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National Legal Ethics: Sources for ABA Rules and Ethics Opinions

This guide provides guidance for locating ABA rules of professional conduct, ABA ethics opinions, and other sources related to legal ethics and legal malpractice.

Useful Links

Sources for ABA Rules

Model rules of professional conduct, including California and New York Rules on professional responsibility (Foundation Press, 2010). Compiled by Thomas D. Morgan and Ronald D. Rotunda.  Contains the ABA Model Rules and Model Code, tables relating Model Rules sections to Model Code sections, Restatement of Laws Governing Lawyers, California Rules of Professional Conduct, California Code of Judicial Ethics, selected federal and California statutes, and many other rules and standards.

Library: KF 305 A29 M64 (Reserve & Reference Room)

ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct.  This six volume (from 1980 to present) loose-leaf manual is more current than other printed sources of ethics material.  Updated monthly, it includes information on a wide range of ethics topics, including state variations on the Model Rules and Model Code, and a topical digest with references to case law, ethics opinions, and secondary material, with bibliographies at the end of each topic. Please note that state and local ethics opinions appear in digested form, and generally, in numerical order.

Separate Current Reports volumes from 1984 to the present (latest 2 years unbound) feature biweekly reports about court decisions and proceedings, ABA, state, and local ethics opinions, disciplinary proceedings, legislative action, bar association actions, and analyses.  Includes annual indexes and tables of rules.

Library: KF 305 A8 A116 (Level M)
LexisNexis: BNA;MPC
Westlaw: ABA-BNA database

ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct — Bibliography. 1984 companion volume to the Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct that serves as a reference for in-depth research.  It lists selected federal and state case law, law review articles, briefs, books, and other materials published between 1979 and 1983, along with a less comprehensive selection of materials from earlier years.  Bibliography subject topics are correlated to specific Model Rule and Model Code provisions.

Library: KF 305 A1 A23 1984 (Level M) 

Annotated Modal Rules of Professional Conduct. American Bar Association.  This work discusses case law and other authorities pertaining to each rule.  Each provision of the Model Rules is compared to the former Model Code, and tables provide cross-references to Rule and Code provisions.  Includes a topical index.

Library: KF 305 A318 A44 2007 (Reserve, Reference & Level M)

The Law of Lawyering: A Handbook on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (3rd ed.), Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr. and W. William Hodes.   Aspen, 2001. This two-volume looseleaf publication, organized by Model Rule number, is a thorough commentary on the Model Rules.  Each rule is accompanied by an overview, comments, discussion of cases, and supplementary authorities.  Kept up to date with regular supplements. 

Library: KF 306 H332 (Level M) 

The Legislative History of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct: Their Development in the ABA House of Delegates.  American Bar Association.  Title on spine: Model Rules Legislative History.  This work contains the recommendations presented to the ABA House of Delegates and transcripts of House of Delegates debates.  Coverage begins with the ABA recommendation of the current format at the 1982 House of Delegates meeting and ends with its adoption at the ABA’s 1983 annual meeting. 

Library: KF 305 A32 A15 1987 (Level M)

A Legislative History: The Development of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, 1982-1998. Second edition.

Library: KF 305 A318 A15 1999 (Level M)

A Legislative History: The Development of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, 1982-2005.

Library: KF 306 .L45 2005 (Level M)

Annotated Code of Professional Responsibility.  American Bar Foundation.  This work provides extensive commentary on the Code provisions, including references to cases and secondary sources, and contains background information about the drafting of the Code.   Bibliographical references and an index are included.

Library: KF 305 A316 1979 (Level M) 

National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility.  A state-by-state compendium of ethics materials, arranged alphabetically by state, from 1982 to present. Amount and type of material varies by state.  Contains the Rules of Professional Conduct for each state and for some states includes the Code of Judicial Conduct and the State Bar formal and informal ethics opinions. The last volume also includes a bibliography of legal articles and an index to ethics opinions.

