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Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions

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EF-22-01 Migration - FINALWisconsin Ethics Opinion EF-22-01 Migration in Criminal Practice
Migration of lawyers from one law firm to another is a common part of contemporary
practice and several ethics issues arise when a lawyer moves from one firm to another. This
opinion focuses on criminal practice and addresses the issues that arise when a lawyer is
migrating from defense to prosecution or prosecution to defense.
When a defense lawyer agrees to an interview with a prosecutor’s office or announces their
candidacy for the office of district attorney, the lawyer has a personal conflict in the continued
representation of criminal defense clients anywhere in the state. To continue representation of
clients, the lawyer must reasonably conclude the conflict will not adversely affect the
representation and obtain their informed consent in a signed writing.
The disciplinary rules prohibit a prosecutor from seeking employment with a firm involved in
cases the prosecutor is litigating. When a prosecutor agrees to an interview with a defense firm
with which the prosecutor has no cases, there is no automatic conflict. In some situations, specific
facts may give rise to a conflict, a situation that should be reported to the prosecutor’s supervisor
to seek consent or arrange for transfer of cases to another prosecutor.
If, in either situation, the lawyer ultimately changes positions, additional responsibilities arise.
The former defense lawyer-current prosecutor may not appear adversely in the same or
substantially related cases of former clients or in cases in which the lawyer possesses relevant
information relating to the representation of the former client. Such conflicts are not imputed to
others in the prosecutor’s office and the office may continue involvement in the affected cases if
the conflicted lawyer is timely screened.
The former prosecutor-current defense lawyer may not appear in any case in which they
participated personally and substantially, whether as a lawyer or otherwise, regardless of
adversity, absent written informed consent from their prior firm. Nor may they represent a client
whose interests are adverse to a person about whom the lawyer obtained confidential
government information while in government service. Other lawyers in the firm may represent
the client if the lawyer is timely screened and receives no fee in the matter. Prior opinions E-80-
12, E-86-18, E-86-15 and E-86-8 are withdrawn.
713 KB EF-22-01 Migration - FINAL.pdf
EF-21-03 Fugitive Client-FINALWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-21-03: Responsibilities of a Lawyer with a Fugitive Client
Information regarding a fugitive client’s location is information that relates to the representation of the client and is protected by the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality. The information may also be privileged if the client contacts the lawyer for general information regarding his legal status or to seek assistance in surrendering to authorities. If the client seeks assistance to evade apprehension, information regarding their location is protected by the duty of confidentiality but may not be privileged. The lawyer in such a situation has a duty to consult with the client, explain the client’s available options and the likely consequences of each, but the lawyer may not advise, encourage, or assist the client to engage in conduct that is criminal or fraudulent. If continued representation would violate the disciplinary rules or other law the lawyer must withdraw. If the client persists in a course of action that is repugnant to the lawyer or otherwise provides permissible grounds for withdrawal, the lawyer may withdraw even if continued representation would be permissible. Should the lawyer be asked to disclose the client’s location or other client information, the lawyer should assert the attorney-client privilege if applicable and not reveal the information unless ordered to do so by a court. Memorandum Opinion 8/76B is withdrawn.
729 KB EF-21-03 Fugitive Client-FINAL.pdf
EF-11-02 REVISED FINALRevised Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-11-02: Conflicts in Criminal Practice Arising From Concurrent Part-time Employment as an Assistant District Attorney and a Lawyer in a Private Law Firm
An individual lawyer who works part-time as an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting defendants on behalf of the State of Wisconsin and part-time for a private law firm has a conflict of interest which would bar the lawyer from representing defendants in state criminal cases.  That lawyer could still represent clients in opposition to the State of Wisconsin in non-criminal matters.  The lawyer’s conflicts would be imputed to lawyers in his private firm and could not be waived so that firm would be disqualified from representing defendants in state criminal cases.  The lawyer’s conflicts would not be imputed to lawyers in the District Attorney’s Office at which the lawyer works provided the lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter, in which case that office could continue to prosecute any case against any party as to whom the lawyer had a conflict.
751 KB EF-11-02 REVISED FINAL.pdf
E-84-7 Duty to Correct Error - Revised FINALWisconsin Ethics Opinion E-84-7: Duty of Lawyer to Inform Court of Error
A lawyer who becomes aware of a mistake by the court, opposing counsel, or a third party, which benefits the client and which the lawyer had no role in causing is not required to take action to correct the mistake. Nonetheless, the lawyer should consult with the client about the potential risks and benefits of not correcting the mistake.
703 KB E-84-7 Duty to Correct Error - Revised FINAL.pdf
EF-21-02 Working RemotelyWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-21-02: Working remotely
The basic responsibilities that a lawyer owes the client – competence, diligence, communication, and confidentiality - lie at the core of lawyer’s professional obligations and remain unchanged irrespective of the lawyer’s physical location. What has changed is discharging these responsibilities effectively in a world increasingly dominated by technology and, more recently, in an environment where lawyers are isolated from their clients, their partners, their opponents and the courts in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The role of the partners, managers and supervising attorneys, whose responsibilities include insuring that both attorneys and non-attorneys in the firm, regardless of their location, comply with the requirements of SCR Chapter 20, is of increasing importance. Although certain current modifications in practice may diminish as the pandemic does, many are likely to continue as the profession and technology evolve. This opinion addresses several ways a lawyer’s responsibilities are affected.
863 KB EF-21-02 Working Remotely.pdf
EF-21-01 Threatening Criminal Prosecution FINALWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-21-01: Threatening Criminal Prosecution or Professional Discipline
There is no prohibition in the Rules of Professional Conduct against threatening criminal prosecution to gain an advantage in a civil matter. A lawyer considering doing so, however, must take care to ensure that the criminal matter is related to the client's civil claim, the lawyer has a good faith belief that both the civil claim and the criminal charges are supported by the law and the facts, and the lawyer does not attempt to exert or suggest improper influence over the criminal process. There is similarly no prohibition in the Rules of Professional Conduct on the lawyer and the lawyer’s client agreeing, as part of a settlement, to refrain from reporting information regarding the purported criminal conduct to the relevant authorities.

A lawyer may not, however, use the threat of reporting another lawyer’s misconduct to the disciplinary authority to gain an advantage in a matter because the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from limiting a person’s right to report misconduct and lawyers themselves, in certain circumstances, have mandatory duty to report the substantial misconduct of other lawyers and judges. Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion E-01-01 is withdrawn.
702 KB EF-21-01 Threatening Criminal Prosecution FINAL.pdf
EF-20-02 Former Client Cross Examination - FINALWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-20-02: Lawyer Examining a Current or Former Client as Adverse Witness
A lawyer faced with cross examining1 a current client will have a conflict of interest that would prevent the lawyer from continuing both representations unless the conflict is subject to the written and signed informed consent of both clients. A lawyer faced with cross examining a former client will have a conflict if the subject matter of the prior representation is the same or substantially related to the examination or there is a substantial risk the lawyer will use information relating to the representation of the former client to the disadvantage of the former client. In both situations the conflict of interest would be imputed to other members of the lawyer’s firm.
235 KB EF-20-02 Former Client Cross Examination - FINAL.pdf
E-90-5 Revised FINALWisconsin Ethics Opinion E-90-05: Lawyer who represents Municipality as Defense Counsel in State Prosecutions
May a part-time lawyer for a municipality or a member of the lawyer’s law firm represent defendants in state prosecutions in which the municipality’s law enforcement personnel are potential witnesses?
607 KB E-90-5 Revised FINAL.pdf
EF-20-01 Responsibilities when a Grievance is filedWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-20-01: Responsibilities of a Lawyer when a Grievance is filed against the Lawyer
When a client or third party files a grievance against the lawyer who is currently representing that client, serious consequences may follow for the lawyer. First, although the lawyer has an obligation to cooperate with the disciplinary office, responding to a grievance may be expensive and time consuming. Second, if the allegations are meritorious, the result may be professional discipline, sometimes public, for the lawyer, which may result in financial losses for the lawyer. Third, accusations of misconduct may damage the lawyer-client relationship. Most grievances, however, are closed without any finding of misconduct by the lawyer, and many are the result of the client’s misunderstanding of the role of the lawyer or court system. It is through the receipt of grievances by the Office of Lawyer Regulation that the Wisconsin Supreme Court regulates the practice of law and protects the public.
689 KB EF-20-01 Responsibilities when a Grievance is filed.pdf
EF-19-01 Job NegotiationsWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-19-01: Job Negotiations with Opposing Firm or Party
When a lawyer has an active and material role in the representation of a client, the lawyer ordinarily will have a conflict of interest when the lawyer sends a targeted, specific expression of interest in employment to an opposing firm or party in the matter, or when the lawyer agrees to substantive discussions concerning possible employment with an opposing firm or party. The lawyer may normally address the conflict through disclosure and informed consent of the client or withdrawal from the representation if that can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the client. Because such personal interest conflicts are normally not imputed to other lawyers within a firm, a lawyer may also address such a conflict by seeking reassignment from the matter when feasible.
750 KB EF-19-01  Job Negotiations.pdf
E-84-3 Joint Representation in Divorces RevisedRevised Wisconsin Ethics Opinion E-84-3: Joint Representation in Divorces
May an attorney represent both spouses in a divorce proceeding?
691 KB E-84-3 Joint Representation in Divorces Revised.pdf
E-86-06 RevisedRevised Wisconsin Ethics Opinion E-86-06 Duty of Lawyer to be Candid with Court in Connection with Prior Convictions
Does a lawyer have an affirmative duty to disclose to the court the existence of prior OWI convictions that would expose the client to a more severe penalty when the court appears unaware of the correct number of prior convictions but has not asked the lawyer or client about the relevant facts?
431 KB E-86-06 Revised.pdf
EF-18-03 Form Contract FINALWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-18-03: Form Contract Drafting and Conflicts
A lawyer who prepares a form contract for a client does not have a direct conflict of interest by reason of the fact that it may be used by that client in the future to negotiate a contract relationship with another party that may be a client of the lawyer. The lawyer, however, may not, in drafting the form contract, use or disclose confidential information of other clients of the lawyer. The lawyer may not then represent another party in negotiating against the client who is using the form contract without the informed consent of both. A lawyer may not provide representation for a client that involves the analysis or review of a contract form/template that was prepared by the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm for another client.
414 KB EF-18-03 Form Contract FINAL.pdf
EF-18-02 Aiding UPL FinalWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-18-02: In-house Counsel; Assisting an employer/client in the unauthorized practice of law by providing legal services to customers of employer/client.
Lawyers may not assist others in the unauthorized practice of law and may not share legal fees with nonlawyers. These prohibitions apply to all lawyers, including lawyers who are employed as in-house counsel for entities that are not law firms. Entities that are not law firms are prohibited from practicing law, and a lawyer employed by a non-law firm entity who provides legal services to the customers of the entity as part of the services sold to such customers assists the entity in the unauthorized practice of law. When the customers pay the entity for the legal services provided by the lawyer, the lawyer impermissibly shares legal fees with a nonlawyer. In addition to the prohibitions on assisting another in the unauthorized practice of law and sharing fees with nonlawyers, an in-house lawyer who seeks to provide legal services to the customers of the employer faces potential conflicts of interest and difficulties in observing the duty of confidentiality.
463 KB EF-18-02 Aiding UPL Final.pdf
EI-17-04 Contact with Persons Represented in Unrelated MattersWisconsin Informal Ethics Opinion EI-17-04 Contact with Persons Represented in Unrelated Matters
This opinion addresses three questions about when a lawyer may interact with a person who is represented by another lawyer. Sometimes there is confusion about whether it is appropriate for a lawyer to communicate with such a person without the consent of the person’s counsel. Supreme Court Rule (“SCR”) 20:4.2 governs the lawyer’s responsibility in such a situation. In this opinion, the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Ethics (the “Committee”) considers three situations. In the first, a lawyer who represents a client in Matter A wishes to communicate with a witness, who is represented by counsel in separate Matter B. In the second, a person who is already represented by counsel wishes to consult with a second lawyer about the possibility of retaining the second lawyer in the very matter in which the person is already represented. Finally, in the last situation, a client has discharged a lawyer and the client has retained successor counsel, and the first lawyer wishes to communicate with the client.
458 KB EI-17-04 Contact with Persons Represented in Unrelated Matters.pdf
EF-15-01 Cloud Computing AmendedWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-15-01: Ethical Obligations of Attorneys Using Cloud Computing
A lawyer may use cloud computing as long as the lawyer uses reasonable efforts to adequately address the risks associated with it. The Rules of Professional Conduct require that lawyers act competently both to protect client information and confidentiality, and to protect the lawyer’s ability to reliably access and provide relevant client information when needed.
707 KB EF-15-01 Cloud Computing Amended.pdf
EF-17-02 Client Identity FINALWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-17-02: Duty of Confidentiality; Identities of Current and Former Clients
The ethical duty of confidentiality protects all information relating to the representation of the client, whatever its source, including the identity of the client. SCR 20:1.6 prohibits the disclosure of a client’s identity unless the client gives informed consent to the disclosure, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out representation, or the disclosure falls within certain stated exceptions. Whether a client’s identity is protected by the lawyer-client privilege under Wis. Stat. § 905.03 is beyond the scope of this opinion.
487 KB EF-17-02 Client Identity FINAL.pdf
EF-17-01 File Retention OpinionWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-17-01: Retention and Destruction of Closed Client Files
There is no one answer to the central question of how long a lawyer must keep closed files before they may be destroyed. As a general rule, if the former client has not requested the file, the lawyer should, at a minimum, retain the closed files until six years have passed after the last act that could result in a claim being asserted against the lawyer. While six years is a floor, it is not a ceiling. A lawyer should carefully consider whether the file contains items that the lawyer should retain for a longer time or whether special circumstances exist such that the file should be retained for a longer time. Certain practice areas, such as estate planning, normally create those circumstances that require the lawyer to preserve closed files for a longer period of time. Before closed client files are destroyed, a lawyer must ensure that important original client property is returned and that steps are taken to preserve the confidentiality of client information. Lawyers should inform clients both of their right to the file and of the firm’s file destruction policy in the engagement agreement and in any letter terminating or completing the relationship or engagement. The lawyer should keep a record or index of files that have been destroyed for a reasonable period of time.
364 KB EF-17-01 File Retention Opinion.pdf
Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-16-03 File Return - finalWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-16-03: The Ethical Obligation of the Lawyer to Surrender the File upon Termination of the Representation
Though maintained in the lawyer's office, the client's file is the client's property and SCR 20:1.16(d) requires a lawyer to surrender the file upon termination of the representation. The lawyer must honor a request for the file from a client or successor counsel, unless the client has instructed that the file not be provided to successor counsel. When a client requests that documents be provided in an electronic format and the lawyer has maintained those documents electronically, the lawyer should provide those documents in the electronic format. A lawyer may have to convert electronic files to paper format if the client lacks the technological expertise or financial means to access digitized images, but a lawyer normally is not required to provide both a hard copy and an electronic copy of the former client’s documents.
521 KB Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-16-03 File Return - final.pdf
IE-16-01 Advertising and Solicitation in Law-Related Services Owned by LawyerWisconsin Informal Ethics Opinion IE-16-01: Advertising and Solicitation in Law-Related Services Owned by Lawyer
A Wisconsin lawyer plans to engage in estate and business planning in her law practice. She will also be a partial owner of a separate business in which she plans to engage in financial planning and counseling.

The lawyer plans to advertise that she is an estate planning attorney in written advertisements and materials for her financial planning and counseling business. She also plans to mention that she is an estate planning attorney in the financial planning presentations that she gives and when talking about her qualifications and background.

The lawyer asks to what extent her law office may accept employment from clients of her financial planning and counseling business.
396 KB IE-16-01 Advertising and Solicitation in Law-Related Services Owned by Lawyer.pdf
Revised Wisconsin Ethics Opinion E-93-4 Nonrefundable Retainers and Advanced FeesRevised Wisconsin Ethics Opinion E-93-4 Nonrefundable Retainers and Advanced Fees
Lawyers may charge clients advanced fees, which SCR 20:1.0(ag) defines as an amount paid to a lawyer in contemplation of future services. SCR 20:1.0(ag) subjects advanced fees to the requirements of SCR 20:1.5 and SCR 20:1.16(d). Lawyers may also charge availability retainers to clients. SCR 20:1.5(b)(2) requires that the purpose and effect of any retainer be communicated to the client in writing when the total cost to the client of the representation is more than $1000. SCR 20:1.0(mm) prohibits lawyers from billing against retainers for fees or costs at any time, and subjects retainers to the requirements of SCR 20:1.5 and SCR 20:1.16(d). Because both advanced fees and retainers must be earned as required by SCR 20:1.16(d), and unforeseen circumstances may prevent such fees from being earned, a lawyer may not describe such fees as “nonrefundable” in communications with clients, including fee agreements.
376 KB Revised Wisconsin Ethics Opinion E-93-4 Nonrefundable Retainers and Advanced Fees.pdf
Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-12-01 RevisedWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-12-01: The Transmission and Receipt of Electronic Documents Containing Metadata
A lawyer who transmits documents containing information relating to the representation of clients to third parties must act competently to prevent the disclosure of significant information in the form of metadata contained in such documents. A lawyer who receives an electronic document is not prohibited by the Rules from searching for metadata contained in such a document. A lawyer who chooses to review such a document for metadata and discovers information of material significance must normally assume such information was inadvertently disclosed and notify the sender. Lawyers are not compelled to routinely search electronic documents for metadata.
583 KB Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-12-01 Revised.pdf
EF-11-03 finalWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-11-03: Who is a Prospective Client; Lawyer Websites and Unilateral or Unsolicited E-mail Communications
A person who sends a unilateral and unsolicited communication has no reasonable expectation that the lawyer is willing to discuss the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship.  Consequently, the duties a lawyer owes prospective clients are not triggered by an unsolicited e-mail communication that “the lawyer receives out of the blue from a stranger in search of counsel, as long as the lawyer did not do or publish anything that would lead reasonable people to believe that they could share private information with the lawyer without first meeting [the lawyer] and establishing a lawyer-client relationship.”   To avoid creating ethical duties to a person in search of counsel, a lawyer who places advertisements or solicits email communications must take care that these advertisements or solicitations are not interpreted as the lawyer's agreement that the lawyer-client relationship is created solely by virtue of the person's response and that the person’s response is confidential.  The most common approach is the use of disclaimers. These disclaimers must have two separate and clear warnings:  that there is no lawyer-client relationship and that the e-mail communications are not confidential.  Moreover, these warnings should be short and easily understood by a layperson. Use of nonlawyer staff to screen or communicate with prospective client will not relieve a lawyer of responsibilities arising under SCR 20:1.18.
243 KB EF-11-03 final.pdf
Informal Opinion EI-11-01 Legal Information SeminarWisconsin Informal Ethics Opinion EI-11-01: Legal Information Seminars
The State Bar's Standing Committee on Professional Ethics was asked several questions regarding a proposed legal seminar in which a general discussion by a lawyer of the medical power of attorney form and the financial power of attorney form would be followed by an opportunity for participants to complete those forms with the assistance of law students. The program would be offered under the auspices of a law school student organization.  The opinion discusses four topics:  1. whether a lawyer-client relationship exists between the lawyer/presenter conducting the seminar and the attendees;  2.  whether the law students are practicing law without a license by assisting attendees in filling out the forms and serving as the notary and witness;  3. whether requiring all attendees to sign a disclaimer, acknowledging that the lawyer/presenter will provide legal information only, will prevent the unintentional formation of a lawyer-client relationship; and 4. whether the lawyer/presenter will be able to subsequently represent an audience member against another audience member in a matter related to the documents prepared at the seminar at some future date.
316 KB Informal Opinion EI-11-01 Legal Information Seminar.pdf
EF-10-03 Sig. HarmWisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-10-03: Conflicts arising from consultations with prospective clients; significantly harmful information
When a lawyer has received information from a prospective client that could be significantly harmful to the prospective client, the lawyer may not thereafter represent a client whose interests are adverse to the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter.  Information may be “significantly harmful” if it is sensitive or privileged information that the lawyer would not have received in the ordinary course of due diligence; or if it is information that has long-term significance or continuing relevance to the matter, such as motives, litigation strategies, or potential weaknesses. “Significantly harmful” may also be the premature possession of information that could have a substantial impact on settlement proposals and trial strategy; the personal thoughts and impressions about the facts of the case; or information that is extensive, critical, or of significant use.  Lawyers may avoid such conflicts by limiting the information received from prospective clients and, with appropriate waivers, seeking a prospective client’s agreement that consultations will not result in subsequent disqualification.
243 KB EF-10-03 Sig. Harm.pdf
EF-10-02Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-10-02: Ethical Responsibility of Lawyers When Referral Fees are Received
When a lawyer refers a matter to another lawyer in return for a referral fee, each lawyer assumes certain ethical responsibilities. The referring lawyer is obligated to obtain the client's informed consent to discuss the possible referral with another lawyer, must refer matters only to competent counsel, must obtain the client's signed consent in writing to the terms of the referral, must monitor the progress of the matter and must remain available to the client. These duties stem from the fact that the referring lawyer maintains a lawyer-client relationship with the client throughout the course of the matter. The receiving lawyer is obligated to cooperate with the referring lawyer in fulfilling these duties. Ethics Opinion E-00-01 is withdrawn.
34 KB EF-10-02.pdf
E-09-04Formal Opinion E-09-04: Conflicts arising from dual roles as Family Court Commissioner and Guardian ad Litem
When a lawyer has personally and substantially participated in a matter as a judge or other adjudicative officer or law clerk to such a person or as an arbitrator, mediator or other third-party neutral, the lawyer may not thereafter represent anyone in connection with the matter, and this prohibition includes acting as a GAL in the same matter.
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E-09-03Formal Opinion E-09-03: Communications Concerning Attorneys Fees and Expenses - Revised April 17, 2020
This opinion discusses the parts SCR 20:1.5 which set forth a lawyer’s obligations in communicating with a client concerning fees and expenses.  The Rule sets forth the information that must be communicated to a client with respect to a lawyer’s fees and describes the circumstances in which information may be conveyed orally or must be conveyed in writing or in a writing signed by the client.  Other rules, such as SCR 20:1.0 and SCR 20:1.2, which contain important definitions, are relevant and will be discussed herein.
724 KB E-09-03.pdf
E-09-02Formal Opinion E-09-02: Obligations of a Prosecutor Dealing with Unrepresented Persons
This opinion discusses a prosecutor’s responsibilities under Wisconsin’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys (the “Rules”) when contacting unrepresented persons. The first step in analyzing a prosecutor’s obligations under the Rules is defining what is meant by the term “prosecutor.” The former version of the Rules contained no definition of the term and, traditionally, the term “prosecutor” was assumed to refer to a government attorney handling a criminal case.
39 KB E-09-02.pdf
E-09-01Formal Opinion E-09-01: Lawyer's responsibilities when a client gives a third party a "lien" on settlement proceeds.
When a lawyer holds in trust funds in which the client and a third party assert an interest identified by lien, court order, judgment or contract, and a dispute arises over ownership or division of those funds, the lawyer must hold those funds in trust until the dispute is resolved.
459 KB E-09-01.pdf
E-07-01Formal Opinion E-07-01: Contact with Current and Former Constituents of a Represented Organization
This Opinion discusses the extent to which SCR 20:4.2 prohibits contact with current and former constituents of an organization when the organization is represented with respect to a matter. The Opinion also discusses the obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct of lawyers seeking to contact constituents of represented organizations and the obligations of lawyers representing organizations.
100 KB E-07-01.pdf
E-00-04Formal Opinion E-00-04: Fee to Lawyer for Recommending Service Providers
Professional Ethics Opinion E-00-04 considers whether lawyers may accept fees for recommending service providers to their clients.
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E-00-02Formal Opinion E-00-02: Sharing Office Space with Unrelated Entities
Professional ethics opinion E-00-02 considers lawyers sharing office space, support staff, and equipment with unrelated entities.
30 KB E-00-02.pdf
E-99-2Formal Opinion E-99-2: Multiple Representation in Vehicle Personal Injury Cases
Multiple representation in vehicular accident cases is not per se prohibited, but attorneys should consider the factors discussed in professional ethics opinion E-99-2 when undertaking such action.
131 KB E-99-2.pdf
E-99-1Formal Opinion E-99-1: Ethical Risks Inherent in Representing Both Insurers and Insureds
Professional ethics opinion E-99-1 considers outside auditors review of attorneys bills for services and restrictive guidelines by an insurer on providing a legal defense to an insured.
32 KB E-99-1.pdf
E-97-2Formal Opinion E-97-2: Obligations of a lawyer and a law firm when a lawyer terminates association with a law firm
What are the obligations of a lawyer and a law firm (either a partnership or a corporation) when a lawyer who has been responsible for client matters decides to leave the firm prior to the completion of work on such matters?
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E-96-4Formal Opinion E-96-4: Use of temporary attorneys in Wisconsin
Under what circumstances may a law firm use temporary or contract attorneys in Wisconsin?
