Ethics Opinions

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Enduring Ethics Opinion

Since its publication of the first ethics opinion in 1979, the Board of Overseers has issued more than 200 opinions on a myriad of topics including the disposal of client flies, varied communication and conflict issues, and ethical issues concerning a lawyer acting as a solo practitioner and "of Counsel" to another law firm. Recognizing the enduring guidance that these opinions provide, in 2010 the Professional Ethics Commission undertook the important project of reviewing previously published opinions and informing members of the bar and their continued relevancy. Select the link in the third column below to view published Enduring Ethics Opinions.

Opinion Date Issued Enduring Ethics Opinion
#1. Police Legal Advisor June 6, 1979
#2. Litigation Against Former Client October 17, 1979 Enduring Ethics Opinion #2
#3. Conflicts Between Related Lawyers October 17, 1979
#4. Zoning Board Opinion October 17, 1979
#5. Juropsychotherapist Opinion October 17, 1979
#6. Disqualification of Prosecutor’s Opinion October 17, 1979
#7. District Attorney Conflict of Interest April 2, 1980
#8. Divorce Conflict of Interest Opinion April 2, 1980
#9. Limiting Liability April 2, 1980 Enduring Ethics Opinion #9
#10. Contingent Fee in a Divorce Property Settlement April 2, 1980
#11. Contingent Fee in Arrearage Cases April 2, 1980
#12. Mortgage Loan Transactions April 2, 1980
#13. Firm Name Including Public Official October 15, 1980
#14. "Law Associates" October 15, 1980
#15. Advertised Fee for Uncontested Divorce October 15, 1980
#16. Letter Soliciting Personal Injury Case October 15, 1980 Enduring Ethics Opinion #16
#17. Negotiation of Attorney's Fees in Class Actions January 15, 1981
#18. Charges for Services in Providing Title Insurance and Title Search January 15, 1981
#19. Disqualification of Deputy Attorney General Entering Private Practice January 15, 1981
#20. Disclosure of Client's Whereabouts January 15, 1981
#21. Representation of Passenger and Driver in Personal Injury Case January 15, 1981
#22. Obligation of Lobbyist to Former Clients January 15, 1981
#23. Lawyer Witnessing Violation of Clients' