Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Dec 2013

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Solving Your Ethical Conundrums: Researching the Rules of Professional Conduct by Joyce Manna Janto When I introduce the topic of ethical Joyce Manna Janto was appointed deputy director of the University of Richmond William Taylor Muse Law Library in July 1991. She previously served as the acquisitions librarian and associate director for collection development at Richmond from 1982 to 1991. She served as president of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries, the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries, and the American Association of Law Libraries. rules to my first-year legal research students, someone will always question the need to research them. My students think the rules are a self-explanatory set of guidelines for their behavior, much like the Ten Commandments. They are surprised when I point out the need to research the rules to clarify what is meant by a specific rule, to deepen their understanding of the issues involved, and to gain insight into trends in this area of law. In short, you research ethical rules and issues for the same reasons you undertake any statutory research: in order to ensure that your (or your client's) behavior complies with the law. The current Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Model Rules), as promulgated by the American Bar Association (ABA), were adopted on August 2, 1983. On January 25, 1999, the Supreme Court of Virginia revised the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility, replacing it with the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules), adapting the Model Rules issued by the ABA. They became effective on January 1, 2000. Since that time, forty-nine states have adopted the Model Rules either in whole or with revisions.1 Thus, an attorney in Virginia who wishes to research a particular rule or an ethical issue has a wide array of sources available. Old School Research: Finding Resources in Print In researching the rules or ethical issues in general, the first question is: print or online? If print is your preference and you merely need the rules, the obvious starting place is the Code of Virginia. The Virginia bar is under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Virginia, so the rules are found in the Court Rules volume.2 This volume also 24 VIRGINIA LAWYER | December 2013 | Vol. 62 | LAW LIBRARIES includes the rules dealing with the unauthorized practice of law.3 There are three ways to access the rules in this volume. The first is to use the title index to Part Six. This index lays out the contents of the part in detail. The heading of each rule is listed allowing the user to quickly scan and identify the needed provision. The second way is to use the volume's index. This index provides a more controlled, subject oriented access to the rules. Finally, the general index of the code contains entries to the material found in the rules volume. The rules in the code are published in the Code of Virginia, and there is some advisory material available to the researcher within the code volumes. While not actually part of the code, the Legal Ethical Opinions (LEOs) and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Opinions (UPLs) issued by the Virginia State Bar (VSB) are provided as unnumbered volumes of the code. These opinions, while they have no precedential value, do give guidance as to how a disciplinary committee might interpret a rule. Access to these opinions is through the subject index which is located at the end of each section. Since the Virginia Rules are based on the ABA Model Rules, the ABA/BNA Lawyer's Manual of Professional Conduct can be a rich source of information if you are seeking a broader interpretation of a particular rule. This loose-leaf service is easy to use as it is arranged in rule number order. Under each rule you will find ethics opinions from the ABA and a variety of bar associations, both state and local. In addition to the ethics opinions, the set contains a current awareness newsletter which summarizes recent opinions issued by courts or bar associations, and articles on ethical issues facing attorneys written by members of the practicing bar. An index provides subject access to the material, both the opinions and the newsletters. Lawyers in Virginia have the right to appeal the decision of the disciplinary board to the Supreme Court of Virginia, so a print search for case law takes you to the Virginia/West Virginia

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