Legal Ethics Research Guide
When researching issues of legal ethics, you will need to consult sources beyond the familiar cases and statutes, such as codes of professional ethics and ethics opinions issued by state and national bar associations. To assist you with your research, there are numerous secondary sources that focus specifically on issues in legal ethics. These secondary sources, including books and journal articles, are designed to help you understand the issues and locate primary materials.
This guide will give you an overview of the materials available, both print and online, that you will need to conduct your research in legal ethics. Locations of materials in the library are given.
Codes of Ethics
A. Model Rules of Professional Conduct
This is the current ethical code of the American Bar Association. It was promulgated in 1983 and has been adopted in some form by many states and the District of Columbia. Copies of the Model Rules are available in the sources listed below.
- Print, KF305 .A2 A56 2007
- Lexis, Limit to Secondary Sources and Legal Ethics
- WestlawNext > Secondary Sources > Texts and Treatises > Ethics and Professional Responsibility Texts & Treatises > ABA Ethics Material
This annotated version contains the full text of the rules and provides extensive citations to cases, articles, and books discussing the issues arising under each rule.
ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct
- Print, KF305.A8 A116
- BNA Database
- WestlawNext > Secondary Sources > Texts and Treatises > Ethics and Professional Responsibility Texts and Treatises > ABA Ethics Material > Model Rules of Professional Conduct
- Lexis Limit to Secondary Sources and Legal Ethics
Regularly updated. Includes (i) an unannotated copy of the Model Rules, (ii) a list of the states that have adopted all or part of the Model Rules, and (iii) a discussion of state variations in the Model Rules.
American Bar Association, Legislative History of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct: Their Development in the ABA House of Delegates (1987), KF305.A32 A16 1987.
This "legislative history" of the Model Rules was published by the ABA. It traces the language of and debate about the Model Rules as they proceeded through the House of Delegates in 1982 and 1983. The information is arranged by rule number.
B. Model Code of Professional Responsibility
American Bar Foundation, Annotated Code of Professional Responsibility (1979), KF306 .A764 1979.
This code was promulgated by the ABA in 1969 and adopted by courts in almost all states in the following years. Many states still have ethical codes based on the Model Code. This annotated code contains citations to ABA ethics opinions, judicial decisions and secondary sources for each provision of the Model Code.
C. ABA Canons of Professional Ethics
American Bar Association, Opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics, with the Canons of Professional Ethics, Annotated, and the Canons of Judicial Ethics, Annotated, KF305 .A2 1967
Contains an annotated text of the 1908 ABA Canons of Professional Ethics, as amended, which was the first code of ethics adopted by the American Bar Association. Widespread dissatisfaction with the Code of Professional Ethics led the ABA to adopt the Model Code in 1969.
D. Compilations of Model Codes, ABA Standards & Other Ethics Codes
Thomas D. Morgan & Ronald D. Rotunda, Model Code of Professional Responsibility, Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Other Selected Standards Including California and New York Rules on Professional Responsibility (annual), KF305 .A195
Includes tables cross-referencing (i) the Canons of Professional Ethics and the Model Code of Professional Responsibility and (ii) the Model Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
Regulation of Lawyers, Statutes and Standards (annual), KF306 .A4 G553
Contains ABA Model Codes, ABA Standards Relating to the Administration of Criminal Justice, Model Code of Judicial Conduct and Selected Federal Statutes. Also includes tables cross-referencing (i) the Canons of Professional Ethics and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and (ii) the Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
American Bar Association, ABA Compendium of Professional Responsibility Rules and Standards (2010 ed.), KF305 .A2 2009
Contains ABA Model Codes, ABA Standards Relating to the Administration of Criminal Justice, Model Code of Judicial Conduct and selected federal statutes.
The Model Code and Model Rules are found by searching Secondary Sources limited to Legal Ethics.
- Secondary Sources > Texts and Treatises > Ethics and Professional Responsibility Texts and Treatises > ABA Ethics Material
- State Bar Web Sites, http://www.abanet.org/cpr/links.html. Alphabetical listing of all states, with bar associations and rules of professional conduct. These sites are very good for tracking changes to state codes.
- Westlaw has databases for each state that include the state code of professional responsibility. Limit search to Administrative Decisions and Guidance, then by Type to Ethics & Disciplinary Opinions.
- Lexis. Area of Law - By Topic > Ethics > Find Statutes & Rules.
Contains the full text of the state code from all 50 states - not just the code of professional responsibility.
- National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility (Roy M. Mersky & Norman Quist eds., 1983- ). Print KF308.A6 N37,
Contains a copy of the ethics code for each state. New volumes are published each year.
- State Codes, Williams 3rd Floor (State Section)
The state codes of professional ethics are usually published in a volume with the state's court rules. To locate the court rules for a particular state, use the subject index to the state code.