56 KB E-96-4.pdf
E-96-3Formal Opinion E-96-3: Prosecutors’ communications with represented persons through personnel of other governmental agencies
An attorney represents a husband and wife with regard to a CHIPS petition filed regarding their child. The District Attorney’s Office represents the state. The attorney representing the parents files a Notice of Retainer with the DA's Office and the court that specifically demands advance notice of any intended contacts the state, the county or any of its agents wish to have with the parents regarding the pending matter. Ignoring that, workers from the County Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) have repeated contacts with the parents without the knowledge of the parents' attorney.
10 KB E-96-3.pdf
E-96-2Formal Opinion E-96-2: Attorney's responsibilities when client cannot be located
We represent a personal injury plaintiff whom we are unable to contact. We have pursued numerous leads in an effort to learn our client's whereabouts to contact him, all of which have proven unsuccessful. What are our responsibilities under these circumstances?
7 KB E-96-2.pdf
E-96-1Formal Opinion E-96-1: Posting of bail by attorneys
Is it a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to post bail in the form of a check or cash for someone who has been arrested?
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E-95-5Formal Opinion E-95-5: Formation of attorney-client relationship
Assume that an attorney works as a volunteer counsel for an organization that provides information about landlord-tenant law. If the attorney advises a caller that he or she is an attorney, is a lawyer-client relationship formed? Is the attorney-volunteer precluded from answering questions from both the landlord and tenant relating to the same matter?
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E-95-4Formal Opinion E-95-4: Lawyer self-help in enforcing fee agreement with clients
Assuming that a lawyer and client have entered a fee agreement that complies with SCR 20:1.5 and that the client has failed to remain current in payments of the lawyer's fee, may the lawyer use the following self-help remedies to collect the fee: 1) continue the representation but withhold some or all services (e.g., postpone a final hearing on a divorce) until satisfactory payment arrangements are made; 2) withdraw from representation; and 3) if the lawyer withdraws, retain the client's file until satisfactory payment arrangements are made?
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E-95-3Formal Opinion E-95-3: Paralegal attending real estate closing
Is it permissible for a paralegal employed by a law firm to attend a real estate closing on behalf of a client if: 1) a lawyer with the firm previously has reviewed the closing documents; 2) the paralegal will not provide any legal advice or legal opinion at the closing; 3) the client will not otherwise be represented at the closing; and 4) the client consents to the arrangement?
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E-95-2Formal Opinion E-95-2: In-house counsel providing legal services to third parties
May in-house counsel provide legal services, at the direction of the employer, to persons other than the employer, while still being compensated by the employer?
10 KB E-95-2.pdf
E-95-1Formal Opinion E-95-1: Communicating with government agency represented by counsel
Is a lawyer for a private person who is involved in a noncriminal matter involving a governmental entity precluded from making direct contact with government officials or employees about the matter, when the lawyer knows that the governmental entity is represented by counsel in the matter?
8 KB E-95-1.pdf
E-94-6Formal Opinion E-94-6: Use of financial planners and registered investment advisors in estate planning law practice
May a lawyer who practices estate planning establish an arrangement whereby nonlawyer financial planners and registered investment advisors are hired as independent contractors and paid an hourly fee by the lawyer to provide potential clients with a free consultation at which data is gathered for the lawyer's review for estate planning purposes? The lawyer then would consult with the client and provide estate planning services, as appropriate. In addition, the nonlawyer independent contractors may be retained to provide appropriate assistance in preparing necessary documents and transferring assets to accomplish the estate planning objectives approved by the client.
6 KB E-94-6.pdf
E-94-5Formal Opinion E-94-5: Recording telephone calls without disclosure or consent
May an attorney record statements made over the telephone without disclosing to persons concerned that their statements are being recorded and without securing consent to do so?
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E-94-4Formal Opinion E-94-4: Seminars and client development
May an attorney agree to represent a person who decides to retain the attorney as a result of attending the attorney's presentation at a seminar or other educational or client-development program?
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E-94-3Formal Opinion E-94-3: Law firm open house
May lawyers establishing a new office in an office-sharing arrangement hold an open house to which business owners in the neighboring community receive written invitations?
10 KB E-94-3.pdf
E-94-2Formal Opinion E-94-2: Adjustments in fee to compensate referring attorney
If an attorney increases his or her hourly fee for cases that are referred by another attorney, with the differential increase in the receiving attorney's fee being paid to the referring attorney as a referral fee, must the client be advised of the increase in the fee? Does the answer differ if the increased fee of the receiving attorney is the same as the regular hourly fee that would have been charged by the referring attorney?
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E-94-1Formal Opinion E-94-1: Duty to advise court of adverse authority
When does a lawyer's duty to inform the court of adverse authority from the controlling jurisdiction terminate?
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E-93-6Formal Opinion E-93-6: Retaining financial planner to assist in estate planning
Is it permissible for lawyers who provide estate planning services to their clients to retain the services of a financial planner, with the client's knowledge and consent and at a reasonable fee, to perform the following services: ...
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E-93-3Formal Opinion E-93-3: Prosecutor contact with criminal defendant before first court appearance
Can a prosecutor ethically discuss an unrepresented criminal defendant's case with the defendant after a formal criminal prosecution has been commenced by the filing and service of a criminal summons and complaint, but before the first court appearance?
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E-93-2Formal Opinion E-93-2: Filing suit in the wrong venue
May a lawyer knowingly commence a small claims action in a venue that has no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person?
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E-93-1Formal Opinion E-93-1: Of counsel designation: Withdrawal of E-86-10 and E-86-4 and memo opinions 4/78 A and 6/77 D
Under what circumstances may lawyers and law firms use the designation "of counsel"?
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E-92-5Formal Opinion E-92-5: Corporation counsel representation in child support cases
Notwithstanding the section 767.075(2)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes disclaimer of an attorney-client relationship by a corporation counsel with any person except the state in child support enforcement actions, what are a corporation counsel's professional responsibilities to parties other than the state?
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E-92-4Formal Opinion E-92-4: Referral of personal injury clients to health-care providers
May an attorney practicing personal injury law, who sends direct mail advertising in the form of a personalized letter to individuals involved in automobile accidents, also indicate in the direct letter advertising that the attorney can suggest various health-care providers or other sources of medical care if the injured party does not have a treating physician?
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E-92-3Formal Opinion E-92-3: A contingent fee contract as collateral for a personal loan to a lawyer
Assume Attorney A, a sole practitioner, and an individual, Client B, execute a valid personal injury written contingency agreement under SCR 20:1.5(c). Assume further that the written agreement provides for an attorney’s lien consistent with SCR 20:1.8(j)(1) and (2). Disregarding the value of the contingency case or the contingent fee, may Attorney A ethically offer, tender or negotiate the attorney's lien in Client B's case as collateral, assignment or guarantee for a personal loan that Attorney A seeks for himself? Would the answer differ if the proposed lender was a sophisticated commercial lending institution or another party who has no experience as a lender?
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E-92-2Formal Opinion E-92-2: Marketing living trust plans: Lawyer participation
You have requested the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics regarding a number of questions concerning lawyer participation in the marketing of living trust plans. We have redrafted your request, for clarity of response, as follows.
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E-92-1Formal Opinion E-92-1: Conflicts, representation of plaintiff and subrogated insurance carrier
In pursuing a personal injury case for a plaintiff, an attorney is asked by the plaintiff's medical and hospitalization insurance carrier also to pursue a subrogation claim against the responsible tortfeasor. There are both liability and contributory negligence issues. Initial review indicates that adequate insurance coverage for the other party is not a problem. Under what circumstances, if any, may the attorney represent both the plaintiff and the subrogated insurance carrier without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct?
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E-91-6Formal Opinion E-91-6: Unauthorized communication with opposing party who is represented by counsel
1) May a lawyer licensed to practice in Wisconsin, who is employed by a federal, state or local government entity, ethically communicate about the subject of the representation with a party, in a civil or criminal matter, that the government lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in that matter, without the consent or knowledge of the other lawyer?  2) May a government lawyer licensed to practice in Wisconsin ethically rely on a directive from his or her superior that unilaterally exempts him or her from the provisions of SCR 20:4.2?
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E-91-3Formal Opinion E-91-3: State Public Defender Office workload
Assuming that a supervising attorney in the Public Defender's Office increases the workload of a staff attorney in excess of caseload standards approved by the State Bar Board of Governors, or some other nongovernmental body, and the staff lawyer declines new matters, may the supervising attorney ethically sanction the lawyer either by terminating the lawyer's employment, withholding compensation or changing the lawyer's responsibilities by transfer?
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E-90-7Formal Opinion E-90-7: Living trust sales organizations, related representation
Various organizations engage in selling estate planning products, particularly living trust documents drafted by lawyers not licensed in Wisconsin. Some of these organizations solicit Wisconsin lawyers to work with them in reviewing their standard form documentation (for example, revocable living trusts) and in drafting other documentation (for example, a deed) that may be related to the estate planning.
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E-90-6Formal Opinion E-90-6: Conflicts, Office of State Public Defender
May assistant SPD attorneys ethically represent co-defendants whose interests are in conflict if one attorney is a member of the regular trial division and the other attorney is a member of the special-conflicts office, as described above?
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E-90-4Formal Opinion E-90-4: Interest charges on delinquent accounts - Revised April 17, 2020
May a lawyer or law firm include in its fee agreements or engagement letters the following: ‘‘Our invoices for services and advanced costs are due and payable within 30 days from the invoice date. Failure to pay those charges within that time will result in an interest charge of 1 percent on the unpaid balance per month thereafter.’’ All billing statements would include similar language.
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E-90-3Formal Opinion E-90-3: Disclosure of client identity to IRS
Should a lawyer disclose to the Internal Revenue Service, as required by 26 U.S.C. section 6050I, Form 8300, information revealing the identity of a client who pays a cash fee in excess of $10,000?
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E-90-2Formal Opinion E-90-2: Lawyer advertising: Advertising licensed status in another profession or a presently held public office or position
1. May a lawyer advertise the fact that the lawyer holds a public office or position? 2. May a lawyer advertise the fact that the lawyer also is licensed in another profession or occupation?
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E-90-1Formal Opinion E-90-1: Law firm names: Independent lawyers
How may independent lawyers or law firms hold themselves out to the public as being associated on an ongoing basis in the practice of law?
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E-89-9Formal Opinion E-89-9: Disclosures of client confidences: Preventing injury to another’s financial or property interest
Must a lawyer reveal client confidences to prevent a client act when the lawyer entertains a reasonable doubt regarding either or both: (1) the criminal or fraudulent status of the act; or (2) the likelihood of resulting substantial injury to the financial or property interest of another? SCR 20:1.6(b).
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E-89-8Formal Opinion E-89-8: House counsel professional conduct guidelines
What professional conduct guidelines would the Professional Ethics Committee suggest for full-time house counsel under the following circumstances: ...
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E-89-7Formal Opinion E-89-7: Lawyer/city council member disqualification of lawyer and law firm in matters relating to the municipality
May a lawyer who is a member of a city council represent clients before the city council or before any of the city's boards, commissions or other subunits? May the lawyer's partners or associates provide such representation?
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E-89-6Formal Opinion E-89-6: Lawyer advertising through "Welcome Wagon"
May lawyers use the services of local chapters of Welcome Wagon International Inc. in advertising their law practices?
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E-89-4Formal Opinion E-89-4: Prior joint representation of spouses and subsequent representation of one spouse in divorce action
Partner A in law firm A, B, & C has represented a husband and wife in various different legal matters over the course of the last 15 years or more pertaining to several different matters, to wit: ...
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E-89-3Formal Opinion E-89-3: Lawyer spouses and imputed disqualification
[A] husband and wife are lawyers. One has been elected district attorney. The other practices with a law firm in the same county that represents criminal defendants. What ethical restrictions are imposed on the spouses and the law firm when the law firm and district attorney's office are opposing counsel in particular matters?
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E-89-2Formal Opinion E-89-2: Contingent fee agreements for appeal of divorce judgments
Is it ethical for a lawyer to accept an appeal in a divorce case on a contingent fee basis?
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E-89-17Formal Opinion E-89-17: Compensation of unemployed or retired nonexpert witnesses for testifying
Under circumstances in which a retired or unemployed nonexpert witness must spend a substantial, but reasonable and necessary, amount of time in preparation, travel and/or testifying, may a lawyer compensate the witness for his or her time at a rate that would approximate the hourly wage that the witness would be earning if he or she had not been unemployed or retired?
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E-89-15Formal Opinion E-89-15: City attorneys, combining advisor and prosecutor roles: Clarification of E-83-12 and E-87-1
1. May a city attorney who acts as advisor for the majority of city committee and common council business act as an advocate for the city before a committee or the council on matters for which the committee or council has independent counsel? 2. If the answer to Question 1 is yes, may the city attorney also act as advisor to the committee in question or the council on unrelated agenda items at the same meeting?
