Search Ethics Opinions
Search below by keyword, phrase or year for Formal Ethics Opinions issued from 1985 to the present. Most opinions older than 1995 are available as Adobe Acrobat .pdf Files. Reading these files requires the Adobe Reader. Refer to Adobe PDF file viewing help for more information.
Counsel are reminded that the Ethical Rules may have changed since an opinion was issued.
Using this form, it is also possible to construct sophisticated queries using the wildcard (*) and other search operators. Refer to the list of search tips for more information.
Summaries of Recent Opinions
15-02: Client Files; Safekeeping of Property; Maintaining Client Files; Termination of Representation Lawyers are ethically obligated, upon a client’s request at the conclusion of representation, to provide the client with the client’s documents and all documents reflecting work performed for the client. This obligation does not require the lawyer to retain paper or electronic documents generated or received in the course of the representation, that are duplicative of other documents generated or received in the course of the representation, incidental to the representation, or not typically maintained by a working lawyer, unless the lawyer has reason to believe that, in all the circumstances, the client’s interests require that these documents be preserved for eventual turning over to the client at the conclusion of the representation. Understanding the lawyer’s duty to preserve client documents in this manner advances client interests. It enables a lawyer to restrict “the file” to documents that actually assist the lawyer in competently and diligently representing the client, in the context of the particular client matter and the lawyer’s practice, as well as effectively communicating with the client and exercising professional judgment on the client’s behalf, rather than preserving anything and everything ever generated or received during the course of the representation. To the extent prior opinions of this Committee may be construed as asserting otherwise, they are withdrawn.
15-01: Plea Agreements; Waiver; Ineffective Assistance; Conflict of Interest; Criminal Representation The conflict-of-interest rules prohibit a defense attorney from advising a criminal defendant to waive the defendant’s right to raise that attorney’s ineffective assistance of counsel. The ethical rules also prohibit a prosecutor from insisting that a defendant waive the right to raise ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct claims. Opinion 95-08 is accordingly withdrawn.
13-02: Client Files; Withholding Documents In the extreme circumstances in which a lawyer is reasonably concerned that by providing a tangible copy of certain documents to an incarcerated client, the safety of the client or a third person may be jeopardized, the lawyer may ethically retain the documents and refuse to allow the incarcerated client to possess the documents during the representation. The lawyer must still fully inform the client as to the contents of the documents, discuss information contained in the documents with the client, and explain the lawyer’s rationale for wanting to retain possession of the documents. If the client cannot be persuaded to allow the lawyer to retain physical possession of the documents, the lawyer may ethically retain possession of the documents to protect the client’s safety or the safety of a third person, over the client’s objection.