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Professional Ethics Committee opinions

The Professional Ethics Committee of the ACBA, in order to assist the members of the association in fulfilling ethical requirements, has determined to periodically publish abstracts of its approved opinions that might have widespread application. Please note that these abstracts are only published with permission of the Inquirers, and that the opinions of the Committee are advisory only and not binding on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or on any court. It carries only such weight as a reviewing authority may choose to give it.

The Professional Ethics Committee provides a confidential telephone consultation service to members of the ACBA on questions of their own ethical conduct. To reach the Duty Officer for any given month, see www.acba.org or call the ACBA at 412-402-6600.


When a sole practitioner discovers that his IOLTA account is out of balance, what measures may he take to correct the balance, and must he report that imbalance to the IOLTA Board?

Can an initial interview with a potential client that does not result in a formal attorney-client relationship subsequently bar that attorney from being retained as counsel in a subsequent matter?

Under what circumstances may an attorney distribute the proceeds from the sale of a marital residence, without a court order directing distribution, when the lawyer for the opposing spouse and the opposing spouse have communicated to Inquirer inconsistent directions on how to distribute the marital funds?

Under what circumstances may an attorney disclose threats made by his client to physically harm opposing counsel and an opposing party?

Must Inquirer obtain permission from wife to represent husband in a domestic relations dispute due to Inquirer's former association with the firm that represents wife?

What are an attorney's ethical obligations with regard to evidence which is incriminating to his client, a juvenile, which was disclosed to him by the juvenile's parents?

When an attorney has been terminated and is required to withdraw from representation, what right does the attorney have to payment, particularly from funds posted as a retainer?

Must an attorney disclose to the client a presumptive error in his handling of the client's matters where the attorney can rectify the error with no harm to the client?

What are the lawyer’s obligations to the client and the court when discharged by a client shortly before a scheduled court hearing in a litigated matter?

Whether this Professional Ethics Committee may advise an Inquirer as to how a legal advertisement may be amended to meet the standards of Rule 7.2(i) Pa RPC after the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board has advised Inquirer that Inquirer's advertisement is in violation of that Rule?

Whether testimony by a lawyer in a matter involving a client whom the lawyer currently represents in a separate matter would disqualify the lawyer from his representation of that client.

Can lawyer undertake joint representation of husband and wife in connection with the preparation of an estate plan where lawyer is aware of a prior consideration of a divorce?

May a lawyer represent co-defendants where a claim of liability is asserted against one of the defendants on a vicarious basis when the other defendant is simultaneously represented by separate counsel on a claim of intentional conduct involved in the same case?

May the Inquirer, who intends to represent the Wife in a divorce action, represent both Husband and Wife in a joint Bankruptcy Petition?

The Inquirer was concerned with the ethical issues, if any, which could arise when a sole practitioner shares space with another law firm.

May the Inquirer who is in-house counsel for an entity also represent an employee of the entity? May the Inquirer represent the employee if the Inquirer is precluded from revealing confidential information from the entity?

Whether the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit an attorney from sending a letter of representation on behalf of a client located in a state in which the lawyer is not licensed to a debtor located in that state.


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