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E-89-14Formal Opinion E-89-14: Guardian ad litems: Communciations with and by GALs and communications by other counsel with the ward
1. May a lawyer for a party or witness in a proceeding communicate with a guardian ad litem in the proceeding without the knowledge or consent of the other counsel involved in the proceeding? 2. May a lawyer for a party or a witness in a proceeding communicate with a guardian ad litem’s ward without the knowledge or consent of the guardian ad litem? 3. May a guardian ad litem communicate with a represented person in a proceeding without the knowledge or consent of that person’s attorney?
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E-89-13Formal Opinion E-89-13: Conflicts: Dual role as guardian ad litem and attorney
Does an inherent conflict of interest exist for an attorney simultaneously acting as attorney of record and as guardian ad litem?
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E-89-12Formal Opinion E-89-12: Reporting professional misconduct of opposing counsel
Must a lawyer report a violation of the rules of professional conduct of opposing counsel, that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, to the appropriate disciplinary agency if reporting the information would prejudice the interests of the lawyer's client in the representation in question?
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E-89-11Formal Opinion E-89-11: Confidences of a deceased client
To what extent may a lawyer reveal information relating to the representation of a deceased client to prevent unjust harm to a third person?
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E-89-10Formal Opinion E-89-10: Conflicts: Representing majority and minority investors in new business formation
Under what circumstances may a lawyer represent both majority and minority investors in the formation of a business partnership or corporation? And, may a lawyer continue representing only one or some of the common clients if the common representation must be terminated?
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E-89-1Formal Opinion E-89-1: (Withdrawn in part by E-94-4) Educational activities designed to educate public about legal matters: Acceptance of employment resulting therefrom
(Withdrawn in part by E-94-4) 1. May a lawyer accept clients who decide to contact the lawyer as a result of the lawyer's authorship of a book, and audiotape or videotape? 2. May a lawyer self-sponsor an educational seminar open to a targeted or general audience or participate in an educational seminar sponsored or conducted by an organization not enumerated under SCR 20:7.3(c)(2) or (3), and may the lawyer provide representation requested by persons attending either type of seminar?
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E-88-9Formal Opinion E-88-9: Compensation of nonexpert witnesses for testifying
What limitations are placed on lawyers' compensation of nonexpert witnesses?
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E-88-8Formal Opinion E-88-8: Fee sharing with Lawyer Referral Service by participating lawyers
Do the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys (SCR Chapter 20) permit lawyers registered with a bar association's lawyer referral service to contribute toward the expense of operating the service by remitting to it an agreed upon percentage of attorney's fees collected?
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E-88-7Formal Opinion E-88-7: Family law practice by lawyer with social worker spouse
May an attorney or the attorney's law firm represent a party to a divorce action as counsel for petitioner, respondent or guardian ad litem for the children in such a divorce action when the attorney's spouse is the sole social worker in the county responsible for custody studies and domestic abuse studies?
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E-88-6Formal Opinion E-88-6: Lawyer as witness on behalf of client
Must an attorney representing a client withdraw from his or her representation of a client in a dispute with a third person involving circumstances that likely would require the attorney, at some stage of litigation, to give testimony from his or her personal knowledge on behalf of the client, which testimony would not be adverse to the client's interest but would be adverse to and challenged by the third person?
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E-88-5Formal Opinion E-88-5: Client trust funds and property
Four questions and answers on client trust funds and property.
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E-88-4Formal Opinion E-88-4: Representation in private adoption proceedings
An attorney handles adoptions as a part of the attorney's practice. The attorney has had numerous prospective clients contact him or her regarding their desire to adopt. The clients do not have any particular child to adopt at this time. The clients have asked to have the attorney help them find a child for adoption.
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E-88-3Formal Opinion E-88-3: Nonincumbent judicial candidates’ compliance with rules of judicial conduct
May a nonincumbent candidate for judicial office retain his or her membership and office(s) in a political party during the campaign?
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E-88-2Formal Opinion E-88-2: Successive private practice and government employment and related lawyers
Lawyer X practices law with his uncle, Y, and his uncle's son-in-law, Z. The share office space, letterhead and secretarial staff, consult with one another and refer cases among themselves. But they do not share income and they are not employees of one another.
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E-88-12Formal Opinion E-88-12: Simultaneous representation of corporation and corporate officer
May the lawyer continue representing the respondent in the divorce action and the corporation in its two lawsuits?
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E-88-11Formal Opinion E-88-11: Client confidences: Attorney reporting abuse of client’s children
Under what circumstances must a lawyer report information relating to the abuse of a client's child to appropriate authorities?
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E-88-10Formal Opinion E-88-10: Client fraud and lawyer disclosure duties in real estate transaction
A lawyer represents a seller in a commercial real estate transaction. Shortly before the closing, the lawyer learns from his or her client that hazardous wastes are buried beneath the surface of the land being sold. The existence of such hazardous materials has not been disclosed to the purchaser.
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E-88-1Formal Opinion E-88-1: Law degrees indicated on accounting firm member’s business card
May a lawyer licensed to practice law in Wisconsin who is employed full-time in Wisconsin by an accounting firm indicate on his or her business card that he or she has J.D. and LL.M. degrees?
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E-87-9Formal Opinion E-87-9: Responsibilities of employee/associate lawyer upon death of employer/solo practitioner
Assuming that a lawyer remains as an associate working as an employee for a solo practitioner and the solo practitioner dies prior to retirement, what are the associate's duties and obligations to clients with matters pending in the solo practitioner's office? For example, what if the personal representative of the estate of the solo practitioner refused to compensate the lawyer for any future services, significantly reduced the compensation or discharged the associate? What duties would the lawyer owe his or her clients at that point? And, assuming the lawyer does owe a duty to them, how should it be discharged?
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E-87-8Formal Opinion E-87-8: Communications by district attorney with represented criminal defendants and previously represented delinquent child support payors
Do the disciplinary standards of conduct for lawyers preclude a district attorney from: 1. Mailing or serving copies by other legal means of the state's motions, discovery demands and other formal notices to a defendant in a criminal case who is represented by counsel, where defense counsel is provided with a full and complete copy of all pleadings that are served or mailed to the defendant and the original copies of all pleadings are filed with the court having jurisdiction to hear the criminal case? 2. Sending correspondence in a delinquent child support case when: a. Unrepresented delinquent payor has been represented by counsel at an earlier stage of the proceeding which has been concluded? or b. Unrepresented delinquent payor has other matters pending with the district attorney's office that are unrelated to nonpayment of child support but in which the party is represented by counsel of record?
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E-87-7Formal Opinion E-87-7: For-profit lawyer referral services
Under what circumstances may a lawyer accept referrals from a lawyer referral service that is organized as a profit-making venture and to which the lawyer has paid a fee or given anything of value?
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E-87-4Formal Opinion E-87-4: Conflicts and disqualification: Law firm represented by opposing counsel in unrelated matter
Attorney A and his law firm. ABC, S.C., a service corporation, has been sued by attorney A’s former client for legal malpractice. ABC’s insurance carrier retained attorney X of the law firm, XY & Z, to represent attorney A and his firm. Attorney X and his firm practice law in the same county as the ABC firm. Attorney X and his law firm are regularly involved in separate legal matters with the ABC firm and their respective sides of civil litigation representing respective clients in those matters as well as opposite sides of municipal corporate matters, divorce and the like.
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E-87-3Formal Opinion E-87-3: Disqualification: Former house counsel’s representation of clients against former corporate employer
May a former house counsel for a corporate employer represent clients against his or her former corporate employer/client in matters not pending prior to or at the time of his or her termination of employment?
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E-87-2Formal Opinion E-87-2: Opposing expert's communications with represented party
SCR 20.04(2) prohibits circumvention of a disciplinary rule through the actions of another person. SCR 20.38(a) prohibits communicating or causing another to communicate on the subject of the representation with a represented party.
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E-87-12Formal Opinion E-87-12: Guardian ad litem subsequently acting as prosecutor in matter relating to same child
May an attorney who once acted as guardian ad litem for a child in protective services proceedings subsequently act as prosecutor in a termination of parental rights proceeding involving the same child?
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E-87-11Formal Opinion E-87-11: Settlements: Attorneys as parties to as guarantors against lien claims
Do any standards of professional conduct preclude attorneys from proposing, demanding and/or entering into settlement agreements that include indemnification and hold harmless provisions binding an attorney to personally satisfy any unknown lien claims against the settlement funds or property?
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E-87-10Formal Opinion E-87-10: Reimbursement for costs and expenses in worker’s compensation proceedings
May a lawyer ethically seek to recover unreimbursed costs directly from a worker's compensation claimant-client outside of the worker's compensation proceedings?
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E-86-9Formal Opinion E-86-9: Retainers and advanced fees and costs: Trust accounts and ethical responsibility
What are a lawyer's ethical responsibilities when requesting and receiving: 1. A flat fee retainer? 2. An advance toward fees, costs and expenses to be determined and services to be performed?
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E-86-7Formal Opinion E-86-7: Duties of public prosecutors with knowledge of witnesses helpful to defendants
A public prosecutor is prosecuting a defendant for a crime. During the course of the prosecution, the prosecutor becomes aware of a witness who may be helpful to the defendant. The witness contacts the prosecutor and asks if he or she should talk to the defendant's lawyer or investigator.
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E-86-5Formal Opinion E-86-5: Conflict of interest: Family law practice by spouse of a full-time family court commissioner
A husband and wife have engaged in the practice of law as a partnership. Recently one of the spouses accepted the position of full-time family court commissioner (FCC) in the county in which the couple's law office is located. The husband-wife team will dissolve the law partnership, and the remaining spouse will continue in private practice in this county as a sole practitioner.
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E-86-3Formal Opinion E-86-3: Attorney/real estate broker: Fees and commissions, dual practice and conflicts of interest
Under what circumstances, if any, may a lawyer who also is licensed as a real estate broker ethically: 1. Accept compensation from a realtor for the lawyer’s referral of a current client to the realtor whether or not sale of the real estate in question relates to the current representation (e.g., in a divorce action); and 2. Perform and be paid for both the brokerage and legal services for a client in, for example, a divorce or probate matter?
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E-86-19Formal Opinion E-86-19: Court reporter: Full-time employee of law firm
Do any professional ethics rules or considerations preclude or restrict the proposed employment and utilization of a court reporter?
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E-86-17Formal Opinion E-86-17: Disqualification of prosecutor when sued by defendant
Is it necessary for the prosecutor to seek or recommend appointment of a special prosecutor to eliminate a possible appeal of sentence based on allegations or prosecutorial vindictiveness if the defendant is convicted?
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E-86-16Formal Opinion E-86-16: Lawyer serving as a board member of an insurer and insurance fund while lawyer or lawyer’s firm represents persons against insurer and fund: Conflict of interest
May a lawyer's law firm or any partner, shareholder or associate thereof  represent interests adverse to an insurance company and insurance fund for which the lawyer serves as a member of the boards of directors?
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E-86-14Formal Opinion E-86-14: Conflict of interest: City attorney’s prosecution of city employee for an ordinance violation
Is it ethically permissible for a small city attorney's office to prosecute a city employee for an ordinance violation if that city employee, both in the past and in the future, investigates, enforces and testifies on behalf of the city in various ordinance enforcement actions (actions unrelated to the employee's offense)?
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E-86-13Formal Opinion E-86-13: Lay employee: Multiple part-time employment with different governmental offices
An office of the district attorney will be hiring a part-time non-lawyer in the very near future. The County Board is also considering hiring that very same person to fill part-time duties in the Register in Probate's office. The register in probate is appointed and retained at the pleasure of the circuit judge. The register in probate's office is responsible for answering phone calls for the circuit judge when he/she and his/her reporter are on the bench. Additionally, the circuit judge has indicated that he/she may sometimes utilize the part-time employee for various unspecified tasks.
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E-86-12Formal Opinion E-86-12: Lawyer holding legislative office representing persons in proceedings in which employees of the same governmental unit testify
May a lawyer-county board member or state legislator represent persons in Chapter 48 (Children's Code) and Chapter 49 (Public Assistance) proceedings in which employees of the same governmental unit testify?
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E-86-11Formal Opinion E-86-11: IV-D directors' representation of custodial parents in post-divorce support proceedings: Conflicts and disqualification
An attorney serves as the IV-D (Child Support Agency) director for a county. Federal law apparently requires IV-D directors to represent the custodial parent in proceedings relating to post-divorce support issues, regardless of the custodial parent's financial status. Whereas such attorneys represented the interests of the state and county prior to enactment of this federal law, they now, apparently, directly represent the custodial parent’s interests.
