Continuing Legal Education Blog

Lawyer Assistance Programs

Aug 08, 2015

Ethics and Professionalism Assistance Programs for Attorneys

Often an ethics issue arises and the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct are not entirely clear as to how to proceed. After reviewing the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct,[1] an attorney can also look to the ABA Model Rules[2] and their comments for guidance. Even after reviewing the rules, questions may still remain. If so, there are several areas both online and over the phone where attorneys can seek guidance.

Assistance From The ARDC

Attorneys can contact the Ethics Inquiry Program created by the ARDC. The Ethics Inquiry Program provides research assistance and guidance regarding ethics issues. They do not accept e-mails or faxes but can be reached via telephone.[3] The Commission will not keep a record of the caller’s identity or the substance of the inquiry. The attorney can even remain anonymous and is urged to present the question hypothetically.[4]

Through this program, an Ethics attorney will hear the problem and assist in identifying the relevant Rules of Professional Conduct, case law or other sources to help resolve the issue.[5] Any information received through the Program is neither legal advice nor a binding advisory opinion.[6] It is legal research assistance only and the attorney is ultimately responsible for his or her own final judgment. Both the fact that the inquiry has been made, and the response from the Ethics Inquiry attorneys, are not admissible in an attorney disciplinary proceeding.[7]

The goal of the Program is to help lawyers understand their professional obligations and assist them in resolving important issues in their practice.[8] The ARDC attorneys and paralegals that staff the program look to existing professional responsibility law, legal precedent, bar association ethics opinions, law review articles and practical guidelines to help attorneys answer their ethics queries.[9] The Program is also available to the general public if they have concerns about their attorney’s behavior.[10] Note that utilizing this service does not satisfy any requirements to report attorney misconduct.[11]

The Ethics Inquiry Program is just one of a few services offered by the ARDC to assist attorneys in discerning the Rules requirements. On the ARDC website – www.iardc.org – there is a section on rules and decisions. Attorneys can use this link to research independently or simply keep abreast of recent rulings. The ARDC website also has a Publication section which includes articles on Avoiding ARDC Anxiety: A Disciplinary Primer,[12] Ten Ethics Questions From Young Lawyers,[13] Lawyer Admission and Regulation in Illinois,[14] and the Client Trust Account Handbook[15]

Assistance From The Illinois State Bar Association and Chicago Bar Association

The ARDC is not the only organization offering assistance to attorneys’ in Illinois. Members of the ISBA have access to the ISBA Advisory Opinions on Professional Conduct.[16] The ISBA Advisory Opinions on Professional Conduct are prepared as an educational service to members of the ISBA and “express the ISBA interpretation of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and other relevant materials in response to a specific hypothesized fact situation[s]."[17] The Advisory Opinions are organized by subject and opinion number from 1982 to the present. Likewise, the Chicago Bar Association[18] maintains an ethics opinion area for its members.

The Lawyers’ Assistance Program

The Illinois State Bar Association in conjunction with the Chicago Bar Association established The Lawyers’ Assistance Program. The Lawyer’s Assistance Program (“LAP”) is a not-for-profit organization that works with Illinois legal professionals dealing with addiction issues or mental illness. The LAP provides educational, informational and referral, peer assistance and intervention services. The LAP’s stated mission is:

  • To protect clients from impaired lawyers and judges,
  • To help lawyers, judges, and law students get assistance for alcohol dependency, drug addiction, and mental health problems, and
  • To educate the legal community about addiction and mental health issues.[19]

Acknowledging that ten to twenty percent of attorneys and judges suffer from alcohol and drug dependency or mental health problems and recognizing that these problems significantly impact a professional’s performance, the LAP works to protect the public, improve the integrity and reputation of the legal profession and saves the lives and practices of impaired attorneys.[20]

Assistance From Additional Schools And Organizations

For further reference, the attorney can look to the American Legal Ethics Library maintained by Cornell University Law School.[21] This digital library contains both the codes setting standards for the professional conduct of lawyers as well as providing commentary on the law governing lawyers. It is organized on a state by state basis with contributions from law firms, individuals and legal scholars.[22]

One of the most extensive collections of resources, books and links[23] and information on ethics and professionalism is available at www.ApexCLE.com[24] including information on continuing legal education programs.

The American Bar Association has devoted a large portion of its website to ethical issues in its Center For Professional Responsibility.[25] The ABA states that the Center promotes the “discussion and resolution of pressing issues of professional responsibility and fosters communication among diverse bar organizations and the various agencies that supervise and regulate the conduct of lawyers and judges.”[26] It also provides an interesting list of Landmark Dates in Professional Responsibility.[27]

For the attorney seeking additional information on specific ethical issues associated with the use of technology by legal professionals, there is the LegalEthics[28] website maintained by Professor David Hricik of Mercer University School of law[29] and Peter Krakaur. Mercer University School of Law also has the Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism with additional information and web links.[30]


1. www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VIII/

2. www.abanet.org/cpr/mrpc/mrpc_toc.html.

3. See also: www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/aba/current/ABA_CODE.HTM.

4. www.iardc.org/ethics.html , 312-565-2600 or 800-826-8625

5. www.iardc.org/ethics.html , 312-565-2600 or 800-826-8625

6. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

7. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

8. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

9. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

10. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

11. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

12. www.iardc.org/ethics.html#1

13. www.iardc.org/article_avoidanxiety.html 84 ISBA Journal 452 (September 1996), Reformatted August 2001 by Mary Robinson, Administrator, ARDC.

14. www.iardc.org/article_tenethicsquestions.html CBA Record - March 1998, by Mary F. Andreoni, Administrative Counsel, ARDC.

15. www.iardc.org/article_cornell.html Published September 18, 1997; revised April 2, 2001, by Mary Robinson Administrator ARDC.

16. www.iardc.org/clienttrusthandbook_toc.html Revised on Web July 31, 2007

17. www.isba.org/EthicsOpinions/

18. www.isba.org/EthicsOpinions/

19. www.chicagobar.org/

20. www.illinoislap.org

21. www.illinoislap.org

22. www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/

23. www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/

24. www.apexcle.com/pages/EthicsLinks

25. www.ApexCLE.com/pages/ethics

26. www.abanet.org/cpr/home.html

27. www.abanet.org/cpr/about/home.html

28. www.legalethics.com/

29. www.law.mercer.edu

30. www.law.mercer.edu/academics/centers/mclep/