State Bar Ethics Committee Report, April 2024

June 18, 2024   |   Sam McGee

Below are the most pressing items addressed at the most recent Ethics Committee meeting at the State Bar. Included are links to the proposed amendments and opinions, which also include the address and email address to provide comments if you choose to do so. 

Rules Amendments Awaiting Supreme Court Approval

  • Process for transfer from administrative suspension to inactive status. 
  • Recognition of creation of a Trust Account Compliance Department within the Office of Counsel, and setting forth process for referrals to the Trust Account Compliance Program (TAC Program). 

Note: The Supreme Court also approved several amendments which had already been up for public comment, detailed at the link above. 

Proposed Ethics Opinion Open for Comment Until June 30, 2024

Proposed 2023 Formal Ethics Opinion 3

This opinion involves the proposed location of a self-serve kiosk from a vendor selling ignition locks in the office of an attorney primarily handling DWI cases. The kiosk would allow attorney’s clients to obtain ignition locks as are often ordered by courts. The proposed opinion holds that the kiosk may be placed in the office, but that the lawyer may not receive rent or referral fees from the vendor. Receipt of rent or referral fees from the vendor would cause the lawyer to have a financial interest in the kiosk, and therefore would create an unwaivable conflict. However, the attorney may recommend the services of the vendor if that recommendation is in the client’s best interests and is based upon independent judgment. The lawyer may also participate in the vendor’s efforts to market its product if the lawyer complies with Rule 7.4 (discussed in detail in the opinion).   

Note: Proposed 2024 Formal Ethics Opinion 1 (Use of artificial intelligence in a law practice) has been returned to subcommittee for further study based on comments provided to the committee. This proposed opinion was discussed in more detail in my last ethics update. It is a lengthy and detailed opinion, and I encourage anyone who is considering use of AI in their practice to study it and to provide feedback if it comes back up for public comment. 

In addition to the above, the following ethics-related legislation is pending:

  • Senate Bill 790 tracks the recommendations made by the State Bar Grievance Review Committee. Find my brief article about the recommendations in Trial Briefs
  • Senate Bill 303 proposes several changes to pro hac vice admission, including limitations on the number of times a lawyer can be admitted pro hac. Also discusses limitations on lawyer advertising by out-of-state lawyers.