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E-86-1Formal Opinion E-86-1: Conflict of interest: Assistant district attorney’s spouse a sheriff’s deputy
If an assistant district attorney's spouse is a deputy sheriff in the same county, do the standards of conduct applicable to attorneys require the assistant district attorney to treat cases investigated by the spouse different than those investigated by other law enforcement personnel?
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E-85-9Formal Opinion E-85-9: Representation adverse to former client: Firm representing lending institution in foreclosure action against former client for whom firm rendered title opinion
It is permissible for a lawyer to represent a lending institution in a foreclosure action against a former client for whom the lawyer was retained to render a title opinion on the subject premises?
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E-85-8Formal Opinion E-85-8: Representation adverse to former client
In 1982, a partner in law firm Z defended a former farm implement dealership against the grantor of the dealership in a collection action that was brought after termination of the dealership. As a result of the representation, the partner became familiar with the workings of the dealer's business record keeping methods. The case was settled in 1982, and law firm Z has not represented the dealer since then. Currently, the dealership is attempting to collect the remainder of a bill plus interest for the sale and installation of a milking system to X. X's defense are: (1) the bill is not owed because the work was not completed as originally agreed; and (2) the system was either defective or improperly installed causing a stray voltage problem that resulted in damage to X.
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E-85-7Formal Opinion E-85-7: Partner representing partner in litigation
An attorney, who is a partner in X law firm, is a defendant in a lawsuit brought against the attorney and his wife. The lawsuit involves the private and personal interests of the attorney and is unrelated to the attorney's professional interests. It is expected that the attorney will be a material witness on his own behalf in the lawsuit if it should come to court. May another partner in X law firm represent the attorney and his wife in the lawsuit?
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E-85-6Formal Opinion E-85-6: Listing legal assistants on attorney letterhead
May an attorney list his or her legal assistants on the attorney's law firm letterhead?
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E-85-5Formal Opinion E-85-5: Law and title insurance practice
A group of attorneys who are the shareholders of a service corporation engaged in the practice of law also serve as the shareholders of a title insurance and abstract company. The law office and the title insurance and abstract company are located in the same building.
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E-85-4Formal Opinion E-85-4: Conflict of interest: Defendant law firm represents plaintiff in foreclosure action
A lawyer commences a mortgage foreclosure action for the first mortgage holder on a certain property. The complaint requests a deficiency judgment in the event that the sheriff's sale proceeds are insufficient to cover the total amount owed to the plaintiff mortgagees. The lawyer's law office has a second subordinate mortgage on the same property covered by the first mortgage. The lawyer lists his or her firm as a defendant and intends as second mortgage lienholders to assert a claim against any surplus proceeds that may arise from a sheriff's sale of the property.
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E-85-3Formal Opinion E-85-3: Conflict of interest: Multiple representation of clients in medical malpractice actions
A physician and a hospital are insured by the same primary carrier when a lawsuit against both is instituted. One lawyer appears on behalf of both defendants, and also accepts retention for the Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund. (1) May a lawyer retained in such a situation represent both primary defendants? (2) Assuming in the situation above that damages shall exceed the coverage of the primary carrier, would the lawyer's attempts to exculpate a defendant conflict with the lawyer’s obligations to minimize the exposure of the fund?
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E-85-2Formal Opinion E-85-2: Conflict of interest: Lawyer representing criminal defendants when lawyer’s spouse is county sheriff
Is it permissible for a lawyer to represent criminal defendants when the lawyer's spouse is the sheriff in the county where the lawyer practices?
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E-85-13Formal Opinion E-85-13: Attorneys' fees in divorce actions: Fee collection practices and agreements
1. Is it ethically permissible to make arrangements with a potential divorce client that states that the attorney will not file the final papers until payment is received for services? 2. If the answer to (1) is "no" or not an unequivocal "yes" what ethical alternatives for getting paid, short of suing your client, are available?
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E-85-12Formal Opinion E-85-12: Limiting liability to a client and requesting a client arbitrate malpractice claims
A lawyer represented a client in an action. Two years ago the client received a judgment. Subsequently, the law office has handled other legal work for the client unrelated to the initial action. Recently, the client has expressed dissatisfaction with the law office on grounds unrelated to the original action and has requested the file.
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E-85-10Formal Opinion E-85-10: Confidences and secrets of a client
Is the information concerning the allegations and charges against the client information which the lawyer is required to keep confidential?
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E-85-1Formal Opinion E-85-1: Practice by associates of part-time municipal judge
If a member of a law firm has been elected to a part-time municipal judge position whose jurisdiction is limited to hearing municipal ordinance violation cases, (1) may members of his or her firm represent clients in matters involving the town where the municipal judge is employed, and (2) may members of the firm appear in the municipal court of the town where the part-time municipal judge is employed?
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E-84-9Formal Opinion E-84-9: Conflict of interest: Assistant attorney general owning stock in Wisconsin company
Assistant Attorney General A is a majority shareholder in a Wisconsin construction company that submits bids for state construction work. Although the State Department of Administration handles most of the legal work relating to the contracting process, Department of Justice lawyers routinely review the final contract documents. If litigation arises with regard to such construction contracts, normally an assistant attorney general represents the state in the matter. A's areas of assignment in the Department of Justice does not relate "in any respect to the securing, letting or review of construction contracts." Is it proper for Assistant Attorney General A to (1) be involved with the construction company, and would it (2) be proper for the Department of Justice to provide legal advise and represent state agencies in matters where A's company may be involved?
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E-84-8Formal Opinion E-84-8: Disclosures of information to investigative body
When summonsed or subpoenaed by the Internal Revenue Service, a grand jury or another investigative body, is it proper for a lawyer to reveal the name of a client, the amount of money paid to the lawyer by that client, the purpose of the payment, and other financial transaction information relevant to the client?
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E-84-6Formal Opinion E-84-6: Attorney paying expenses
May an attorney in connection with his or her representation of a client incur expenses such as postage, long-distance telephone calls and the attorney's travel expenses?
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E-84-4Formal Opinion E-84-4: Division of legal fees with layperson
A lawyer handles worker's compensation cases with the aid of a layperson authorized under Wis. Stat. sec. 102.17 (1)(c) (1981-82) to appear before the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR) hearing examiners in such cases. The lay practitioner acts independent of and is not an employee of the lawyer. Both the lay practitioner and the lawyer are named on retainer agreements with clients so clients understand that they are employing both parties. Either party may perform any of the work involved in any particular case, including drafting and filing documents, attending pre-hearings, hearings and appeals. Fees charged clients would be within DILHR and statutory limits. DILHR determines fees awarded in worker's compensation cases and generally does not apportion fees. Assuming DILHR attorney's fees are awarded to the lawyer, is it ethically proper for the lawyer to divide those fees with the lay practitioner?
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E-84-21Formal Opinion E-84-21: Lawyer practicing in interdisciplinary organization
A lawyer is considering becoming involved in an organization "to provide the public with an interdisciplinary approach to financial planning." The organization would be composed of a lawyer, an accountant, a licensed securities broker and two life insurance agents and intends to offer itself to the public as a planning organization that works strictly on a "fee as a percentage of income basis."
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E-84-20Formal Opinion E-84-20: Conflict of interest: Appearance before Family Court Commissioner by associate’s spouse
A family court commissioner maintains a private law practice. An associate of the family court commissioner plans to marry a lawyer member of Law Firm X located in the county where the family court commissioner practices. May members of Law Firm X appear before the family court commissioner once the associate marries a member of Firm X?
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E-84-2Formal Opinion E-84-2: Request for extension to answer
In an action commenced by an attorney, only one of three defendants answered within the prescribed time period. The two defendants did not retain counsel until the day after the expiration of that period. The opposing counsel requested an extension of the period, but the attorney expressed concern that to grant an extension would not be in the best interest of his/her client. Would it be proper to grant an extension?
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E-84-19Formal Opinion E-84-19: Conflict of interest: Representing insurance company and insured defendant
May a lawyer retained by an insurance carrier simultaneously represent the insurance carrier and an insured defendant in a cause of action for bodily injuries sustained in an automobile accident where a claim for punitive damages is asserted?
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E-84-18Formal Opinion E-84-18: Village attorney's partner serving on zoning board of appeals
Lawyer A is the village attorney for the Village of ___. A's duties as village attorney include advising the village's board, planning commission, standing committees and zoning board of appeals. In light of A's role as village attorney, may A's law partner serve on the village’s zoning board of appeals?
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E-84-17Formal Opinion E-84-17: Payment for referrals from insurance company subsidiary
An insurance company is creating a subsidiary which will act as a resource center and referral agency for the company's independence agencies. The subsidiary wishes to have available a law firm to accept referrals concerning certain legal problems. The subsidiary proposes to charge a fee for such referrals equalling 2 percent of the fees generated by the law firm handling the referred case. Rather than being a referral commission or finder's fee, the fee charged is intended to cover costs involved in operating the subsidiary. Would it be proper to pay a fee for such referrals?
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E-84-16Formal Opinion E-84-16: District attorney serving on community board of directors
May a county assistant district attorney serve as a member of a Chapter 51 (State Mental Health Act) community board of directors while simultaneously regularly representing the interests of the public in Mental Health Act commitment proceedings as directed by Wis. Stat. sec. 51.20(4) (1981-82)?
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E-84-15Formal Opinion E-84-15: Propriety of prosecutor communicating with complainant when complainant is represented by a lawyer
When a lawyer represents a complainant in a criminal matter and requests the prosecutor's office to respond with regard to its handling or review of the matter, may the prosecutor's office when responding to the lawyer, forward a copy of that response to the client/complainant without violating Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 20.38(1)?
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E-84-14Formal Opinion E-84-14: Lawyer calling shareholder or employee as expert witness in divorce proceeding
Formal Opinion E-83-23, Wis. Bar Bull., June 1984, at 87 stated that it is improper for a lawyer to call a partner as an expert witness in a divorce case. Does Formal Opinion E-83-23 also apply to shareholders of a professional corporation, employee lawyers of a professional corporation and non-lawyer employees (e.g., accountants) of either a partnership or professional corporation?
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E-84-13Formal Opinion E-84-13: Direct mail advertising
May a law firm send a letter describing the firm's "specialties," specific areas of practice and general information about the firm to union members in a specific geographic area?
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E-84-12Formal Opinion E-84-12: Corporate counsel serving on board of directors
May a lawyer serve simultaneously on the board of directors of a corporation and as counsel to the corporation?
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E-84-11Formal Opinion E-84-11: Ethical obligations with heavy workload in State Public Defender Office
Full-time staff lawyers in a state public defender office have no direct control of their caseloads, as do many private lawyers who may seek business or turn down proffered employment, but instead must accept cases assigned by supervisors. Because of various political pressures, supervisors may be forced to attempt to reduce costs and/or increase productivity, which results in increased caseload pressures for staff lawyers. Three questions have been posed with regard to a lawyer's obligations in such a situation.
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E-84-10Formal Opinion E-84-10: Providing non-party with copy of settlement
Would it be ethically permissible for Party B to provide a copy of the settlement discussion letter to the father-in-law or advise the father-in-law that the document exists? If Party B may do either of the above, are there any pre-conditions to pursuing such a course of action?
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E-84-1Formal Opinion E-84-1: Lay consulting service
An opinion regarding the utilization of a lay consulting service in personal injury cases was requested of the Ethics Committee. The service represents that it does not practice law or medicine, but restricts its services to technical, medical-legal consultation and research, and the procurement of expert witnesses. The consulting services are offered on a contingent fee or flat fee basis.
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E-83-9Formal Opinion E-83-9: Attorney’s obligation when clients develop adverse interest
Law firm X is retained by T to represent him in a tax matter and the firm continues to represent T in the matter. Client P retained firm X with regard to a patent application and creation of a corporation. An employment contract dispute has developed between P and T and each party has threatened suit.
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E-83-7Formal Opinion E-83-7: Applying client’s funds against fees owed
May a law firm withhold a client's share of a settlement fund in order to apply it against the general indebtedness of the client to the firm?
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E-83-5Formal Opinion E-83-5: Corporate counsel giving advice to clients outside the corporation
Would it be ethical for a lawyer employed as a full-time, in-house counsel for a community economic development corporation to provide legal services to the general business public, where the corporation offers the lawyer's services to the public as part of its business and collects and retains as its revenues the fees for the lawyer's services?
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E-83-4Formal Opinion E-83-4: An attorney's cost obligations in a claim for frivolous action costs
What are an attorney's obligations to his plaintiff-client when a counterclaim is made alleging a frivolous action by the plaintiff, and the defendant demands costs and attorney fees to be assessed against the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attorney under sec. 814.025, Wis. Stats.?
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E-83-3Formal Opinion E-83-3: Announcing hiring of lay person
May a law firm mail formal announcements that a former official with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue has been retained by the firm as a "technical assistant in the area of state and local taxation," with an asterisk, which will follow the description of his position with the firm, referring to a footnote specifically stating that he is not licensed to practice law?
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E-83-23Formal Opinion E-83-23: Conflict of interest: Attorney calling partner as expert witness in divorce proceedings
In the trial of a divorce case, the tax aspects of the proposed property division, maintenance and support often are at issue. An accountant's testimony is sometimes needed to ascertain the fair market value of the assets and is usually required to prove the tax effect upon the parties in the financial distribution of the estate.
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E-83-22Formal Opinion E-83-22: (Withdrawn in part by E-90-2) Advertising: Designation of public office held by attorney on letterhead
Is it appropriate for an attorney to designate a presently held public office on his or her letterhead?
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E-83-21Formal Opinion E-83-21: Conflict of interest: Attorney representing parents in custody hearing while simultaneously representing father in criminal case
An attorney represented a wife and husband in a proceeding concerning whether or not the wife's minor daughter was in need of protective custody or placement in a foster home. The husband is a stepparent with no custodial rights. Both the mother and the stepfather agreed that placement in a foster home was in the daughter's best interest. A charge was made that the stepfather sexually abused the child. The stepfather denied the charge, but pleaded no contest to the charge at the final disposition.
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E-83-20Formal Opinion E-83-20: Conflict of interest: Family Court Commissioner representing non-AFDC individual in child support action
The Family Court Commissioner's Office is under contract with the District Attorney's Office to provide services to non-AFDC individuals in pursuing non-support actions. These services include the preparation and presentation of contempt proceedings against the non-paying spouse.
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E-83-17Formal Opinion E-83-17: Corporation counsel representing mother and state in paternity actions
May an assistant corporation counsel who represents the state in paternity actions also represent the mother in the paternity proceedings?
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E-83-16Formal Opinion E-83-16: Solicitation: Follow-up calls
Is it proper for an attorney to call prospective clients after he has mailed those clients an advertisement in the form of a letter or brochure?
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E-83-15Formal Opinion E-83-15: Blanket fee arrangement for insurance defense cases
An insurance company proposes to contract with an attorney to act as defense counsel in personal injury claim matters. The contract would provide for a set fee in each case up to the time of trial. The fee would be a blanket fee, arranged in advance for any case referred to the attorney or his firm. The blanket fee would not take into account the amount of work to be done in each individual case. Is it ethical for an attorney to agree to such arrangement?
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E-83-14Formal Opinion E-83-14: Dual practice: Service organization and law office
An opinion has been requested of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee concerning the propriety of a corporation owned by two attorneys and a nonlawyer and operating out of the lawyers' office, advertising its availability to provide non-legal services to the trucking industry.
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E-83-13Formal Opinion E-83-13: Contact with opposing party’s expert witness (modified by E-91-4)
May an attorney contact an opposing party's expert witness, including treating medical doctors without the permission of the opposing counsel?
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E-83-11Formal Opinion E-83-11: Garnishment action to secure fees
An attorney represents Mr. S in the sale of his business and in a subsequent divorce. After the divorce, Mr. S moves out of Wisconsin without leaving a forwarding address, and without paying the attorney. The attorney reduces the $500 outstanding fee balance to a judgment. Mr. R, the purchaser of Mr. S's business, has been paying Mr. S $515 per month in the following fashion, pursuant to arrangements made for Mr. S's convenience: $400 per month to the clerk of courts for child support and $115 per month to the attorney's trust account for disbursement to the former wife of Mr. S. The attorney understands that legally neither the funds paid to the clerk of courts nor the funds subject to specific directions for disbursement may be attached. See 7A C.J.S. sec. 332.
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E-83-10Formal Opinion E-83-10: Nonparty organization providing funds to defray class action litigation expenses
May an organization which is not a party to a class action suit provide funds to help defray the litigation expenses of the suit provided the organization does not share in any proceeds the suit might recover?
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E-83-1Formal Opinion E-83-1: Advertising for plaintiffs in a class action or other lawsuit
May attorneys advertise for clients in a class action suit or in any other  lawsuit?
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E-82-9Formal Opinion E-82-9: C/I: Municipal attorney representing police officers
May a municipal attorney represent both the municipality and municipal police officers in personal injury action commenced against both the municipality and its police officers claiming punitive damages arising out of the officers' alleged use of excessive force or the officers' actions outside the scope of their employment?
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E-82-8Formal Opinion E-82-8: Attorney contacting seminar attendees
An attorney recently spoke at a seminar regarding estate planning, which was sponsored by an insurance company. Subsequently the insurance company sent the attorney a list of all persons attending the seminar, some of whom indicated in writing that they wished further information, or in the alternative, that they had an interest in estate planning. None of the persons inquiring are the attorney's clients. The attorney inquires as to the propriety of sending a letter in response to those requests stating that he is glad that they had attended, and if they desire further information to contact the attorney.
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E-82-6Formal Opinion E-82-6: Multiple representation in automobile accidents
May an attorney represent the driver (D) of auto #1, or the owner (O) thereof, or both, for damages sustained by them as the result of a collision with auto #2 after the attorney represented and settled the claims of two guest passengers of auto #1 arising out of the same collision with auto #2?
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E-82-5Formal Opinion E-82-5: Contingent fees
The opinion of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee has been requested on three factual situations. They are as follows.
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E-82-4Formal Opinion E-82-4: Communication with an adverse party represented by counsel
An opinion has been requested to the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee concerning the propriety of an attorney for a government agency providing an opposing attorney's client with copies of correspondence sent to the opposing attorney in the following situations: 1. The attorney is involved in a "run-of-the-mill" case, but the client undoubtedly has a vital interest in and concern about the government agency's activities; 2. There are no precedents supporting the attorney's position, and it is suspected the attorney's clients are not apprised of numerous precedents that are consistently adverse to their interests.
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E-82-3Formal Opinion E-82-3: City attorney called as adverse witness
May a city attorney (or an assistant) continue to represent the city in an action brought by a former employee against said city wherein said city attorney (or assistant) is called by adverse party, or is notified that he or she will be called as a witness on behalf of said adverse party?
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E-82-2Formal Opinion E-82-2: Destruction of client’s files
May an attorney destroy the contents of a client's file at the client's request under the facts submitted?
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E-82-15Formal Opinion E-82-15: C/I: Representing a local educational district when firm member sits on board of directors
May a law firm perform services for compensation for a local vocational, technical, and adult education district (VTAE) if a member of that firm serves on the district's board of directors, provided that full disclosure of the relationship is made to the board and further provides that the firm member who is a director does not participate in the decision to retain the firm?
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E-82-14Formal Opinion E-82-14: C/I: Firm as estate's attorneys--Disclosure of client's confidences
A husband and wife executed wills disposing of all of their property to the survivor on the death of the first and disposing of the balance of their property on the death of the second of them to their common descendants as well as descendants only of the husband. On the same date the couple executed their wills, they also executed a written contract not to change their wills. The contract clearly expresses the intent that the wills were not to be changed after the death of either of the parties. The husband subsequently died, his will was probated, and his estate was closed. No reference was made in the probate proceedings to an agreement to not change the wills.
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E-82-13Formal Opinion E-82-13: C/I: Criminal court commissioner and public defense work
You are presently family court commissioner for the county in which you practice, and you are also city attorney for the city in which you practice. Your county has recently established a part-time court commissioner whose duties will primarily consist of presiding at initial appearances in all criminal actions and in both state and municipal forfeiture actions. Your partner engages in criminal defense work and both you and your partner are on the public defender's list for your county.
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E-82-12Formal Opinion E-82-12: Attorney's obligation to inform client of potential malpractice claim
Does an attorney have an ethical obligation to inform his or her client that an omission has occurred which may constitute malpractice and that the client may have a claim against him or her for such an omission?
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E-82-11Formal Opinion E-82-11: Dual business practice
An opinion has been requested of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee concerning the propriety of ownership of 100 percent of the outstanding shares of a licensed collection agency by two practicing attorneys.
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E-82-1Formal Opinion E-82-1: Law firm newsletter: Direct mail advertising
Would it be proper for a law firm to publish a newsletter which would contain general information on a designated area of the law and which would be sent to clients and acquaintances of the firm's members? The articles would be written by an attorney from the firm and the name of the law firm would appear on the newsletter.
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E-81-6Formal Opinion E-81-6: Defining the "same court" restriction on the practice of municipal attorneys
Does Ethics Memo Opinion 5/65 prohibit a part-time municipal attorney who prosecutes ordinance violations on behalf of the municipality from acting as defense counsel for private citizens charged with violations of ordinances of other municipalities, county ordinances or criminal charges, if the ordinance violations which the attorney prosecutes are tried in the same court in which the attorney defends private clients?
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E-81-4Formal Opinion E-81-4: Computer trust accounts
May a lawyer (or a law firm) transfer its accounting to a computer system, and in connection therewith, place all funds received by the lawyer (or the law firm) in one account - the trust account - although the computer system will account for the funds as though two separate accounts existed (client trust account and firm operating account)?
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E-81-3Formal Opinion E-81-3: Town prosecutor defense work
May a part-time town attorney who is charged with the duty of prosecuting violations of town ordinances defend a client in prosecutions brought by municipalities other than the municipality represented by the town attorney?
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E-81-2Formal Opinion E-81-2: City conflict of interest on city insurance carrier’s board of directors
May a deputy city attorney who represents the city in contract negotiations with the municipality's medical insurance carrier, and who also participates in a policy-making body which monitors the insurance carrier's contract performance, simultaneously sit on the insurance carrier’s board of directors?
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E-80-9Formal Opinion E-80-9: Attorney as employee-shareholder of eviction corporation
An attorney and non-attorney propose to form a corporation which will take charge of a landlord's entire eviction process pursuant to a written agency agreement for specified fee. The corporation will see to it that notices are served and will hire an attorney to perform all legal services for which he separately bills the corporation. The attorney and the non-attorney would share in the corporation profits, if any.
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E-80-6Formal Opinion E-80-6: Husband/wife conflict of interest
Attorneys A and B are husband and wife. Attorney A is employed as assistant corporation counsel in ________ County. Attorney B is employed by a private law firm in the same county. In which of the following situations, if any, would representation be improper?
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E-80-3Formal Opinion E-80-3: Special prosecutor as witness
May a former district attorney accept an appointment as special prosecutor in view of the fact that there is a distinct possibility that he may be called as a witness in the matter wherein he would be acting as special prosecutor?
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E-80-20Formal Opinion E-80-20: Conflict of interest: Representation for and against a county
Does a prohibited conflict occur when an attorney representing a plaintiff in a suit against the county government attempts, in an independent suit, to represent the interest of the county against another defendant?
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E-80-2Formal Opinion E-80-2: Paralegal at real estate closing* (*But see Op. E-95-3)
May a paralegal, who is a licensed real estate broker, appear at a real estate closing in the office or away from the office, if the file has been previously prepared under the supervision of an attorney?
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E-80-19Formal Opinion E-80-19: Law firm sponsorship of legal seminars for the public
May a law firm present seminars on specific legal topics for the benefit of the public without the sponsorship of a bank or similar institution?
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E-80-17Formal Opinion E-80-17: Conflict of interest in co-defendant situations
May an attorney who is presently serving as counsel for the convicted defendant (D#1) in a federal habeas corpus application in the United States Court, also file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of his client's co-defendant (D#2) if such co-defendants (D#1 and D#2) presented inconsistent defenses at the trial, but the alleged grounds for a writ of habeas corpus in the federal court are not inconsistent?
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E-80-16Formal Opinion E-80-16: Law office trade name
May a lawyer or a law office operate under a trade name?
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E-80-14Formal Opinion E-80-14: Attorney's fees charged to ward's estate
May an attorney, who has been appointed as guardian of an incompetent, charge for services rendered as attorney for the guardian?
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E-80-13Formal Opinion E-80-13: Interest charge on delinquent accounts
Does a lawyer have the right to insert on his billing an interest charge in the event that the bill remains unpaid for 30 days?
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E-80-11Formal Opinion E-80-11: Advertising in trade journal
May a lawyer, or law firm, as local counsel for a number of labor unions, advertise in the official union paper and include therein a statement informing the union members that the lawyer, or law firm, is counsel for their local union?
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E-80-1Formal Opinion E-80-1: Drafting will for partner’s spouse
May one member of a law firm (Lawyer A) draw a will for the spouse of another member of that law firm (Lawyer B) when the will distributes the entire estate of the spouse to said Lawyer B to the exclusion of their children?
