Hon. Ariel E. Belen (Ret.)
14 Vesey Street
New York, New York 10007
October 21, 2014
Proposed Amendment to 22 NYCRR Part 1215 Regarding ADR Language in Attorney Engagement Letters
The ADR Committee reviewed the Office of Court Administration proposal recommended by the New York City Bar Association’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, which would require written letters of engagement to advise clients about information on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options and available programs.
After consultation, the members of the ADR Committee support the proposed amendment to 22 NYCRR Part 1215, which governs attorney engagement letters, to add a new subclause (3) to section 1215.1(b) concerning ADR.
The amendment would require that in any written letter of engagement, when the representation involves an actual or potential litigation matter, the attorney shall provide a citation or other reference to the ADR options described on the website of the Unified Court System. Over the last two decades, ADR procedures have been increasingly recognized as providing a valuable tool for resolving disputes, both before and after litigation has been commenced.
Acknowledging that earlier resolution benefits litigants and helps courts manage their ever more crowded dockets, in recent years almost every court in the New York City metropolitan area, state as well as federal, has adopted some form of court-annexed ADR program. In some courts, participation in ADR programs is mandatory. Therefore, it has become essential for both lawyers and clients to be familiar with the various ADR options that will likely be encountered in any litigated dispute in New York City.
The Unified Court System website provides a valuable resource in familiarizing attorneys and their clients with the ADR options available in the New York courts. The website provides an overview of the programs and explains the procedures in clear and easily understood language. The ADR Committee endorses the proposed amendment because the Committee believes that including in engagement letters a reference to the ADR material on the Unified Court System website is a simple, non-prescriptive way to acquaint clients with the availability of ADR options. The proposed amendment neither mandates the use of any particular language in the letter nor directs lawyers to take any position with respect to the utility of ADR options in any particular case. As such, the proposed amendment does not intrude on the lawyer-client relationship while advancing the worthwhile goal of heightening client awareness of ADR.