February 2013 Bar Bulletin
Legal Ethics: Research in the Shadows
By Kim Ositis
Reference Services Librarian
In keeping with this month's topic of "Sun and Shadow," I'm going to talk about some print and online resources for researching the sometimes murky topic of legal ethics rules and opinions.
The first place to start would be to consult the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC). Both rule sets are available online from the Washington Courts website: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.state&group=ga.
For more in-depth research on conduct rules, it might be helpful to consult an annotated version of the rules. Annotated court rules can be found in print in the three-volume Washington Court Rules Annotated set as well as Volume Two of Washington Practice. Annotated court rules are also available on Westlaw in the WA-RULES and WAPRAC databases (both available via the Library's Public Access Westlaw subscription). Additionally, consider using the Annotated Model Rules of Professional Conduct from the American Bar Association (KF 305.A2 2011).
For historical rules research, the Library has archival copies of the Washington court rules going back to the 1950s. Call the Seattle library at 206-296-0940 to confirm the availability of a specific year.
For assistance in interpreting these rules, the WSBA issues Advisory Opinions on specific topics: http://www.wsba.org/Resources-and-Services/Ethics/Advisory-Opinions. It is important to note that in 2010 the Board of Governors eliminated the distinction between formal and informal ethics opinions and adopted the terminology of "Advisory Opinion." Also in 2006, the RPCs were significantly revised. The WSBA provides a conversion table for pre-2006 opinions on the page link above.
The ABA issues formal and informal ethics opinions and the latest opinions are available online at the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility website: http://www.wsba.org/News-and-Events/Publications-Newsletters-Brochures/NWLawyer/Bar-News-Archive. Older opinions are available for a fee for non-center members. The Library has print versions of ABA opinions going back to the 1970s in the KF 305 call number area.
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