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

49-Lawyers - Miscellaneous

Lawyers might suffer from an impairment that calls into question their fitness as a lawyer, or may cause an ethics violation. Among other things, impaired lawyers may “repeatedly miss court deadlines, fail to make filings required to complete a transaction, fail to perform tasks agreed to be performed, or fail to raise issues that competent counsel would be expected to raise.” Even “a single act by a lawyer may evidence her lack of fitness.”) Although lawyers assessing their ABA Model Rule 8.3 duty to report another lawyer’s ethics violation “need not act on rumors or conflicting reports about a lawyer,” such lawyers might “consider consulting with a psychiatrist” or other third party. Lawyers might also communicate with a possibly impaired lawyer, although “the affected lawyer’s denials alone do not make the lawyer’s knowledge non-reportable under [ABA Model] Rule 8.3.” Although “information gained by a lawyer about another lawyer is unlikely to be information protected by [ABA Model] Rule 1.6 for example, observation of or information about the affected lawyer’s conduct in litigation or in the completion of transactions,” ABA Model Rule 8.3 requires a client’s consent if reporting another lawyer’s misconduct would involve disclosure of ABA Model Rule 1.6-protected information. Although a lawyer may report another lawyer’s possible impairment “to an approved lawyers’ assistance program,” “such a report is not a substitute for reporting to a disciplinary authority” if the other lawyer’s impairment results in a reportable ethics violation.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn