Ethics Opinions

Los Angeles County Bar Association Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee

Please note:   We are in the process of compiling additional archived Ethics Opinions and will be including them on our website.   In the meantime, if you're looking for an opinion that is not posted below, please contact our Member Services Department at (213) 896-6560 or MSD@lacba.org.

The Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee will consider requests from LACBA members for formal opinions on ethics matters of general interest to the bar. The committee does not opine on matters of law or offer opinions for the benefit of particular clients or in response to matters presently in dispute. The committee may respond to written questions about ethical matters of general interest through a private informal letter or a published formal opinion. If you have an ethical question that you would like the committee to consider, mail your written inquiry to: Los Angeles County Bar Association, Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee, P.O. Box 55020, Los Angeles, CA 90055-2020 or email your inquiry marked “Confidential” to msd@lacba.org.


On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court approved new California Rules of Professional Conduct, which became effective on November 1, 2018. Unlike the former California Rules (effective May 27, 1989, and subsequently amended), the new California Rules follow the format, style and organizational structure of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Any LACBA ethics opinion issued before November 1, 2018, will refer to the former Rule numbers.

Conversion tables comparing the current and new rule numbers are provided here. It is important to note, however, that the new California Rules are not necessarily identical to or substantially the same as the ABA Model Rules. The new California Rules in some instances differ markedly from the Model Rules, having carried forward the substance of the former Rules. Moreover, in some instances the new Rules depart significantly from the former California Rules. Consequently, the applicable rules and conclusions in the pre-November 1, 2018 opinions may no longer be accurate. Special care in using and relying on those opinions is advised. 

Important Links:

The State Bar home page on the New California Rules of Professional Conduct (effective November 1, 2018), including links to: 
(1) the Supreme Court order approving the New Rules,
(2) a PDF version of the complete New Rules,
(3) cross-reference tables comparing the new rule numbers to the former California rule numbers and the ABA Model Rule numbers;
(4) PDFs of individual new rules that include the rule, the State Bar Rules Revision Executive Summary, and a redline comparing the new rule to either the former California rule or the ABA Model Rule counterpart:


1.    Direct link to Supreme Court order approving the new rule (PDF):


2.    Direct link to complete New California Rules of Professional Conduct (PDF):


3.    Direct link to Cross-reference Tables:


4Direct Link to PDFs of individual rules, executive summaries, and redline versions:


May a Lawyer Continue to Jointly Represent Multiple Clients When Their Interests Potentially or Actually Conflict so Long as the Lawyer has Obtained the Informed Written Consent of Each Client?


Lawyer Agreeing to Indemnify Opposing Party as a Condition of Settlement


In Litigation, What Are A Lawyer’s Ethical Obligations When Offered Evidence Retained By A Former Employee Of The Opposing Party Who Reveals That Relevant Documents Have Been Concealed From Production?


It is not misleading to the public, and therefore is not a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1-400, for a law corporation or limited liability partnership to use a firm name that includes the name of a lawyer who is no longer a shareholder or partner, but who remains employed at the firm.

Every lawyer must act competently to protect confidential client information against inadvertent or other unauthorized disclosure. While lawyers always should be cautious about disclosing any information related to a client, on-line communications present particular risks. One example of such a risk arises when someone attempts to elicit information from a lawyer via social media pretexting. A lawyer’s unguarded disclosure of client information might result in violations of the duties of competence and confidentiality and might cause the loss of the lawyer-client privilege and work product protection. August 2017

When an attorney engaged by an insurance carrier to defend the interests of an insured obtains information that could provide a basis for the insurance carrier to deny coverage, the attorney is ethically prohibited from disclosing that information to the insurance carrier. In such a situation, the attorney must withdraw from the representation.
April 2017

Legal Advice and Assistance to Clients Who Propose to Engage or Are Engaged in the Cultivation, Distribution or Consumption of Marijuana
August 2015

Contingency Lawyer's Right to Negotiate a Fee Agreement that Gives First Proceeds to the Lawyer and Shifts to the Client the Risk of Nonpayment
February 2015

Ethical Duties of Lawyers in Connection with Adverse Comments Published by a Former Client December 2012

What are the Ethical Responsibilities of an Attorney With Regard to the Hiring of Nonlawyer Employees Who May Be in Possession of Confidential Information?
May 2011