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E-79-9Formal Opinion E-79-9: Interstate association of law firms
A Wisconsin lawyers service corporation is located near the Michigan border. It desires to form an association with two Michigan law firms under the following form: Each of the firms would retain its own identity. Each would continue to maintain its own offices, its own trust accounts and would in all respects continue to be independent law firms. Each would, however, agree to provide legal services to clients of the other law firms in this association upon referral of those clients. The Wisconsin corporation would provide service in Wisconsin to the clients of the Michigan associates. It would normally charge the Michigan associates directly for the services provided at its normal hourly rates and the Michigan firms would be responsible to collect the full amount of fees from the client and pay the Wisconsin corporation its portion. Each would maintain separate letterheads identifying its firm name but would show the other firms' names as "Wisconsin office" or "Michigan offices" but
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E-79-7Formal Opinion E-79-7: Representation of business partners
Attorney A was employed by B and C, who had been partners in a business venture and wished to incorporate. He met with the two men, both individually and as a group, on an extensive basis. He then drew up the necessary papers for incorporation but B and C then abandoned the idea and the papers were never executed. B continued to operate the business alone and under the corporate name. Several months later, he terminated his relationship with A. Nearly a year after the last meeting between A, B, and C, C asked if there would be an annual meeting of the corporation. Apparently misinformed concerning the final results of the earlier meetings, A told C that the corporation had never been formed. C now has asked A to represent him in an action to recover his share of the partnership assets, which would require commencing such action against B.
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E-79-6Formal Opinion : Disposition of unclaimed trust fund accounts
A. What procedure must a non-profit legal services corporation follow in liquidating its trust funds consisting of unclaimed litigation cost advances which have been made by clients who, after a reasonable effort, cannot be found? B. May a non-profit legal services corporation, provided prior notice is given to its client, transfer unclaimed client trust funds to its general account two years after the case file has been closed, if the corporation after reasonable effort is unable to locate the owners of the funds?
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E-79-5Formal Opinion E-79-5: "Ask the Lawyer" column
May a lawyer prepare and disseminate an "Ask the Lawyer" column?
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E-79-4Formal Opinion E-79-4: Bank referral of estate planning customers to attorney
Is it ethical for a bank to recommend to existing and prospective customers the availability of a particular attorney's services for estate planning? The specific facts are as follows.
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E-79-3Formal Opinion E-79-3: Commerce consultant
What is the propriety in a commerce consulting corporation using the following letterhead in advertising and soliciting business: Auditors and Consultants in Traffic, Ltd.
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E-79-10Formal Opinion E-79-10: "Practice limited to" advertising
Is it proper for an office to place an advertisement in various publications using the following words: "practice limited to federal and state tax planning, tax litigation and tax audits."
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E-79-1Formal Opinion E-79-1: Public official: Disqualification of law firm
Under what circumstances, if any, would your law firm be disqualified from representing a specified client if an official of a state agency with regulatory jurisdiction over that client were to become a member or associate of your firm?
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E-77-5Formal Opinion E-77-5: Propriety of attorney’s disclosure of information upon consent of deceased client’s personal representative
An attorney was contacted by a husband and wife for the purpose of drafting a will for them. Included in the conversation about the will was a discussion of the appointment of a guardian for the minor children. Several names of possible guardians were suggested and their advisability as guardians was discussed. No guardian was agreed upon before the clients died. The will is now in probate. The appointed guardian ad litem has requested the attorney to testify as to the conversation about the appointment of a guardian. It is likely the personal representative is willing to consent to waiver of the attorney-client privilege so that the attorney could reveal the communication in regard to a possible guardian for the children. Such a disclosure would involve revealing the discussion of the suitability and necessarily the personalities of those considered as possible guardians.
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E-76-8Formal Opinion E-76-8: Ethical propriety of amending complaint upward in criminal action
The committee has received an inquiry as to whether the amendment of a criminal complaint upward to allege a felony violation raises an ethical problem where previously defendant had been charged with a misdemeanor. The district attorney had hoped to obtain a guilty plea and spare the alleged nine-year-old victim of the trauma of testifying at a trial, but when the defendant chose to plead not guilty to the charge the trial seemed inevitable.
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E-76-6Formal Opinion E-76-6: Attorneys' participation in private organizations credit plan
The committee has been asked to consider the ethical propriety of attorneys participating in the Credit Plan of the Financial Services, Inc., a firm which proposed to market a credit plan for clients of attorneys.
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E-76-4Formal Opinion E-76-4: Representation of a plaintiff after investigation is undertaken for a potentially adverse former client
An inquiry was posed to the Ethics Committee of the Wisconsin Bar Association concerning the propriety of an attorney handling a claim against an insurance company for which an investigation of the same matter had been previously undertaken.
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E-76-3Formal Opinion E-76-3: Propriety of using "City Legal Clinic"
This letter is in response to a request for an opinion as to the ethical propriety of the use of the name "City Legal Clinic, S.C."
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E-76-2Formal Opinion E-76-2: Propriety of attorney-legislator representing clients before state agencies
Does the Code of Professional Responsibility promulgated by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin prohibit Attorney A from representing clients for compensation before state agency B?
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E-76-12Formal Opinion E-76-12: Propriety of City Attorney taking private defense work
The Committee on Professional Ethics has received an inquiry as to the propriety of a city attorney representing private clients as defense counsel in state criminal charges on Motor Vehicle Code violations brought by the district attorney of the same county.
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E-76-11Formal Opinion E-76-11: Conflict of interest: May assistant district attorney’s partners accept criminal defense clients even with full disclosure and consent?
One member of a law firm which is involved in criminal law practice has been appointed an assistant district attorney to administer the Federal Child Support Program in that county. The duties include the determination of paternity and the collection of support obligations, both civil and criminal. The inquiry is whether any other member of that firm may accept the defense of private clients in criminal cases even though there is full disclosure and consent.
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E-76-10Formal Opinion E-76-10: Firm name: Use of "and Company"
An inquiry has been made to the State Bar Association Ethics Committee as  to whether a professional corporation might add the words "and Company" in  its corporate designation so that the firm name would appear as "Smith, Jones  and Co., S.C."
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E-75-6Formal Opinion E-75-6: Request by administrator of estate for delivery of tape recording of client from attorney
An attorney is retained by client to defend the client against a shoplifting charge. The attorney makes a tape recording of the client's discussion of the matter. At trial, the client is found guilty but the case is left open for dismissal upon a finding of 6 months good conduct on the part of the defendant. Shortly thereafter, the client dies. His widow, who is appointed special administrator of his estate, seeks to obtain the tape recording, or a copy of it, for her own personal sentimental reasons. It seems that during her husband's lifetime no other recording was made of his voice; therefore, she wants the only available recording. Incidentally, the tape was played for her once and she knows the contents of it. May the attorney who made the tape recording release it to the widow without violating the Canons of Ethics?
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E-75-5Formal Opinion E-75-5: Gifts: Offer to match client’s gift to educational institution
The opinion of the Ethics Committee was requested on the propriety of a law firm making an offer by letter to certain of its clients to match the gift of the clients, with limitation, to an educational institution.
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E-75-3Formal Opinion E-75-3: Attorney named as trustee-executor
Under the facts presented above, to what extent can Attorney Y comply with Mr. X's wishes? Can s/he draft all of the documents and include her/his firm in these documents as mandatory attorney for both the estate and the trust? Can s/he, additionally, appoint herself/himself co-trustee or appoint a single corporate trustee, but require that the corporate trustee exercise no discretion without the advice and consent of her/his law firm?
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E-75-25Formal Opinion E-75-25: Attorney in private practice holding public office
These questions have been raised concerning possible conflicts in representation of private clients by a lawyer who is a municipal public official.
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E-75-24Formal Opinion E-75-24: Ethical responsibility of attorney for estate to potential claimants
The committee has received an inquiry concerning the ethical responsibility of an attorney for the estate of a decedent who received a letter from a potential claimant against the estate announcing his desire to file a claim in the estate for care, medical services, and hospitalization for the decedent provided at his own expense upon the assurance by the decedent that he would "be taken care of."
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E-75-22Formal Opinion E-75-22: (Withdrawn in part) Use of legal assistants' names on the letterhead of an attorney; Use of cards identifying association of legal assistant with law firm
The question has been posed to the committee as to the propriety of using the names of legal assistants and other lay employees on the letterhead of an attorney, and the propriety of using other names of identification for such employees.
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E-75-20Formal Opinion E-75-20: Legal services to indigents program of County Bar Association: Mandatory participation
A county bar association, a voluntary group of attorneys within a county has formulated a proposal which calls for all attorneys within a county to render gratuitous legal services to indigent persons upon a rotational basis, within its guidelines set forth in the plan. As a part of the proposal, each member would be assessed a sum of approximately $100-150 for each assigned case which is refused by that attorney. There has been a negative reaction by one or more lawyers who maintain offices within the county. The inquiry is whether enactment and enforcement of such proposal would be ethically proper?
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E-75-19Formal Opinion E-75-19: Confidences of the client; Police legal advisor counsels individual members of the department; Primary relationship with chief; Conflict of interest
A city police department has employed an attorney-police legal advisor who essentially is in-house counsel for the department, and who directly reports and is responsible to the police chief. However, in some instances the police legal advisor consults with and advises other members of the department concerning possible violations of departmental policies and regulations, search and seizure laws and other legal requirements. In fact, he counsels individual officers who are attempting to correct errors in performance of duty.
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E-75-18Formal Opinion E-75-18: Conflict of interest: Representation of indigent co-defendants by Legal Aid Society
The Legal Services Center (hereinafter, "the Center") is obligated by contract with the County to provide criminal and juvenile representation for indigent defendants in county courts. Under that contract, the Center agrees to "Furnish staff attorneys who will directly accept all criminal-juvenile court appointments offered by the Judges of the County." The Board of Directors has directed that, when staff attorneys represent co-defendants charged with the same crime and having possibly conflicting interests, the attorneys are to file appropriate motions to have private counsel appointed for one or more of the defendants. Such motions had been filed occasionally before the Board's directive, and have always been denied.
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E-75-17Formal Opinion E-75-17: Private practice by full-time district attorney
An inquiry was made to the State Bar Ethics Committee as to whether or not a full-time district attorney might engage in private practice. The attorney has represented clients in the past in a private capacity and has accepted fees for doing so. His employer is aware of this handling of private cases and has not objected.
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E-75-16Formal Opinion E-75-16: Excess judgment amount held for one client applied to second client’s claim
May an attorney for two creditors of a particular debtor properly apply funds, which the attorney holds in his trust account, to the claim of one of his creditorclients, when such funds are held in trust by the attorney under the following circumstances: ...
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E-75-1Formal Opinion E-75-1: Use of credit cards for payment for legal services: Charging interest on delinquent accounts
At the meeting of this Committee, held in Milwaukee on February 20, 1975, the Committee determined to adopt ABA Opinion 338 concerning the use of credit cards and the charging of interest on delinquent accounts.
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E-75-0Formal Opinion E-75-0: Corporation maintaining a bail fund to aid the indigent criminally accused
Attorneys on the staff of the Non-profit Legal Services Corporation are not permitted to carry on a private practice and are full-time employees of the corporation.
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E-74-12Formal Opinion E-74-12: Lawyers invite members of jury to "victory" party after successful litigation
A request has been made for an ethics opinion, prospective in nature, regarding a practice which has occurred in some jurisdictions of a successful attorney in a civil or criminal litigation inviting all members of the jury for a victory celebration at a local restaurant, where the food and drinks were bought by persons interested in the success of the case, including but not limited to the client, the attorney and his friends and associates.
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E-74-1Formal Opinion E-74-1: Professors operating legal research service
The Professional Ethics Committee has considered your request for an opinion as to the ethical propriety of a corporation organized by lawyers who are members of the law school faculty, as a private and profit making venture independent of the law school, to perform legal research for practicing attorneys and incorporate the results of that research in memoranda or other appropriate documents.
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I-6-73Informal Opinion 6/73: Use of credit cards to finance fees
The committee has had several recent inquires regarding the ethical propriety of the use of credit card plans for the financing of legal services of clients, including one which had a detailed study of the problems involved by a local bar association.
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I-4-73Informal Opinion 4/73: Attorney for bankrupt debtor also representing creditors
This inquiry concerns the ethical propriety of an attorney who has been retained to represent an individual person who seeks to file a petition in federal bankruptcy court under circumstances in which a corporate creditor of such client would become responsible for paying the legal fees and court filing fees for such petition, for which the debtor-client would sign an additional note and agree to reaffirm such obligation, of which proposed action the attorney has knowledge. In addition the attorney previously has represented the corporate creditor and debtor.
