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North Carolina Professional Responsibility Research

A guide to researching legal ethics in North Carolina

North Carolina Rules -- Overview

North Carolina Ethical Rules - a Timeline

  • 1973 Code of Professional Conduct (“CPR”) (in effect from April 30, 1974, to December 31, 1985)

  • 1985 Rules of Professional Conduct (“RPC”) (in effect from January 1, 1986, to July 23, 1997)

  • 1997 Rules of Professional Conduct (rules comprehensively reorganized and renumbered)

  • 2003 Revised Rules of Professional Conduct

(Revised Rules of Professional Conduct of the North Carolina State Bar, Rule 0.1 (editor’s note), revised effective Feb 27, 2003, with amendments effective April 5, 2018).

Rules governing the professional conduct of attorneys are promulgated by the North Carolina State Bar, becoming effective upon approval of the North Carolina Supreme Court.  Oversight of attorney ethics in the state is managed by the Ethics Committee of the State Bar (see NC Ethics Committee, in these pages, and the State Bar webpage How the State Bar Rules).  Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct in 1997, as well as the formulation of the 2003 Revised Rules of Professional Conduct relied on the ABA Model Code as source material.​

Where to Find Them

North Carolina Revised Rules of Professional Conduct

  • North Carolina State Bar: Materials concerning ethics and rules of professional responsibility, including access to Adopted Opinions and proposed amendments, are available on the State Bar website. The Rules may also be searched by keyword, rule number or by browsing the index.

  • UNC Law Library: The Revised Rules of Professional Responsibility are located at Chapter 2 of the North Carolina State Bar Rules, which are published and maintained in a separate volume of the North Carolina General Statutes, entitled Annotated Rules of North Carolina.

    • North Carolina General Statutes are available in the UNC Law Library at KFN7430 1943 .A241 2000 (updated) 

    • NC Revised Rules of Professional Conduct are also available as a separate bound copy in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5 .A43 2008.

  • Other Online Sources: The Rules can be found on the Westlaw or Lexis databases, with account access.

NC Federal Court Treatment

North Carolina Federal Courts

Federal district courts of North Carolina affirm that North Carolina's Revised Rules of Professional Conduct govern ethical standards for practice in the federal courts, as well as providing their own procedures for lawyer discipline.  See below for specific rule locations.   

Note:  All of the court websites are open, and local rules are available as searchable pdf files.  Use "ctrl-F" to open a search box and type in the relevant rule number.

  • Eastern District

    • The Eastern District Court requires that any attorney practicing before it be a "member in good standing of the bar of the Supreme Court of North Carolina."  Local Civil Rule 83.1(b)

    • Ethical standards for the court are the North Carolina Revised Rules of Professional Conduct, "except as may be otherwise provided by specific rule of this court."   Local Civil Rule 83.1(i).

    • Attorneys practicing in North Carolina's Eastern District are to "advise the clerk within 14 days of disciplinary action taken against them resulting in suspension or disbarment."  Local Civil Rule 83.1(i).

    • The Eastern District Court also sets forth its own Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (83.7, et seq.) to which all attorneys "who practice or appear before it" are subject.

  • Middle District

    • An attorney must be "in good standing with the Supreme Court of North Carolina" and must certify in their application "that the attorney has read and is familiar with" the North Carolina Code of Professional Responsibility, among other rules.  LR 83.1(b); see also LR 83.10e(b), "Standards for Conduct."

    • The Middle District Court attorney discipline rules and procedures are extensive and can be found at LR 83.10a, et seq.  They include a requirement that an attorney subject to any public discipline by a court or state bar notify the court "promptly."  LR 83.10c(a); LR 83.10d.

  • Western District

    • Attorneys seeking admission to practice before the Western District courts must be members in good standing of the North Carolina State Bar and agree "to abide by the Local Rules, the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, and to submit themselves to this Court for the enforcement of such rules."  LCvR 83.1(a).

    • The Western District sets forth its rules concerning Attorney Discipline at Local Civil Rule ("LCvR") 83.2.​

Local Federal Court Rules in the UNC Law Library