St. Mary's Law Journal
The fiduciary duty owed to clients by attorneys is defined by the reasonable-care standard of negligence as opposed to the all-encompassing “absolute and perfect candor” rhetoric frequently used to describe the duty owed. Words have meanings and, though the use of “absolute and perfect candor” serves a beneficial purpose, reminding attorneys of the special duty owed to their clients, the fiduciary duty owed to clients is not so all encompassing and impractical.
Modern case law fails to establish that a broadly applicable duty of “absolute and perfect” candor applies to the attorney-client relationship, except in a limited number of situations. The disclosure obligations of attorneys are limited by a variety of considerations including: scope of representation, materiality, client knowledge, competing obligations to others, client agreement, and threatened harm to the client or others, justifying the nondisclosure of information and reflecting the lack of a generally applicable duty of “absolute and perfect candor.” The fiduciary duty owed to clients by attorneys is not one requiring “absolute and perfect candor,” except for in situations wherein the interests of the attorney and client are adverse and a few delineated exceptions, but one requiring the attorney to act reasonably in providing information to a client.
Vincent R. Johnson, “Absolute and Perfect Candor” to Clients, 34 St. Mary’s L.J. 737 (2003).