Ethical Risks in Class Litigation: Locating and Communicating With Class Members, Settlements, and More

Strategies for Plaintiff and Defense Counsel to Avoid Ethics Violations and Malpractice Liability

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Course Materials

This CLE course will discuss strategies for plaintiff and defense counsel to navigate the unique ethical challenges that arise in class litigation, including the risks involved with locating and communicating with class members and engaging in class settlement negotiations.


Class litigation presents unique ethical challenges and malpractice vulnerabilities due to an increased potential for conflicts of interest, strict no contact and no solicitation rules, and increased court scrutiny of settlements and attorneys’ fees.

Counsel must be mindful of potential ethical missteps throughout the course of class litigation, from finding suitable class representatives, to communicating with absent class members, to seeking court approval of settlements and attorneys’ fees. Even unintentional ethical lapses can have grave consequences.

Courts generally adapt the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to fit ethical concerns in class lawsuits. But, there are unsettled and divergent viewpoints among plaintiff and defense counsel that make applying the Model Rules complicated and has yielded incomplete guidance for counsel navigating this complex terrain.

Listen as our authoritative panel of class litigators examines the ethical risks confronting counsel pursuing and defending class litigation and best practices for minimizing ethical violations and malpractice lawsuits.



  1. Conflicts of interest within the class
    1. Differences among class members
    2. Model Rules
    3. Model Code
  2. Communication with class members
    1. Solicitation
    2. Ex parte communications
  3. Ethical issues in settlements
    1. Negotiating attorneys’ fees
    2. Non-monetary class benefits—how to place a value on these benefits?
    3. When a named plaintiff settles pre-certification


The panel will address these and other key issues:

  • What unique ethical challenges do class counsel face when representing plaintiffs or defendants in class litigation?
  • What guidance do the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 23 and case law provide in resolving the ethical issues inherent in class litigation?
  • At what point can plaintiff and defense attorneys make contact with potential class members?
  • When and how does settlement by a named plaintiff create a conflict of interest as it relates to other potential class members?
  • What issues exist with cy pres awards, and what guidelines exist for counsel and the court in determining the propriety of cy press awards and the recipients of those awards?


Thomas L. Allen
Thomas L. Allen

Reed Smith

Mr. Allen has more than 25 years' experience representing business clients in complex litigation, including...  |  Read More

Nicholas R. Diamand
Nicholas R. Diamand

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein

Mr. Diamand’s practice is focused on securities and consumer fraud cases. He represents funds in securities fraud...  |  Read More

Deborah H. Renner
Deborah H. Renner

Baker & Hostetler

Ms. Renner's practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, including the defense of consumer fraud and...  |  Read More

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Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

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