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I-3-73Informal Opinion 3/73: Lawyer publishing do-it-yourself divorce kit in uncontested divorces
"Would an attorney be in violation of Canon 3(A) of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Disciplinary Rules, if he were to publish a book of forms and explanations so that a married couple with no minor children, who agreed on any property settlement (if property is involved), could seek their own uncontested divorce, without the assistance of an attorney, on the grounds that they voluntarily lived entirely separated for one year next preceding the commencement of the proposed divorce?"
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I-2-73Informal Opinion 2/73: Lawyer circulating divorce handbook
The Professional Ethics Committee has considered your request for an opinion as to the propriety of your preparation and circulation of a divorce handbook for your domestic relations clients only. You have included a copy of your revised text of this proposed publication.
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I-1-73Informal Opinion 1/73: Lawyers in judicial campaigns
We have had a number of inquires concerning the ethical propriety of attorneys participating in campaigns to assist in the nomination and election of trial and appellate court judges in this state. Further, they have asked that if such conduct is permissible, what activities may an attorney engage in during the course of such election campaigns.
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E-73-4Formal Opinion E-73-4: Ethical guidelines for attorney-judicial candidate
Your staff counsel has indicated that your office has had several inquiries concerning the rules or ethical prohibitions for attorneys who are candidates for judicial office.
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E-73-2Formal Opinion E-73-2: Law firm announcing consultation service to other attorneys
You have requested that we submit to the Professional Ethics Committee your inquiry as to the ethical propriety of your law firm circulating a printed announcement to members of the Wisconsin Bar in an unspecified geographical area of your availability to consult with and assist or serve them in the specialized area of labor law. Your announcement would further state that the law firm had had nineteen years of experience in that particular field of law.
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E-73-1Formal Opinion E-73-1: Lawyer and safekeeping of wills
Your section has requested the advice, and if desirable the formal opinion of this committee with respect to the ethical propriety of the past and future conduct of those attorneys who engage in the practice of safekeeping wills for clients.
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E-72-2Formal Opinion E-72-2: Attorney-collection agency relationship
Upon your inquiry of November 18, 1971, addressed to this committee on a considered means of expedition in the handling of commercial collections by which the lawyer engaged in that field would furnish forms either with or without charge to existing clients, as well as upon request to new clients, which forms would contain the attorney’s name and address on all parts, the top part to be kept by the client, the middle portion sent to the attorney with instructions to proceed with legal efforts to collect after the expiration of a certain number of days, and the final or bottom portion to be mailed by the creditor-client to the debtor with notification that unless payment is made the matter will be placed directly in the hands of the lawyer whose name and address as such are made part of the form.
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E-72-1Formal Opinion E-72-1: Local Bar Association judicial endorsement programs are exempt from prohibition on judicial testimonials
You have asked whether the officially sanctioned activities of the Lawyers Judicial Endorsement Executive Committee are excepted from the purview of advisory opinion 1971-A which was published in the April, 1971 [Wisconsin] Bar Bulletin.
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I-1-71Informal Opinion 1/71: Lawyer acting as trustee for bail fund
Your inquiry to this committee is as to the propriety of a procedure in which a lawyer or law office might receive funds from persons or organizations other than the lawyer's client to be kept in a special account separate from the lawyer's or professional trust account, to be available for prompt cash bail money for persons charged with crimes, and checks thereon to be handled by the designated lawyer or member of a firm or their employees under their direction, even in a case in which the persons to be bailed are not then clients of the lawyer or law firm and in which no money from the fund is used for persons who later become clients of the lawyer. It is the opinion of this committee that such a plan or practice would be improper and unethical.
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E-71-1Formal Opinion E-71-1: It is unethical for an attorney to organize alone or with other individual attorneys or lay persons or groups, a testimonial dinner or event for a judge during his term of office or for a candidate...
The committee in an opinion dated October 26, 1970 [E-70-1], adopted the above opinion without the words "or for a candidate for the office of judge." The committee has now been requested to consider whether the October 26, 1970, opinion should be extended to include the words "or for a candidate for the office of judge." The committee believes that the opinion of October 26, 1970, should be so extended.
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I-2-70Informal Opinion 2/70: Partners of attorney: Police and Fire Commission member accepting criminal cases
The committee considered the propriety of the conduct of attorneys who were requested to represent defendants in criminal and traffic cases when their partner is serving as a member of the municipal police and fire commission. The request indicated that the commissioner would give up the practice of representing private parties in criminal or traffic cases in the area where the city was the plaintiff or police officers from the municipality were involved in the investigation or prosecution.
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I-1-70Informal Opinion 1/70: Partners for attorney for Deputy Sheriffs Association accepting criminal, traffic cases
An attorney questioned the propriety of a lawyer, who is acting as a bargaining representative for a county association of deputy sheriffs, permitting his partners or associates to accept criminal and juvenile defense work in that county because of the possibility of a conflict of interest.
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E-70-1Formal Opinion E-70-1: It is unethical for an attorney to organize alone or with other individual attorneys or lay persons or groups, a testimonial dinner or event for a judge during his term of office. It is also unethical for an attorney to purchase tic
The committee has been asked whether in the future it will be ethical for an attorney to respond to a solicitation seeking funds for a testimonial dinner for a sitting judge other than upon his retirement.
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I-4-69Informal Opinion 4/69: Past Bar officers endorsing political candidates
This inquiry concerned the ethical propriety of the conduct of attorneys who were past presidents of the State Bar permitting their names to be listed along with their standing as a past president in endorsing a partisan political candidate for statewide office, because of the possible interpretation by the public that such political endorsements could be construed as an endorsement by the State Bar of Wisconsin.
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I-2-69Informal Opinion 2/69: Contributions to judicial campaigns
An inquiry was made by an attorney as to whether it is proper to make campaign contributions to a judge who is seeking re-election to his judicial office.
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I-1-69Informal Opinion 1/69: Judicare representation policy
The Professional Ethics Committee approved the statement of policy proposed by Wisconsin Judicare relative to the matter of attorneys refusing to represent Judicare clients.
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E-69-3Formal Opinion E-69-3: Lawyer-realtor relationship
This committee was requested to consider the following questions raised in a letter: ...
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E-69-2Formal Opinion E-69-2: Court commissioner: Appearance before appointing judge
This committee was requested to consider whether it is proper for a court commissioner to appear in private litigation before the judge who appointed him. Our opinion is that it is proper for him to do so.
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E-69-1Formal Opinion E-69-1: Municipal Justice of the Peace: Possible conflict
1. Is it proper for a Municipal Justice of the Peace to represent police officers of the same municipality in wage negotiations with that city? 2. Is it proper for an attorney, who is also a Municipal Justice of the Peace, to represent private clients in opposition to the interests of the city as determined by its council (i.e., special assessments levied by the common council)?
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I-2-68Informal Opinion 2/68: Lawyer named as beneficiary in will
The Ethics Committee has considered several inquiries from members of the State Bar following the State v. Collentine, 39 Wis. (2d) 325, decision regarding the drafting of wills by attorney-beneficiaries. In its decision of June 8, 1968, the Supreme Court established the rule prospectively that an attorney may be scrivener of a will in which he is a beneficiary only when he stands in relationship to the testator as a natural object of his bounty and in instances in which he will receive no more than he would have received at law in absence of such will. The Court emphatically stated that under any other circumstances in which a lawyerdraftsman received a larger bequest that it would conclude that such activity would constitute unprofessional conduct.
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I-4-67Informal Opinion 4/67: Solicitation of pension or profit sharing work
An opinion was requested as to the propriety of an attorney participating in the solicitation and sale of a multibusiness master pension plan through a corporation organized for that purpose. Further, the attorney originated the company and acts as trustee for the master plan.
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I-3-67Informal Opinion 3/67: Partnership with non-lawyer
This inquiry concerns the propriety of an active member of the Bar creating a partnership in which the lawyer proposes to engage in labor-management relations work and his non-lawyer partner will be active in market research analysis advice and similar business advice. There was the additional question as to the attorney advertising this labor management relations advice, either alone or with his partner's advertising.
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E-65-2Formal Opinion E-65-2: Attorney employee of accounting firm rendering legal service for customer is improper
Would it be a breach of professional ethics for an attorney employed as house counsel for an accounting firm to do estate planning for an accounting customer of his employer?
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E-65-1Formal Opinion E-65-1: District attorney conflict in land condemnation case
May a full-time or part-time district attorney properly represent a citizen whose land is being taken in condemnation proceedings brought by the State Highway Commission?
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I-1-64Informal Opinion 1/64: Commissions and rebates
Canon 38, of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association, adopted by the State Bar of Wisconsin, states "A lawyer should accept no compensation, commissions, rebates or other advantages from others without the knowledge and consent of his client after full disclosure."
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I-1-63Informal Opinion 1/63: An attorney retiring from practice may not sell or otherwise dispose of his practice and goodwill to another attorney: This does not prevent the sale of office facilities or furniture
You advise that a lawyer wants to retire and sell his furniture, equipment, files and records to a younger lawyer. He tells some of his clients that he proposes to retire and has "sold his business" to the younger lawyer. One of the clients demands all of his files from the retiring lawyer who refuses to deliver them and says that he has sold the files and records to the younger lawyer. Your inquiry is as to the propriety of this and whether or not the client is entitled to his files.
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I-1-62Informal Opinion 1/62: Law corporations and names
Prior to issuance of the American Bar Association Professional Ethics opinion concerning the propriety of attorneys carrying on the practice of law as a corporation for federal tax purposes, this committee had numerous inquiries on the subject. It resolved to withhold official action pending release of Opinion 303. Without attempting to give a formal opinion at this time, the committee would like to convey the thoughts of its members on the matter, following the passage of Chapter 350, Laws of 1961.
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E-61-1Formal Opinion E-61-1: Collection agencies
The opinion of the Ethics Committee has been requested on the question of whether or not any violations of Canons 27, 34, 35, 41, 47, or other of the Canons of Professional Ethics are involved under the following circumstances: ...
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E-56-1Formal Opinion E-56-1: Unethical to charge 20% fee where no true contest in compensation case
In 1949, Section 102.26(2) was enacted to permit lawyers to charge a maximum contingent fee of 20% of the amount collected in contested workmen's compensation cases.
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E-54-2Formal Opinion E-54-2: Attorney who is public officer has conflict of interest
May an attorney who is a member of a city council or a county board properly accept a case from a claimant against the city or county, and sue the city or county while he still is a member of the city council or county board?
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EF-11-03Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-11-03: Who is a Prospective Client; Lawyer Websites and Unilateral or Unsolicited E-mail Communications
A person who sends a unilateral and unsolicited communication has no reasonable expectation that the lawyer is willing to discuss the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship. Consequently, the duties a lawyer owes prospective clients are not triggered by an unsolicited e-mail communication that “the lawyer receives out of the blue from a stranger in search of counsel, as long as the lawyer did not do or publish anything that would lead reasonable people to believe that they could share private information with the lawyer without first meeting [the lawyer] and establishing a lawyer-client relationship.” To avoid creating ethical duties to a person in search of counsel, a lawyer who places advertisements or solicits email communications must take care that these advertisements or solicitations are not interpreted as the lawyer's agreement that the lawyer-client relationship is created solely by virtue of the person's response and that the person’s response is confidential
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EF-11-02Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-11-02: Conflicts in Criminal Practice Arising from Concurrent Employment as an Assistant District Attorney and a Lawyer in a Private Law Firm
An individual lawyer who works part-time as an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting defendants on behalf of the State of Wisconsin and part-time for a private law firm has a conflict of interest which would bar the lawyer from representing defendants in state criminal cases. That lawyer could still represent clients in opposition to the State of Wisconsin in non-criminal matters. The lawyer’s conflicts would be imputed to lawyers in his private firm and could not be waived so that firm would be disqualified from representing defendants in state criminal cases. The lawyer’s conflicts would not be imputed to lawyers in the District Attorney’s Office at which the lawyer works provided the lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter, in which case that office could continue to prosecute any case against any party as to whom the lawyer had a conflict.
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EF-10-03Wisconsin Formal Ethics Opinion EF-10-03: Conflicts arising from consultations with prospective clients; significantly harmful information
When a lawyer has received information from a prospective client that could be significantly harmful to the prospective client, the lawyer may not thereafter represent a client whose interests are adverse to the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter.
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E-91-4Formal Opinion E-91-4: Contact with opposing party’s expert witness, E-83-13 modified
You have requested that the Committee on Professional Ethics reconsider its Formal Opinion E-83-13. The committee's opinion follows.
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