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. 
 Back to main menu

  Print This Leo
LEO NumTopicsSummary

21-Reporting Another Lawyer's Unethical Conduct

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

43-Conflicts of Interest - Miscellaneous

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

57-In-House Lawyers

Law firms' in house ethics counsel: may disclose and receive client confidences to and from other firm lawyers, because "unless a client has expressly instructed that information be confined to specific lawyers within the firm, the lawyer handling the matter does not violate the duty of confidentiality by consulting within the firm about the client's matter."; may but is not required to disclose to clients that the lawyer has discussed with other firm lawyers ethics issues involving that client; does not face a per se conflict in discussing with other firm lawyers possible conflicts of interest involving the client, but may face a conflict if the communications involve protecting the interests of the law firm or its lawyers rather than the client; should explain to the firm lawyer requesting advice whether the in house ethics counsel represents the law firm, the individual lawyer or both; must comply with Rule 1.13's requirement to disclose any wrongdoing up the law firm's chain of command; should consider a possible duty to disclose a colleague's unethical conduct, recognizing that "reporting under this rule is required only when the conduct in question is egregious and 'of a type that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.'"; should remember that any duty of disclosure is trumped by the duty of confidentiality to clients (either the law firm or the individual lawyer); recognize that he might have to withdraw from representing the law firm and the individual lawyer if they disagree about whether he should report wrongdoing; realize that other lawyers in the firm may have a duty to report a colleague's wrongdoing, because they do not have an attorney-client relationship with the law firm or the individual lawyer (but may have a duty of confidentiality to firm clients whose information is involved).

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn