Ethics Inquiry Program
The Ethics Inquiry Program was created by the ARDC to assist attorneys and the general public when they have general questions about a lawyer’s professional responsibilities or attorney disciplinary case law.
The Program provides research assistance and guidance regarding ethics issues and the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct through telephone consultations. The service, which is free of charge, has provided guidance to thousands of callers since the Program began in 1995.
The goal of the Program is to help lawyers understand their professional obligations and assist them in resolving important issues in their practice. The Program provides lawyers with information about professional responsibility law, legal precedent, bar association ethics opinions, law review articles and practical guidelines. The Program also aids the public in understanding the obligations that lawyers owe to the courts, clients and the profession.
The Commission Rules governing the Program are contained in Article VIII, Com. Rules 601, et seq.
Ethics Inquiry Program FAQs
Who Administers the Program?
The Ethics Inquiry Program is staffed by Commission attorneys and a team of paralegals. All of these individuals have experience addressing ethics questions and are knowledgeable about ARDC procedures.
How Do I Make an Ethics Inquiry?
An attorney or member of the public may make an ethics inquiry by telephoning (312) 565-2600 or (800) 826-8625. Lawyers and members of the public may also request an ethics inquiry consultation in writing. Written requests should include telephone number where the requestor can be reached as consultations are only done by telephone.
Does the Program Give Legal Advice or Binding Advisory Opinions?
No. We cannot give either legal advice or a binding advisory opinion. Information provided through the Program will, in many instances, resolve any issue regarding the propriety of a lawyer’s course of conduct. Before rendering assistance to any caller, Commission counsel will disclose that only legal research assistance is being provided, that no legal opinion is being furnished, and that the caller is responsible for making his or her own final judgment on the ethical issues presented.
Does the Program Maintain Records of an Inquiry?
No. We do not make or maintain any record of the identity of a caller or the substance of a specific inquiry or response. For statistical purposes, the ARDC keeps records of the number of inquiries made and the general subject matter of inquiries.
Do I Have to Reveal My Name to the Program?
No. Callers may remain anonymous if they so choose. Further, neither the fact that an inquiry has been made nor the substance of the inquiry or any response is admissible in any attorney disciplinary proceeding.
Should I Present Questions in the Hypothetical Form?
Yes. To protect both the caller and, if applicable, the caller’s client, factual information should be presented in the hypothetical form.
Does a Lawyer Satisfy a Duty to Report Professional Misconduct by Contacting the Program?
No. Under RPC 8.3(a), Illinois lawyers are required to report information, not protected by the attorney-client privilege, to the ARDC concerning certain kinds of lawyer misconduct. That reporting requirement is not satisfied by communicating with the Program because the Program responds to general inquiries and does not have the authority to conduct any investigation into alleged improprieties.