Library: KF 308 A6 N38 (Level M)
LexisNexis: ETHICS;ETHOP

Digest of Bar Association Ethics Opinions.  Olavi Maru, with the assistance of Roger L. Clough.  This work digests formal and informal ethics opinions from the ABA, all state bar associations, and seven local bar associations, including Los Angeles County.  Original 1970 volume is kept up to date by five-year supplements (until 1980). The volume and supplements contain opinions from the following years:  ABA 1924-1979; CA State Bar 1966-1978; LA County Bar Association 1927-1979; San Diego County Bar Association 1968-1978; Bar Association of San Francisco 1970-1977.  1980 supplement includes cumulative subject index and table of modified and overruled opinions.

Library: KF 305 A53 1970 (Level M) 

Sources for Full-Text Ethics Opinions

  1. Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions [1967-1982]:  Formal Opinions 316-348, Informal Opinions 1285-1495.  Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association. 

    Library: KF 305 A52 1985 (Level M & SRLF)
  2. Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions:  1983-1998.  Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association. 

    Library: KF 305 A52 2000 (Level M)
  3. Recent Ethics Opinions (Formal Opinions*). ABA Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. (1999 - current), contains a citatory and an index.

    Library: KF 305 A512 (Level M) 

    *NOTE: The ABA Ethics committee has not published any informal opinions since 1989). 

  4. LexisNexis: & Westlaw:

    Below is a partial listing of relevant sources on LexisNexis and Westlaw.  Both services frequently add new databases, so consult their current directories (Westlaw Directory and LexisNexis Directory) for the latest information.

    LexisNexis ABA;INFOP or ETHICS;INFOP (for ABA Informal Ethics Opinions);
    ETHICS;FOPIN or ABA;FOPIN (for ABA Formal Ethics Opinions);
    ABA;CODES or ETHICS;CODES (for Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Code of Judicial Conduct);
    ETHICS;ETHICS or ABA;ETHICS (combined database of ABA Codes & ethics opinions)
    Westlaw:  ABA-ETHOP database (ABA ethics formal opinions from 1924-present and informal opinions from July 1961)
    METH-EO database: Multistate Legal Ethics Opinions for various states; or Individual states ethics opinions (e.g. CAETH-EO)
    ABA-CJC database:  Includes the Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the ABA House of Delegates in February, 2007.)
    ABA-CJC-OLD database (1972 version; contains the version of the Code of Judicial Conduct passed by the ABA House of Delegates and the version adopted on August 7, 1990 and amendments adopted through 2000).
    JCR database: Judicial Conduct Reporter (selective coverage begins with vol. 1, no. 1 (Spr. 1979); Articles, summaries, reviews, and indexes published by the American Judicature Society).
    ABA-MRPC databaseModel Rules of Prof. Conduct (current ed.)
    ABA-AMRPC database: Annot. Model Rules of Prof. Conduct (2007 ed.)
  5. State Ethics Opinions:

  6. Internet: Links to state ethics opinions are available at the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility website.
    Westlaw: Database identifiers include state postal abbreviation, plus ETH-EO. For example, for California, the Westlaw database identifier for the advisory opinions released by the California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct is CAETH-EO. For Florida, use FLETH-EO; New York, NYETH-EO, etc.
    LexisNexis: State legal ethics opinions can be located under the Legal Tab by area of law: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > Ethics > Search Legal Ethics Opinions > By State 

Informal Advisory Letters and Memoranda and Formal Opinions of the United States Office of Government Ethics

The OGE issues informal advisory letters and memoranda and formal opinions on how to interpret and comply with conflict of interest, post-employment, standards of conduct, and financial disclosure requirements in the executive branch.

Internet: http://www.usoge.gov/ethics_guidance/opinons/opinions.aspx
Westlaw: FETH-OGE database (coverage starts 1979)
LexisNexis: GENFED;OGE database (coverage from April 18, 1979 through current)