to proceed under paragraph (b), the lawyer should give due consideration to the seriousness of the violation and its consequences, the responsibility in the organization and the apparent motivation of the person involved, the policies of the organization concerning such matters, and any other relevant considerations. Ordinarily, referral to a higher authority would be necessary. In some circumstances, however, it may be appropriate for the lawyer to ask the constituent to reconsider the matter; for example, if the circumstances involve a constituent's innocent misunderstanding of law and subsequent acceptance of the lawyer's advice, the lawyer may reasonably conclude that the best interest of the organization does not require that the matter be referred to higher authority. If a constituent persists in conduct contrary to the lawyer's advice, it will be necessary for the lawyer to take steps to have the matter reviewed by a higher authority in the organization. If the matter is of sufficient seriousness and importance or urgency to the organization, referral to higher authority in the organization may be necessary even if the lawyer has not communicated with the constituent. Any measures taken should, to the extent practicable, minimize the risk of revealing information relating to the representation to persons outside the organization. Even in circumstances where a lawyer is not obligated by Rule 1.13 to proceed, a lawyer may bring to the attention of an organizational client, including its highest authority, matters that the lawyer reasonably believes to be of sufficient importance to warrant doing so in the best interest of the organization.
 Paragraph (b) also makes clear that when it is reasonably necessary to enable the organization to address the matter in a timely and appropriate manner, the lawyer must refer the matter to higher authority, including, if warranted by the circumstances, the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization under applicable law. The organization's highest authority to whom a matter may be referred ordinarily will be the board of directors or similar governing body. However, applicable law may prescribe that under certain conditions the highest authority reposes elsewhere, for example, in the independent directors of a corporation.
Relation to Other Rules
 The authority and responsibility provided in this Rule are concurrent with the authority and responsibility provided in other Rules. In particular, this Rule does not limit or expand the lawyer's responsibility under Rule 1.6, 1.8, 1.16, 3.3, or 4.1. If the lawyer reasonably believes that disclosure of information protected by Rule 1.6 is necessary to prevent the commission of a crime by an organizational client, for example, disclosure is permitted by Rule 1.6(b)(2). If the lawyer's services are being or have been used by an organizational client to further a crime or fraud by the organization, Rule 1.6(b)(4) permits the lawyer to disclose confidential information to prevent, mitigate, or rectify the consequences of such conduct. In such circumstances, Rule 1.2(d) may be applicable, in which event, withdrawal from the representation under Rule 1.16(a)(1) may be required.
 Paragraph (d) makes clear that the authority of a lawyer to disclose information relating to a representation in circumstances described in paragraph (c) does not apply with respect to information relating to a lawyer's engagement by an organization to investigate an alleged violation of law or to defend the organization or an officer, employee, or other person associated with the organization against a claim arising out of an alleged violation of law. This is necessary in order to enable organizational clients to enjoy the full benefits of legal counsel in conducting an investigation or defending against a claim.
 A lawyer who reasonably believes that he or she has been discharged because of the lawyer's actions taken pursuant to paragraphs (b) and (c), or who withdraws in circumstances that require or permit the lawyer to take action under these Rules, must proceed as the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to assure that the organization's highest authority is informed of the lawyer's discharge or withdrawal.
 The duty defined in this Rule applies to governmental organizations. Defining precisely the identity of the client and prescribing the resulting obligations of such lawyers may be more difficult in the government context and is a matter beyond the scope of these Rules. See Scope . Although in some circumstances the client may be a specific agency, it may also be a branch of government, such as the executive branch, or the government as a whole. For example, if the action or failure to act involves the head of a bureau, either the department of which the bureau is a part or the relevant branch of government may be the client for purposes of this Rule. Moreover, in a matter involving the conduct of government officials, a government lawyer may have authority under applicable law to question such conduct more extensively than that of a lawyer for a private organization in similar circumstances. Thus, when the client is a governmental organization, a different balance may be appropriate between maintaining confidentiality and assuring that the wrongful act is prevented or rectified, for public business is involved. In addition, duties of lawyers employed by the government or lawyers in military service may be defined by statutes and regulation. This Rule does not limit that authority. See Scope.
Clarifying the Lawyer’s Role
 There are times when the organization’s interest may be or become adverse to those of one or more of its constituents. In such circumstances the lawyer should advise any constituent, whose interest the lawyer finds adverse to that of the organization of the conflict or potential conflict of interest, that the lawyer cannot represent such constituent, and that such person may wish to obtain independent representation. Care must be taken to assure that the individual understands that, when there is such adversity of interest, the lawyer for the organization cannot provide legal representation for that constituent individual, and that discussions between the lawyer for the organization and the individual may not be privileged.
 Whether such a warning should be given by the lawyer for the organization to any constituent individual may turn on the facts of each case.
 Paragraph (g) recognizes that a lawyer for an organization may also represent a principal officer or major shareholder, director, employee, member, or other constituent.
 Under generally prevailing law, the shareholders or members of a corporation may bring suit to compel the directors to perform their legal obligations in the supervision of the organization. Members of unincorporated associations have essentially the same right. Such an action may be brought nominally by the organization, but usually is, in fact, a legal controversy over management of the organization.
 The question can arise whether counsel for the organization may defend such an action. The proposition that the organization is the lawyer’s client does not alone resolve the issue. Most derivative actions are a normal incident of an organization’s affairs, to be defended by the organization’s lawyer like any other suit. However, if the claim involves serious charges of wrongdoing by those in control of the organization, a conflict may arise between the lawyer’s duty to the organization and the lawyer’s relationship with the board. In those circumstances, Rule 1.7 governs who should represent the directors and the organization.
History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23
Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997
Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003; March 2, 2006
Ethics Opinion Notes
CPR 154. Because the town attorney owes allegiance to the town and not to particular officials of the town, he must disclose to any inquiring member of the town's board of commissioners the subject of a town business meeting involving town officials and other interested persons despite contrary instructions from the mayor.
CPR 227. The retained attorney for a religious organization cannot represent citizens who want wills leaving property to the organization.
CPR 228. A retained attorney for a religious organization cannot represent employees of the organization in drawing wills.
CPR 235. An attorney may not offer to draw wills free for church members who agree to contribute a certain amount to the church.
CPR 271. An attorney who drafted a partnership agreement cannot later represent some of the partners against the partnership.
RPC 18. Opinion rules that a law firm may not simultaneously represent shareholders in a derivative action and the corporation's landlord on a claim for back rent.
RPC 97. Opinion rules that counsel for a condominium association may represent the association against a unit owner.
97 Formal Ethics Opinion 7. Opinion rules that, after a corporation files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and at the request of the bankruptcy trustee, a lawyer who previously represented the corporation may continue to represent the corporation's bankruptcy estate and the bankruptcy trustee in a civil action provided the lawyer understands that the trustee is responsible for making decisions about the representation and the representation is not adverse to a former client of the lawyer.
2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion rules that a lawyer for a publicly traded company does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the lawyer "reports out" confidential information as permitted by SEC regulations.
2013 Formal Ethics Opinion 9. Opinion provides guidance to lawyers who work for a public interest law organization that provides legal and non-legal services to its clientele and that has an executive director who is not a lawyer.