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  • These principles should govern the interprofessional relations of psychologists and attorneys.


Statement of Principles

Relating to the Responsibilities of Attorneys and Psychologists and
Their Interprofessional Relationships 

These principles should govern the interprofessional relations of psychologists and attorneys.

The welfare of the patient-client is the paramount and joint goal of these principles.

1. Psychologists shall refrain from giving legal advice.
2. Psychologists shall refrain from interfering with established lawyer-client relationships.

1. Attorneys shall refrain from giving psychodiagnostic opinions.
2. Attorneys shall refrain from interfering with established psychologist-patient relationships.

An attorney's responsibility is always first to his client. However, in his relationship with psychologists, an attorney has the following responsibilities:
1. Testimony: An attorney should keep the psychologist informed as to the status of the litigation and in particular inform him sufficiently in advance of:

a) deposition and trial settings;
b) vacated deposition and trial settings; and
c) pre-trial settlements.

2. Fees: The services of a psychologist in a legal matter involve the consumption of the psychologist's time and-the utilization of his facilities and his expertise. As a result, the attorney shall make proper arrangements with all involved psychologists beforehand for payment for the psychologist's services either directly by his client or by the attorney himself through the advancement of costs.
An attorney is not expected to advance costs for psychologist services involving treatment.
An attorney who requests information from a psychologist solely to advance his knowledge of psychology is responsible personally for prompt payment of those services.
3. Background: An attorney should attempt to familiarize himself with the psychological literature in order that he may have some initial understanding of the problem and so that he might be-able to specify the information requested from the psychologist and understand the psychologist's explanation and report.
4. Confidentiality: An attorney must know the applicable law relating to confidentiality in the psychologist-patient relationship, such as the psychotherapist-patient privilege, Rule 504, New Mexico Rules of Evidence and the disclosure of information provision of the New Mexico Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, N.M. Stat.Ann. Section 43-1-19(1978). The attorney shall refrain from asking a psychologist to disclose confidential information other than as provided by law.
5. Client Preparation: An attorney should inform his client as to the nature and purposes of any psychological evaluation and should identify the potential uses of information to be gathered during the evaluation.

A psychologist's primary responsibility is always the well-being of his patient. The psychologist must maintain the confidentiality of patient communications as provided by New Mexico law. The psychologist acting as psychotherapist must claim the psychotherapist-patient privilege on behalf of his patient, recognizing that this privilege may be waived or excepted under New Mexico law. In any event, the psychologist must obtain a valid authorization from his patient or the patient's guardian before confidential information may be disclosed. A psychologist involved in the legal process has the following responsibilities:

1. Records: Given a valid authorization, the psychologist should promptly transfer information from his records to the requesting attorney. Psychologists have no proprietary interest in test or interview responses, whether written, taped, or otherwise recorded.
2. Reports: Given a valid authorization, reports covering a summation of psychological facts and opinions, and their significance shall be furnished upon request by the treating psychologist or the psychologist specifically engaged to do such work. The attorney should specify the items he wishes covered in that report.
3. Psychological Testing Materials: Secured instruments, such as Rorschach or TAT cards, testing manuals, or other copy-righted materials, should be forwarded only to certified psychologists retained by the requesting attorney.
4. Psychological Evaluations: Before evaluating a person, the psychologist must inform the person of the nature and purposes of the psychological evaluation and must identify the potential uses of the information to be gathered during the evaluation.
5. Conferences: Given a valid authorization, attorneys may confer with psychologists either to:

a) gain psychological information on a topic of the attorney's interest, or
b) discuss psychological aspects of the case of a particular client with the treating psychologist or with one engaged to render such opinions. This may include a discussion of testimony that may be elicited at trial.

6. Testimony: Psychologists may be requested to testify either in court or by deposition. Cooperation between both attorneys and psychologists should allow for setting of court or deposition testimony for mutual convenience; while a subpoena may be necessary, it is not a substitute for direct communication between the attorney and psychologist for purpose of setting a time for testimony.
A psychologist should familiarize himself with the basic requirements of court procedure.
A psychologist should limit his testimony to his opinion and its basis. He should leave the representation of his patient and advancement of the patient's interests to the patient's attorney.
7. Fees: Psychologists may use the expenditure of their time, office facilities, and funds as a basis for arriving at a reasonable fee for services rendered pursuant to these principles. If an attorney fails to give timely notification of a change in the scheduled time for the psychologist's services, which makes the psychologist unavailable for other remunerative work, the psychologist may charge for the time set aside. A reasonable fee for the psychologist's time spent in preparation for testimony by deposition or in the courtroom is the same rate charged for usual psychological services. A reasonable fee for deposition or courtroom testimony is no more than double the usual rate for psychological services.

1. Any grievance regarding the Principles set forth above shall be referred to a grievance panel for hearing. The State Bar of New Mexico and the New Mexico Psychological Association will each provide six committee members and one co-chairman to serve on grievance panels which will be composed of two lawyers, two psychologists and one co-chairman. The co-chairman will alternate in chairing grievance panels. The chairman for a grievance panel will choose two panel members from each profession.

Grievance panels are intended to resolve disputes arising out of the Principles set forth above; they are not intended as a substitute for the bodies governing the ethical conduct of the respective professions.

Breaches of the ethical code of either profession or violations of law are to be referred to the appropriate body for consideration.

Effective Date: August 30,1986
Reference: Board of Bar Commissioners Meeting Minute; August 30,1986