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ARDC Ethics Inquiry Program

Ethics FAQs

Legal Ethics Research Links 


Guide to the ARDC Ethics Inquiry Program  |  Ethics FAQs  |  Legal Ethics Research Links


What is the Ethics Inquiry Program?
Who Administers the Program?
How Do I Make an Ethics Inquiry?
Does the Program Give Legal Advice or Binding Advisory Opinions?
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Program Maintain Records of an Inquiry?
Do I Have to Reveal My Name to the Program?

Should I Present Questions in the Hypothetical Form?
Does a Lawyer Satisfy a Duty to Report Professional Misconduct by Contacting the Program?

What is the 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.

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 them 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 service is free of charge and, since the Program began in October 1995, has provided help to hundreds of callers.

The Commission Rules governing the Program are contained in Article VIII, Com. Rules 601 et seq.

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 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. The Commission does not accept ethics inquiries by e-mail or facsimile. 

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.

Frequently Asked Questions?

The type of questions submitted to the Program varies. Callers frequently ask procedural questions about lawyer disciplinary cases. Many people inquire about the ethics rules relating to lawyer advertising or written attorney-client fee agreements. The following questions are raised on a regular basis:

  • How long should I retain client files?

  • If I know that another attorney has engaged in professional misconduct, must I report that activity?

  • How do I find out which jurisdictions share reciprocity with Illinois?

  • Does Illinois have any CLE requirements in order to maintain an Illinois license?

  • Can I pay a referral fee to another lawyer?

  • What are the requirements for opening and maintaining a client trust fund account?

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, only the number of inquiries and the general nature and type of a request may be retained.

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 must 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.


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