Can a Lawyer Ethically Agree with a Client to a Contingency Fee Which is Based on a Percentage of the Combined Amount of Damages and Any Statutory Fees Awarded?
June 2009

Whether a Lawyer for Corporate Entity Engaged in Debt Collection Aids and Abets the Unauthorized Practice of Law or Violates the Rules of Professional Conduct for Failure to Supervise Employees, and Seeking Attorneys' Fee Awards Based upon the Legal Work of the Entity's Unlicensed Employees
June 2009

Does a Lawyer or Law Firm Have an Ethical Conflict of Interest When a Fee Dispute Arises with a Client During the Representation?
May 2007

Duty to Inform Adverse Party Regarding Erroneous Settlement Payment
June 2007

Whether There Is a Self-Defense Exception to an Attorney's Duty to Protect and Preserve Confidential Client Information in order to Permit the Attorney to Defend against Third Party Claims
February 2007

Ethical Considerations in Outsourcing of Legal Services
June 2006


Indemnification of Client's Litigation Costs
April 2006

Ethical Considerations Relating to an Attorney Who Concurrently Serves in an Of Counsel Relationship with a Law Firm and Maintains a Separate Solo Practice
Revised July 21, 2014

Ethical Issues Arising from Agreements between Attorney and Client to Split an Award of Statutory Attorney's Fees
August 2005

Ethical Issues Involving Lawyer and Judicial Participation in Listserve Communications
August 2005

Cross-Examination of Former Client as Expert Witness
July 2005

Confidentiality of Fact and Amount of Settlement in Settlement Agreement
February 2004

Sharing in Fees as Partner or Employee of Two Law Firms
December 2003

Fee Sharing Between Financial Planning Company and Lawyer Employee Rendering Legal Services to Customers
December 2003

Attorney Office Files - Release of Client Psychiatric Records to Former Client
June 17, 2002

Insurance Coverage — Contacting a Defendant's Insurer
February 25, 2002

Accepting Percentage of Prospective Profits as Attorney Fees for Preparing and Prosecuting Patent Application
October 15, 2001

Initial Client Interview - Duty of Confidentiality
January 2, 2001

Engagement Agreement Restrictions on Client Settlement Authority
August 15, 2000

An Attorney's Duty to Follow a Client's Explicit Instruction Not to Disclose Confidential Information in the Context of a Minor Client's Disclosure of On-Going Sexual Abuse in Dependency Proceedings
May 15, 2000

Prepaying Referral Fees on Workers' Compensation Cases
January 24, 2000

Lawyers' Duties When Preparing Pleadings or Negotiating Settlement for In Pro Per Litigant
November 4, 1999

Conflicts of Interest - Changing Law Firms - Conflicts That Follow a Lawyer from One Firm to Another - Circumstances under which Conflicts May Be Imputed to Others at a New Law Firm.
May 17, 1999

Financing Legal Expenses of Another's Lawsuit
May 10, 1999

Charging Interest on Costs Advanced on Behalf of a Client
March 9, 1999

Disclosure of Client Misrepresentation in a Fee Dispute
March 8, 1999

Consulting with a Client During a Deposition
March 8, 1999

Liens on Recovery in Unrelated Case
November 16, 1998

Attorney Payment of Reasonably Incurred Litigation Expenses for which Client Refuses to Pay November 16, 1998

Communications and Solicitations: Cold Calling for Legal Seminar and Mailing of Newsletter
October 1998

Disputes Between Former Clients Over Transfer of Original Client Files
September 14, 1998

Attorneys must comply with Rule 3-300 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct when accepting a security interest in real property to ensure payment of fees by a client whenever the attorney knows the client has any interest in the property.
January 26, 1998

Attorney Office Files-Destruction When Client Deceased.
October 20, 1997

Ex Parte Communications To Party Directed In Care Of Attorney; Ex Parte Communication With Adverse Witnesses
May 1, 1997

A lawyer may not include in a retainer agreement language which limits a client's right to recover punitive or non economic damages in a malpractice action against the lawyer. A lawyer may not require the client to retain the lawyer in a Third Party action as a condition to recovering damages against the lawyer arising out of the Third Party claim.
April 28, 1997

Use of Law Office Management Services
June 1996

Ex Parte Contact with Represented Individual
February 1996

Referral Fees
November 1995

Client Trust Accounts
October 1995

Commingling of Client Trust Account Funds
October 1995

Limited Representation of In Pro Per Litigants
March 1995

Representations Made to Opposing Counsel and the Court-Expert Witness
March 1995

Ethical Duties to Opt-Out Members of a Class
March 1995

Restriction on Lawyer Competition
March 1995

Duty to Inform Client of Fees
Revised November 21, 1994

Medical Liens - Disbursement of Client Funds
July 18, 1994

Conflicts of Interest - Dual Profession
June 1994

Attorney/Client Scope of Representation - Conflicts of Interest Where Fee Dispute Has Arisen
April 1994

Client Papers - Duty to Retain or Return
January 1994

Unethical Use of Private Investigator to Solicit Clients
September 1993

Attorney and Client - Representation of Client by Additional Attorneys - Division of Fees
January 1993

Contact with Represented Persons (Business Organization Principals
January 1993

Conflicts of Interest - Informed Consent
December 1992

Payment of Year-End Bonus To an "Of Counsel" Attorney
November 1992

Advocacy and Representation - Threatening Criminal, Administrative or Disciplinary Charges
June 1992

Restrictions on Practice of Law - Conflicts of Interest (Settlement Agreement Conditions Regarding Attorney Representation or Attorney Conflict of Interest Claim)
March 1992

Client Consent to Referral Fee
February 1992

Attorney and Client - Disclosure of Evidence of Crime Received from Client
November 1991

#465 Attorney and Client - Representation of Conflicting Interests - Confidential Communications - Informed Consent (Need Mutual Consent of Alien and Employer to Represent Employee in Permanent Resident Visa Application)
April 1991

Conflicts of Interest - Insurer and Insured - Cumis Counsel - Ethical Duty of Lawyer to Follow Insured's Instructions in Conduct of Litigation
February 1991

Adverse and Conflicting Interests - Confidential Information (Former Client's Consent to Disclose Material Information to Current Client with Whom She is Entering into a Financial Arrangement) December 1990

Preparation of a Will in Which the Attorney Acquires an Interest
November 1990

Division of Fees with a Non-Lawyer - Representing Clients with Conflicting Interests (Property Management Firm and Its Clients)
September 1990

Restrictive Retirement Payments
August 1990

Adverse and Conflicting Interests (Juvenile Dependency Proceeding)
May 1990

Contingency Fee Contract - Client's Knowledgeable Consent - Insurance Recovery
January 1990

Compensation of Non-Attorney Staff Based on Work Quality
November 1989

Confidential Communications (Information in Lawyer's Bills)
August 1989

Purchase of Property at a Foreclosure/Judicial Sale
August 1989

Ethical Responsibilities to Third Parties in Handling Trust Accounts
January 1988

Representation of Criminal Defendant by Member of Firm Acting as City Prosecutor
January 1989

Confidential Information - Disclosure in Bankruptcy Process by Former Counsel of Debtor Who is Trying to Collect Fee
November 1988

Publication of Legal Article by Lawyer Related to a Client's Case

Action Against Present or Former Client. It is improper for an attorney to bring an action for appointment of conservator for a present or former client, within the scope of the representation of the client, even where the attorney believes that a conservatorship is in the client's best interest. May 16, 1988

Attorney's Fees: Settlements Restricting Fees in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Cases
September 1987

Duty of Loyalty - Conflict of Interest - Insured and Insurance Company
January 1984

Confidential Communication - Client Receipt of Funds to Which It May Not be Entitled
June 1983

Attorney and Client - Disclosure of Client Perjury
November 1980

Disclosure of Financial Information Regarding Client Eligibility by Legal Aid Attorney to Board of Directors
July 21, 1976

Confidential Communications (Illegal Issuance of Securities)
February 12, 1976

Adverse and Conflicting Interests
February 21, 1963

Contingent Fees
January 31, 1963

Confidential Communications - Files
October 25, 1962

February 16, 1960

Confidential Communications
January 26, 1960

Confidential Communications (preventing a crime)(
July 30, 1959


Guidelines for Forgoing Life-Sustaining Treatment for Adult Patients
Addendum: Guidelines for Minor Patients
Guidelines for the Community Physician