State Guides. The library has published a research guide for each state. Visit our Research Guides list to find the relevant state guide.
Shepard's Professional and Judicial Conduct Citations (1991- ), KF308 .A535 S465 1991
This is the Shepard's citator for the Model Rules, Model Code and ABA formal opinions. Citations include cases, ethics opinions, and law review articles. The electronic version of Shepard's and KeyCite do not cover the model rules.
The ABA and the bar associations of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia publish ethics opinions in response to requests for advice from lawyers. The ethics opinions are advisory and not enforceable as law, but can be cited to show how a bar association has interpreted a specific provision of the Model Rules or Model Code.
A. American Bar Association
The ABA's Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issues formal and informal ethics opinions. Formal opinions are issued on matters that are deemed of general interest to the bar; informal opinions are issued for specific inquiries relating to a particular set of facts. The library has all formal opinions and all available informal opinions. The sources for both are listed below in reverse chronological order. Within each of these volumes, opinions are published in numerical order with a subject index at the end.
A complete set of formal opinions beginning with No. 1 from 1924 is available on both Lexis (Area of Law - By Topic> Ethics> Search Legal Ethics Opinions> ABA Formal Ethics Opinions) and Westlaw (ABA-ETHOP database).
Informal opinions are also on Lexis in a separate file (Area of Law - By Topic> Ethics> Search Legal Ethics Opinions> ABA Informal Ethics Opinions) and on Westlaw in the ABA-ETHOP database. For informal opinions, coverage on Lexis begins with 1960 through Informal Opinion No. 1530 (1989), and coverage on Westlaw begins July 24, 1961.
- American Bar Association, Recent Ethics Opinions (1969-2009).
KF305 .A2 1969c
- American Bar Association, Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions, 1983-1988.
KF305 .A2 2000
- American Bar Association, Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions.
KF305 .A2 1985
This volume contains the full text of (i) ABA formal opinions from 1967 through 1982 (Nos. 316-348) and (ii) ABA informal opinions from 1974 through 1982 (Nos. 1285-1495).
- American Bar Association, Opinions of the Committee on Professional Ethics (1967).
KF305 .A2 1967
This volume contains the full text of ABA formal opinions from 1924 through 1966 (Nos. 1-315).
- American Bar Association, Informal Ethics Opinions (1975).
KF305 .A2 1975
This two-volume set contains the full text of all available ABA informal opinions through 1973 (Nos. 230-1284). There are some gaps where the opinions were not available to the publisher.
- WestlawNext. Secondary Sources > Texts and Treatises > Ethics and Professional Responsibility Texts and Treatises > ABA Ethics Materials > ABA Ethics Opinions
Formal and informal opinions.
- Lexis. Area of Law - By Topic> Ethics> Search Legal Ethics Opinions.
Formal and informal opinions.
B. State Bar Associations
The full text of ethics opinions from state and local bar associations are not collected in any one place. The sources described below will assist you in locating state bar ethics opinions on a particular topic. The best place to start your search for state ethics opinions is at the Reference Desk where you can ask for the library's State Ethics Opinions guide where we have compiled sources of full text opinions for all 50 states. Most state bar associations publish opinions in the state bar journal or newsletters, but some do not publish their ethics opinions at all. Some state bar associations publish a looseleaf reporter with their ethics opinions or make their opinions available through Lexis, Westlaw, or the World Wide Web. Ask for the State Ethics Opinions guide at the Reference Desk for information regarding a particular state.
- WestlawNext. Limit Search to Administrative Opinions & Guidance, then limit to Ethics & Disciplinary Opinions.
- Lexis. Area of Law - By Topic > Ethics > Search Legal Ethics Opinions > By State. Includes CA, IL, KY, MS, MT, NY, OH, VA & WA, as well as New York City. Retrospective coverage varies by state.
- ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct
BNA Database. Also available in Westlaw (ABA-BNA database), Lexis (Area of Law > Ethics > Search Analysis, Law Reviews & Journal > ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct) and in print, KF305.A8 A116. Regularly updated.
Since 1980, the Lawyers' Manual has published summaries of ethics opinions from all state and local bar associations. The Lawyers' Manual has an extensive subject index to assist you in locating ethics opinions on a particular topic. Older ethics opinions are in bound volumes covering 1980-1985, 1986-1990 and 1991-1995. Current ethics opinions are organized by state at tab 1101 of the Lawyers' Manual.
- National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility (Roy M. Mersky & Norman Quist eds., 1983- ). Available in print, KF308.A6 N37, and on Lexis (Area of Law - By Topic> Ethics> Search Legal Ethics Opinions > National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility).
Full text of selected state ethics opinions.
- Olavi Maru, Digest of Bar Association Ethics Opinions (1970).
KF305 .A2 1970
This digest and its supplements include brief summaries of ethics opinions from the ABA and state and local bar associations. For most opinions, citations are provided to the source of the full text. The summaries are arranged by state and there is a subject index in each volume. For opinions after 1980, use the Lawyers' Manual.
ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct
- BNA Database
- WestlawNext - Secondary Sources > Texts and Treatises > Ethics and Professional Responsibility
- Lexis (Area of Law > Ethics > Search Analysis, Law Reviews & Journals > ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct)
- Print, KF305.A8 A116 (Regularly updated.)
This looseleaf is an excellent source of primary materials and commentary on legal ethics. You should become familiar with its contents and use at the beginning of your research process.
If using the print version, the "Manual" section (updated monthly) contains a discussion of a wide variety of issues in legal ethics, citing the Model Code and Model Rules where appropriate. Following the text, there are summaries of and citations to relevant cases. Summaries of recent ethics opinions from state and local bar associations are also included in the "Manual" section. There is a subject index for the text (tab 799) and the ethics opinions (tab 1199). Finally, the "Current Reports" section contains a biweekly newsletter that highlights and reviews the latest developments in the field. Georgetown Law Center users may sign up to receive an electronic version of this newsletter.
National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility (Roy M. Mersky & Norman Quist eds., 1983- ).
- Print, KF308.A6 N37
- Lexis (Area of Law - By Topic> Ethics> Search Legal Ethics Opinions > National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility)
This looseleaf service contains the full text of each state's ethics code and selected ethics opinions. The four-volume main set with the codes and recent opinions is located in the Reference Looseleaf section. The annual bound volumes of ethics opinions are located on the Fifth Floor at the same call number.
A few of the most popular treatises& research guides in the field of legal ethics are listed below:
- Robert H. Aronson & Donald T. Weckstein, Legal Ethics in a Nutshell (4th ed. 2013).
Print, KF306.Z9 R668
- Geoffery C. Hazard & W. William Hodes, The Law of Lawyering (3d ed.2001-) (supplemented regularly).
Print, KF306 .H33 2001
This two-volume looseleaf treatise is a commentary on the Model Rules. It is updated annually.
- Charles W. Wolfram, Modern Legal Ethics (1986).
Print, KF306 .W59 1986b
This is a hornbook on legal ethics.
- Lee F. Peoples, Legal Ethics: A Legal Research Guide (2d ed. 2006)
Print, KF 306.P46 2006
For other books on legal ethics, use GULLiver and try a keyword search or a subject search using one the following subject headings:
Legal Ethics -- United States
Judicial Ethics -- United States
Attorney and Client -- United States
Lawyers -- Malpractice
Lawyers -- United States -- Discipline
Many journals publish articles on issues relating to legal ethics. To locate them, use the following journal indexes:
- LegalTrac Tutorial
- From http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/research/guides/articles.cfm
- (Index to) Legal Periodicals & Books & Index to Legal Periodicals & Books Retro Tutorial
- From http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/research/guides/articles.cfm
American Law Institute, Restatement of the Law Third: The Law Governing Lawyers (2000),
Although the title indicates that this is part of the Restatement Third, this is the first attempt to restate the law of legal ethics. The Restatement is intended to clarify and synthesize the common law applicable to the legal profession. The topics covered include Regulation of the Legal Profession; The Client-Lawyer Relationship; Client and Lawyer: The Financial and Property Relationship; Lawyer Civil Liability; Confidential Client Information; Representing Clients - In General; Representing Clients in Litigation; and Conflicts of Interest.
The Internet provides an inexhaustible amount of legal ethics materials of both primary and secondary authority. An increasing number of government bodies, agencies, and special interest groups disseminate ethics materials via the Web. The following sites were found to be especially useful when performing legal ethics research on the Net.
American Legal Ethics Library, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute
Cornell's digital library contains ethics commentary and offers both the codes and rules for the professional conduct of lawyers organized by state.
Offers links to articles, rules and information relating to Internet ethics issues. Includes links to other ethics resources available on the Internet.
ABA Center for Professional Responsibility
Provides access to ABA publications, reports, opinions and headnotes. Also offers the ABA's online research service ETHICSearch, which analyses ethical dilemmas and assists inquirers in identifying appropriate standards and interpretive materials to resolve those dilemmas.
District of Columbia Bar
Provides ethics opinions, rules and disciplinary actions of the D.C. Bar's Legal Ethics Committee.
Use Findlaw as a gateway to State Bar Associations and their ethics rules and opinions. This site also links to various articles, commentary, briefs and other documents on legal ethics.
Heiros Gamos acts as a comprehensive gateway offering links to an extensive number of articles, ethics commentary (some in audio), associations, rules, codes, and opinions. Also helpful are links to various discussion groups on legal ethics.
Updated 12/13 (MK)
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