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North Carolina Professional Responsibility Research

A guide to researching legal ethics in North Carolina

What They Do

North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee

The NC State Bar Ethics Committee ("Ethics Committee") is a standing committee of the Council of the State Bar, whose purpose is [to] provide advice to the members of the State Bar relative to their own ethical dilemmas,” and attorneys may request a ruling based on any “actual or contemplated professional action of a member of the Bar."

 

Ethical Oversight and Process

The following information touches on the outline of the State Bar's ethics functions.  See the State Bar webpage How the State Bar Rules on Questions of Ethics for complete information and further links.

 

  • The Ethics Committee meets quarterly and is composed of 18 members, plus 15 advisory members appointed from the membership of the Bar by the State Bar President.

 

  • The Ethics Committee issues three kinds of ethics opinions:

  1. Formal (Published) Ethics Opinions.  These appear in each issue of the State Bar Journal, identified as  "proposed opinions" with comment solicited;

    • Formal Opinions are issued only after publication and consideration of any (written) comments received.  Opinions may or may not be amended, and they are not re-published in the State Bar Journal ("Journal").

    • To learn the status of a published proposed opinion, consult the Introduction to the Proposed Opinions section of the Journal.  This introduction explains which opinions published in the last edition of the Journal were finally approved by the Council at its most recent meeting.

    • An opinion is only final after consideration and approval of the Council of the State Bar.

    • All formal ethics opinions are published by the State Bar, as follows:

      • State Bar website, updated after each quarterly meeting.  Opinions may be browsed by subject heading or searched by keyword.

      • North Carolina Lawyer’s Handbook, which contains all formal ethics opinions through the date of publication. 

        • Available in the UNC Law Library at KFN7476.5 .N82 2019.  Current edition located only at the Reference Desk. 

        • Available online through the North Carolina State Bar.

 

  1. Ethics Decisions.  These unpublished decisions are privately transmitted to inquiring lawyers and concern matters that are not thought to be of interest or concern to the broader membership of the bar.

 

  1. Ethics Advisories.  Designated "EA," these are opinions offered by staff counsel of the State Bar to inquiring lawyers who seek advice about their own contemplated conduct.

    • Usually where a formal request is submitted to the State Bar but, upon review, staff counsel determines that the request involves a routine matter and does not require submission to the full Ethics Committee. 

    • Staff counsel then issues a written opinion, usually in letter format, to the requesting attorney.

 

  • Attorneys may also request an informal opinion directly from the State Bar, via email -- ethicsadvice@ncbar.gov -- or telephone -- (919) 828-4620.

 

  • Where a decision is requested concerning the behavior of another attorney, that attorney must be notified and given the opportunity to respond.


See How the State Bar Rules on Questions of Ethics at the State Bar website for complete information and further links.