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North Carolina Professional Responsibility Research

A guide to researching legal ethics in North Carolina

In this Guide



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Professional Responsibility

This guide is intended to provide assistance to people performing research in the area of Legal Ethics in  North Carolina, with specific reference to sources available online or at through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Kathrine R. Everett Law Library.  Unless otherwise indicated, online resources require a UNC Law School affiliation or site-specific account credentials for access.  The location of physical materials in the UNC Law Library is provided, where available.  UNC Law Library resources are open for use by the public, within customary library policies.  Digital links for online sources are provided, where available, and links to open sources (available to the public) are denoted as.  The guide is organized to maximize access to information for those most concerned with the ethical practice of law by attorney and judges and is internally cross-reference for flexible viewing. 

Note: Where an online resource is referred to as "searchable" in this guide, this means the user can search the document using an existing search box or, as in the case of pdf documents, use the "ctrl-F" function to bring up a simple word search box.

Ethical rules are sometimes (and in some jurisdictions) referred to generally as rules or codes of professional responsibility, and in this guide the two phrases will be used interchangeably to refer to those rules in a jurisdiction that have been formally codified and to which attorneys are expected to conform.  Note that this resource is primarily focused on the following materials concerned with legal ethics:

  • Rules or codes specifically written to address and apply to the practice of law by attorneys,
  • Rules or codes specifically written to address and apply to the conduct of judges,
  • Resources that discuss the application of rules or codes to specific or general behavior of legal practitioners,
  • Resources that discuss history or theory pertaining to ethical rules or codes.


Not included in this guide:

  • Other potential legal issues that may impact lawyer and client relations, such as malpractice or other claims more properly pursued in a court of law.

While attorneys are expected to behave in accordance with professional and ethical standards, violation of ethical rules is a matter of attorney discipline, as distinguished from client recovery through the courts as a result of a viable legal claim (e.g. malpractice).  Thus, violation of ethical standards, in and of itself, does not create a cause of action or any right to recovery for a client or the public.  For discussions of the distinction, see the What the State Bar Does and Does Not Investigate page at the North Carolina State Bar website and §52 of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers, available at the UNC Law Library at KF395.A2 L38 2000, as well as online through UNC Libraries and HeinOnline, or Westlaw, with account access.

If you have any questions, please contact the UNC Law Library Reference Desk at 919-962-1194 or

Getting Started

This material provides an overview of the subject area, as well as providing substantive secondary sources for research.

The ABA Model Codes

Model codes formulated by the American Bar Association ("ABA") have been the basis for codes of ethics in jurisdictions across the United States for a generation.  Currently, 49 of 50 states have enacted a version of ethical rules based on the ABA Model Codes.  This section offers a brief background and exploration of available materials covering the ABA Model Rules.

North Carolina

Information on the rules of professional responsibility applicable to practice in North Carolina, including links to State Bar Ethics Committee procedures and the North Carolina ethical codes.

Practice Resources

Here you can find sources for locating applicable ethics opinions and relevant caselaw for North Carolina ethics topics, as well as interpretations of the ABA Model Rules.

Client and Public Resources

Includes resources available to clients at the North Carolina State Bar and the American Bar Association.

Additional Ethical Codes

A short list of some other ethical codes.