Researching legal ethics and professional responsibility for lawyers requires familiarity with resources beyond case law and statutes. A significant part of the research process deals with the rules of lawyer conduct adopted by each state and the American Bar Association model standards on which many of those rules are based.
Every state has adopted rules governing lawyer conduct and every state has adopted some form of disciplinary authority to enforce those rules. Additionally, almost every state has bar associations that issue ethics opinions to aid in the interpretation of those rules. Depending on the jurisdiction, ethics opinions may be advisory, persuasive or binding in nature.
In almost every state, the rules governing lawyer conduct are based on model standards drafted by the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association remains active in shaping the standards of lawyer conduct by issuing ethics opinions interpreting the rules.
This guide is designed to give you an overview of print and online resources relevant to legal ethics and professional responsibility research, particularly with regards to ABA and state ethics rules, opinions and disciplinary proceedings.
For lawyer malpractice, please check the Lawyer Malpractice libguide.
 Peter A. Joy, Making Ethics Opinions Meaningful: Toward More Effective Regulation of Lawyers’ Conduct, 15 GEO. J. LEGAL ETHICS 313, 318 (2002)
Getting Started with Background
For background on ethics and professional responsibility for lawyers or for help getting started, take a look at the following recommended treatises:
The ABA/BNA Lawyer’s Manual on Professional Conduct is a good research and reference tool. It includes: the ABA Model Standards and the full text of ABA ethics opinions; a guide to state ethics rules; practice guides; a digest of state ethics opinions; and Current Reports. The Current Reports are issued biweekly and include news and reports of recent court decisions, disciplinary proceedings and ethics opinions. It is available online at:
Assistant Director for Reference and Instruction