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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21-Reporting Another Lawyer's Unethical Conduct

Because lawyers may violate the Model Rules when they engage in misconduct (such as criminal activity), “unrelated to the practice of law,” lawyers must report professional misconduct of a licensed but non-practicing lawyer (“even if it involves activity completely removed from the practice of law”) if the lawyer “knows” of the ethics violation and the violation raises a “substantial question” as to the wrongdoer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer. "Voluntary reporting made in good faith always is permissible . . . ." If reporting another lawyer’s misconduct would disclose information protected by Rule 1.6, the client must consent to the disclosure meaning that “the hands of lawyers are often effectively tied in these situations by the wishes or even whims of their clients.” Still, “it would be contrary to the spirit of the Model Rules for the lawyer not to discuss with the client the lawyer’s ethical obligation to report violations of the Rules” (because "this would allow the lawyer to circumvent them”).

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn