Standing Committee on Legal Ethics

Marni E. Byrum, chair

Ethics opinions

The Standing Committee on Legal Ethics received four new opinion requests in fiscal 2011. Since July 1, 2010, the committee issued four opinions and is carrying over five requests from prior fiscal years.

Opinions issued by the committee addressed ethical implications of the following:
  • advising clients on the use of lawful undisclosed recordings,
  • criminal defense attorneys recording conversations without informing the other party,
  • lawyers testifying under oath in court to debts owed by the client, and
  • outsourcing legal and nonlegal support services

Opinions issued for public comment and put on hold for further consideration addressed:
  • Ethical Issues of Lawyers Testifying under Oath in Court to Debts Owed by the Client,
  • Scope of Practice for Foreign Lawyer in Virginia,
  • Criminal Defense Lawyer Advising Client Regarding a Plea that Requires Waiver of Right to Later Claim Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, and
  • Lawyer Agreeing to Indemnify Insurance Company as Condition of Settlement.
Rule revisions

The Supreme Court of Virginia approved the following:
  • Rules of Professional Conduct 4.2 amendment to address the situation in which a defendant who is in custody, formally charged, and represented by counsel waives his or her rights under Miranda v. Arizona and wants to give a statement to a law enforcement officer without defense counsel present (effective November 1, 2010);
  • amendments to Rule 1.15, Safekeeping Property, that eliminate redundancy and clarify the record-keeping requirements for Virginia lawyers, and to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 20 of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court, that govern the Virginia State Bar’s requirements for financial institutions that serve as depositories for attorney trust accounts in Virginia (see insert link to ED report for more details); and
  • new Rule 1.18 that gives guidance to Virginia lawyers as to their duties to prospective clients (effective June 21, 2011).
  • Awaiting a decision by the VSB Council at year’s end were proposed amendments to Rules 7.1–7.5 that regulate lawyer advertising and solicitation. 

Ethics hotline

Ethics telephone calls and emails to VSB staff attorneys from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, averaged 519 per month, which constitutes an average increase of 59 calls per month over fiscal 2010.

Updated: Jul 20, 2011