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

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

Unlike supervisory lawyers (whose duties to supervise and to report other lawyers' misconduct was addressed in Virginia LEO 1886 (12/15/16)), lawyers not playing a supervisory role are governed only by Rule 8.3's reporting obligation – which is sometimes triggered by Rule 1.16's requirement that lawyers withdraw from representing clients if their "physical or mental condition materially impairs" their ability to represent a client. This reporting obligation arises only if the other lawyer violates an ethics rule, so "a lawyer's impairment, on its own, does not necessarily violate the RPCs at all." This means that lawyers without a supervisory role have no duty to "proactively address the impairment of other lawyers." However, lawyers must report another lawyer whose "material impairment" requires the other lawyer's withdrawal from a representation under Rule 1.16. Although the reporting obligation remains subject to lawyers' confidentiality duty, "in many cases a report may be accomplished without disclosing information that would be embarrassing or detrimental to the firm's clients." Lawyers must also remember that "reporting a lawyer's impairment to both the Bar and to LHL [Lawyers Helping Lawyers] is important, and each report serves different purposes."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn