These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

21-Reporting Another Lawyer's Unethical Conduct

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

Lawyers practicing in law firms, law departments or similar organizations must establish policies and procedures assuring that all lawyers in the organization fulfill their ethical requirements and protect their clients -- even if a lawyer becomes impaired by substance abuse, mental illness, etc. Lawyers learning of ethics violations by an impaired lawyer may have an obligation to report the violation. Even if not obligated to report violations, lawyers may choose to reveal information about violations or the impairment -- unless confidentiality duties to clients or some other rules prohibit the disclosure. Lawyers in a firm or other organization from which an impaired lawyer has withdrawn may have an obligation to reveal the impairment if clients are deciding whether to retain the now departed impaired lawyer. The law firm or other organization does not have a duty to reveal the impairment if a client has already shifted its relationship to the departed lawyer, but must avoid any endorsement of the departed lawyer’s ability to represent the client (such as a joint letter from the law firm and the departed lawyer regarding the transaction, which "could be seen as an implicit endorsement by the firm of the departed lawyer's competence").

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn