Mission Statement of the VSB’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics
The Standing Committee on Legal Ethics was established to issue advisory opinions interpreting and applying the Rules of Professional Conduct. Published opinions are incorporated into an optional volume of the Code of Virginia and may also be found in issues of the Virginia Lawyer Register and on the Internet at the VaCLE website. The nine (9) committee members are appointed by the President of the Virginia State Bar and may serve two consecutive three-year terms. This committee meets regularly to review and consider formal requests for advisory opinions by members of the bar seeking guidance on legal ethics matters. Due to the high number of legal ethics opinions (LEOs) already published, the committee issues new opinions only if prior opinions are not dispositive of the inquiry, or if the committee believes a prior opinion needs reconsideration. If prior opinions address the inquiry, the Ethics Counsel and staff send an informal letter to the requesting party making reference to specific prior opinions that appear dispositive.
The Ethics Counsel and staff support the committee by conducting the necessary research and preparing initial draft opinions for discussion at meetings. Some requests involve controversial issues that require discussion over more than one meeting before a consensus can be reached. If an opinion needs the imprimatur of the Council and Supreme Court, the committee may request review and approval by those bodies. All committee deliberations, draft opinions, memoranda, correspondence and the like shall be confidential and privileged as provided for in Part 6, § IV, Para. 10-2(F), of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia.
In addition, Ethics Counsel and staff proactively monitor and review lawyer advertising on behalf of the committee and alert lawyers of violations or potential violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct in order to educate and assist them in avoiding the disciplinary process. Typically, the lawyers receiving such letters will make requested changes, at staff’s suggestion, to rectify the problems identified with their advertising. In those few instances where a lawyer disagrees with the staff’s interpretation of the Rules, the matters may be referred to the committee for review and sent to discipline for action.
The committee also serves as a clearing house for receiving comments on or proposals for amendments of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The committee may study a proposal to amend the Rules of Professional Conduct and make recommendations to the Executive Committee and Council regarding such a proposal.The committee’s work may include other specific assignments or requests in its area of general responsibility from the bar’s officers, the Executive Committee or Council.
At the end of each bar year on June 30, the chair of the committee shall submit a written report outlining the work and accomplishments of the committee during the preceding bar year for inclusion in the VSB Annual Report.
Updated: Sep 09, 2011