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Ethics Question Of The Week

Q. If I run for judicial office, as a lawyer (and not a sitting judge) do I have to comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct?

A. RPC 8.2(b) provides that a lawyer who is a candidate for judicial office shall comply with the applicable provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. In addition, Rule 67 of the Code of Judicial Conduct makes it applicable to candidates as well as sitting judges.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

Q.  I was appointed as the receiver of a recently deceased lawyer’s files. What are my duties?

A.  IRPC 1.3, Comment [5] suggests that lawyers prepare a plan that designates another competent lawyer to review their files in case of death or disability. If no other lawyer is appointed, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 775 allows the presiding judge in the judicial circuit to appoint a receiver. The duties of the receiver include taking custody and making an inventory of files; contacting clients; take steps to sequester funds; and take whatever action necessary to protect the interests of the attorney, his clients, and other parties.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

Q. I serve as in-house counsel for an organization and its President wants me to represent him in a small personal matter. Can I?

Q. What ethical obligations should I be aware of if I wish to employ a nonlawyer assistant?

A.  IRPC 5.3 requires that nonlawyer assistants be adequately supervised.  It states: “With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:…a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.” 

For more information, consult ISBA Advisory Opinion 13-08.

Q. What is my responsibility to respond to an ARDC request for information?

A. RPC 8.1 provides that a lawyer shall not knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from the ARDC. Comment [2], however, makes it clear that this responsibility is subject to 5th Amendment protections. In addition, ARDC Rule 53 provides that it is the duty of a lawyer to respond to ARDC information requests.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[Disclaimer. These questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline. The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed. The information provided isn’t legal advice. Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Q.  Can I contact former clients with whom I had an attorney-client relationship and tell them I left my firm?

A. Comment 4 to IRPC 7.3 does not prohibit an attorney from directly contacting former clients to inform them of the attorney’s departure or to solicit their employment.

Any individual planning to leave a firm should review the case of Dowd & Dowd, LTD. V. Gleason, 352 Ill. App. 3d 365 (1st Dist. 2004) which covers many aspects such as contacting prospective clients before one has actually left their firm and other fiduciary duties  For more information, see ISBA Advisory Opinion 12-14. 

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[DisclaimerThese questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline.  The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed.  The information provided isn’t legal advice.  Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Q. Do I violate Rule 4.2 if I give another lawyer’s client a “second opinion” on a pending legal matter in which I am not involved?

A. Rule 4.2 provides that “[I]n representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter” without that lawyer’s consent.

However, Comment [4] to the Rule makes it clear that it does not “preclude communication with a represented person who is seeking advice from a lawyer who is not otherwise representing a client in the matter.”

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[DisclaimerThese questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline.  The information provided is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed.  The information provided isn’t legal advice.  Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Q.  Can I refer clients to another lawyer or nonlawyer in exchange for referrals from them?

A.  IRPC 7.2(b)(4) states that a “lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may (4) refer clients to another lawyer or nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer if (i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and (ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.”  Comment 8 to this rule goes on to state that such an arrangement must not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment.  For further discussion, see ISBA Advisory Opinion 12-03 as well as the full text to rule 7.2 

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[Disclaimer. These questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline. The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed. The information provided isn’t legal advice. Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Q. Can I compensate a fact witness for testifying in a civil trial?

A. Under Rule 3.4(b) a lawyer cannot “offer an inducement to a witness that is prohibited by law.” However, Comment [3] to that Rule makes it clear that it is not improper to pay a witness the reasonable expenses incurred in providing evidence, including reimbursement for the reasonable charges for travel, hotels, meals, child care, or the reasonable value of time spent attending a deposition or hearing or consulting with the lawyer.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[DisclaimerThese questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline.  The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed.  The information provided isn’t legal advice.  Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Q.  Am I allowed to advertise that I am “specialized” in a certain area of law?

A.  Rule 7.4 allows lawyers to advertise that they do or do not practice in a particular field of law. However, the rule also states that the Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law. IRPC 7.4(c). For a full explanation, see Rule 7.4.

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[Disclaimer. These questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline. The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed. The information provided isn’t legal advice.  Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]