Professional Responsibility

As members of a profession, lawyers are obligated to maintain a high standard of ethical conduct. There are times, however, when it may be difficult to understand your professional responsibilities under the ethics rules. To help our members, the Bar provides a confidential line where members with questions about their prospective ethical conduct may speak directly with the Bar's professional responsibility counsel and receive informal guidance.

Common ethical issues are conflict of interest, client confidentiality, withdrawal, client communications, fee arrangements, trust accounts, and advertising. 

Ethics Line: 206-727-8284 or 800-945-WSBA (9722)

  • The Ethics Line is open during normal business hours Monday through Friday (except on major holidays).
  • The service is limited to WSBA members or legal interns permitted by rule to practice law in Washington state.
  • Calls and messages to the Ethics Line are completely confidential. See APR 19(e).
  • See FAQs for answers to most common ethical dilemmas. 
  • Questions regarding the conduct of another lawyer other than the caller are beyond the scope of the Ethics Line.  These questions should be directed to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel at 206-727-8207.

The rules governing ethics are the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) as adopted by the Washington Supreme Court. For current rules, see Unofficial Amended Rules of Professional Conduct (as of Sept. 1, 2016). The official RPC is published by the court's website.

Advisory Opinions

Advisory opinions are another source of ethical guidance. They illustrate the application of the RPC in practical terms. Many of the advisory opinions are a result of questions from members or cover ethical issues of broad concern to the membership. The Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) issues the advisory opinions.

In July 2017, the CPE issued Advisory Opinion 201701 on the disclosure of confidential client information in a motion to withdraw before the Washington Superior Court.  Read more

In October 2016, the CPE issued an Advisory Opinion 201601 on the ethical considerations of a Virtual Law Office. Increasing costs of doing business, including the costs associated with physical office space, have motivated lawyers to rethink how they deliver legal services. Read more

More advisory opinions can be found on the Ethics Advisory Opinions database. Another source of  ethics in practice are the ethics articles below which have appeared in NW Lawyer

Amendments to the RPC

On June 2, 2016, the Supreme Court adopted amendments to the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct, effective Sept. 1, 2016, in response to the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 revisions to the Model Rules. See Order No. 25700-A-1146

On March 23, 2015, the Supreme Court adopted the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) amendments to the lawyer Rules of Professional Conduct, effective April 14, 2015. See Order No. 25700-A-1096

Ethics Advisory Opinion Search

Rules of Professional Conduct

Link to the official RPCs, published by the Washington Supreme Court.

Succession Planning

Protecting your practice and clients

Checklists for Closing a Practice

Law Office Management Assistance Program

Practice management assistance

Discipline

Learn more about the lawyer discipline system in Washington.

The Public