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Professional Responsibiity: Home

Professional Responsibility and Ethics resources for law students, bar examinees, and other researchers

Useful Definitions

Advertising: The action of drawing the public's attention to something to promote its sale.

Conflicts of Interest: A real or seeming incompatibility between the interests of two of a lawyer's clients, such that the lawyer is disqualified from representing both clients if the dual representation adversely affects either client or if the clients do not consent.

Solicitation: An attempt or effort to gain business.

Trust Account: A bank account, usually interest-bearing, in which a lawyer deposits money belonging to a client (e.g., money received from a client's debtor, from the settlement of a client's case, or from the client for later use in a business transaction).

All definitions come from Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). 


As members of a profession and as officers of the court, lawyers have the responsibility of following rules of professional conduct that are mandated either by a state legislature or by the highest court in the state. Rules of professional conduct govern both the public and the private behavior of lawyers. Because they are licensed to practice by the states, lawyers who violate rules of professional conduct are likewise disciplined by the states, not the federal government. The punishment for violating a state rule of professional responsibility ranges from private or public reprimand to suspension or disbarment (permanent disqualification from practicing law in the state). To the limited extent that they practice law, judges are subject to the state code of professional conduct in addition to a Code of Judicial Conduct.

Each of the many areas of lawyer responsibility contains a discrete category of ethical concerns. These areas can be organized as the lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer as counselor, the lawyer as advocate, transactions with persons other than clients, law firms and associations, public service, information about legal services, and the integrity of the profession. The rules of conduct that govern these areas are subject to interpretation, and knowledge of what specific conduct has been found to violate a rule is often necessary for a complete understanding of the rule's meaning.

[Summary from Professional Responsibility,, (last visited 11/03/2015).]

Subscription Databases

Bloomberg Law: In the Search & Browse tab, choose All Legal Content. In the Select Sources box, type “ethics” and select a source from the list that auto populates. Bloomberg Law provides access to decisions by many state bar professional ethics advisory committees.

Lexis Advance: Browse Sources—Secondary Materials—ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct; ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Code of Judicial Conduct

Westlaw: Under Browse—Secondary Sources—Texts & Treatises—Ethics & Professional Responsibility, various sources are provided, including Legal Ethics-The Lawyer’s Deskbook on Professional Responsibility, Ethical Standards in the Public Sector, and Law of Lawyer Advertising.

Under Tools—West Key Number System, 45: Attorney and Client and 311H: Privileged Communications and Confidentiality may provide guidance in finding related materials.

Subject Guide

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