The Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by the Washington Supreme Court, codify the standards of ethics applicable to lawyers in Washington state. The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) through its Committee on Professional Ethics assists members in interpreting their ethical obligations by issuing advisory opinions on specific issues.
Ethics advisory opinions are published online in the Advisory Opinions Database. They are also available online through CaseMaker and Fastcase, the free legal research tool available to WSBA members. Many opinions are in response to ethical questions posed by WSBA members.
Ethics opinions issued by the Bar Association are advisory only. The Washington Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Members with questions about their own prospective conduct as related to ethics advisory opinions and the Rules of Professional Conduct can speak with the Bar's professional responsibility counsel (PRC). The WSBA Ethics Line resource does not address legal issues or provide opinions.
Advisory Opinions Issued Prior to 2006
The Rules of Professional Conduct were substantially amended in 2006. The language and citations in any advisory opinion issued prior to 2006 may not be consistent with the current rules. The conclusions of older opinions are based on the ethical rules in effect at the time the opinion was written.
Ethics opinions which no longer assist Washington members in understanding their professional obligations are withdrawn.
The withdrawal of an opinion does not necessarily mean that WSBA disagrees with the underlying ethical premises of the opinion. Some are withdrawn because of potential constitutional infirmities, ambiguities, incompleteness under current rules or law, or redundancy. Others have been withdrawn because their holdings are now codified in the current Rules of Professional Conduct.