After consulting the Rules of Professional Conduct and the relevant ethics opinions, if you continue to have questions about your professional responsibility, any lawyer may request informal advice from the ethics department of the State Bar by calling (919) 828-4620 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you call the Bar, tell the receptionist that you have an ethics question. Your call will be directed to one of the assistant ethics lawyers. Ethics inquiries will be answered in the order in which they are received.
Information received by an ethics staff lawyer from a lawyer seeking informal ethics advice is confidential information pursuant to Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Such information may only be disclosed by the ethics lawyer as necessary to respond to a false or misleading statement made about the informal ethics advice or as allowed by Rule 1.6(b). If a lawyer’s response to a grievance proceeding relies in whole or in part upon the informal ethics advice the lawyer contends that he or she received from the State Bar ethics department, the ethics staff lawyer who communicated with the respondent lawyer may disclose confidential information received from the lawyer to Bar counsel, the Grievance Committee, or another appropriate disciplinary authority in order that the advice provided to the lawyer will be known. Ethics staff lawyers maintain contemporaneous logs for this purpose.
Informal advice will not be provided to a lawyer if the material facts of the inquiry are in dispute or the inquiry requires an interpretation of law rather than legal ethics. Also, in deference to the concurrent jurisdiction of the courts, an inquiry that is the subject of a motion to disqualify pending before a tribunal will not be answered unless the tribunal requests the opinion of the Bar.
Informal advice will not be given to a lawyer inquiring about another lawyer’s conduct. If you have a question relating to the conduct of another lawyer, you must write to the Ethics Committee (send a letter or email to the Ethics Committee's chief ethics counsel, Brian Oten) for a formal ethics opinion. A copy of the letter must also be sent to the lawyer whose conduct is at issue. This will give the other lawyer an opportunity to comment upon the inquiry.
Inquiries that involve novel or controversial questions of legal ethics will not be answered informally. You will be asked to put the question in a letter to the Ethics Committee (send a letter or email to the Ethics Committee's chief ethics counsel, Brian Oten) for its consideration at its next quarterly meeting. Please note that all proceedings before the Ethics Committee and the records of the Ethics Committee are public. If you submit a letter to the Ethics Committee, you must assume that it will be publically disseminated. Therefore, confidential client information should be obscured.