CHICAGO - Rules are never set in stone and change with the times. This is the case today when the Illinois Supreme Court announced it is adapting several changes in the rules regarding technology and developments in global practices along with revising the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The rule changes, which will take effect Jan.1, 2016, came after the Court extensively reviewed proposals and held a public hearing on July 22 in Chicago.
Eventually the court, in its September term, approved amendments to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and Supreme Court Rules 705 and 716.
These changes brings the Illinois Rules of Conduct “online” so to speak, making it more accommodating to the ever expanding usage of technology in today’s court.
"The amendments to the Rules reflect the Supreme Court’s strong interest in utilizing technology to make the judicial process more efficient and its recognition of the increasing use of technology in today’s legal practice," Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. "These rule amendments also recognize how changes in legal practice have brought lawyers from other jurisdictions to Illinois to provide needed legal services as well as the Court's commitment to ensuring that lawyers who practice in Illinois meet the highest of professional and ethical standards."
The rules now allow for references to electronic forms of communication and information, such as emails and instant messages; acknowledge attorneys' need to stay current with technology changes; proclaim the explicit duty to safeguard confidential client information with regards to the electronic age; and detail duties dealing with Internet advertising and solicitation.
In addition to the changes which acknowledge the importance of technology, the Supreme Court approved changes to how prosecutors handle evidence which may exonerate a convicted defendant. Prosecutors now have an obligation to disclose any evidence that may cast reasonable doubt on a convicted defendant. If there is a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit the offense, prosecutors would have to disclose that evidence and then seek to remedy the conviction.
Another amendment to the Rules provides lawyers with guidance on how to counsel clients with respect to the conflict between federal law and the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which permits the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.
In addition to the changes made to the Rules of Conduct, the Supreme Court also permitted changes to Rules 705 and 716. These amendments make it easier for attorneys authorized to practice in other jurisdictions to be admitted to the Illinois bar and to provide legal services as in-house counsel here. However, attorneys in other jurisdictions will still have to be fully qualified and be familiar with Illinois's ethics rules.
All the changes to the Illinois Rules of Conduct are a reflection of the changes made to the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, upon which Illinois’ Rules are based. But they are changes to make the courts more efficient, address client concerns about technology, and meet the needs of an ever borderless world.
The language of the amended rules can be found on the Supreme Court website at