State Bar Ethics Committee Update

March 12, 2024   |   Sam McGee

State Bar councilors discussed several pressing items at the most recent meeting of the Ethics Committee. Included below 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 

  • Potential addition of Employment Specialty
  • Allowing lawyers to give gifts for living expenses to indigent clients represented pro bono or pursuant to court appointment: The Court has requested additional information about this request.  

New Ethics Opinion: 2023 Formal Ethics Opinion 4

2023 Formal Ethics Opinion 4 | North Carolina State Bar ( 

Lawyer may not use another lawyer’s unique trade name in a keyword advertising program, unless trade name is a common search term.  

Proposed Ethics Opinion Open for Comment Until March 30

Proposed Opinions | North Carolina State Bar ( 

Proposed 2024 Formal Ethics Opinion 1 responds to several different inquiries regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in a law practice. This is a lengthy and detailed opinion, and I encourage anyone who is considering use of AI in their practice to study it and consider providing feedback to the Bar. Although the opinion does not offer a blanket ban on the use of AI or the entry of confidential information into an AI program, it does discuss the potential ramifications of these actions in detail. The opinion consistently reminds readers of various ethical obligations that may be implicated by the use of AI, none of which are abrogated by the use of AI. For example, AI should not be used to expand into practice areas an attorney is otherwise incompetent handle, a lawyer is responsible for the security of information input into an AI program, and AI does not diminish a lawyer’s responsibility to have a good faith basis in law and fact for positions taken during a representation (including when signing documents generated by AI). The opinion also discusses the circumstances under which a lawyer must inform a client that AI is being used, and the effects of AI on billing. As to the latter, although a lawyer cannot bill three hours for a task that only took one hour due to the use of AI, the attorney could consider other types of billing (flat fees, charges for costs of using AI) subject to other ethical obligations and client consent.   

Note: Proposed 2023 Formal Ethics Opinion 3 has been returned to subcommittee for further study. Under this proposed opinion, a lawyer may allow a vendor’s kiosk (ignition lock services at lawyer’s DWI practice) at law office, and can refer clients to vendor and receive referral fees subject to certain conditions.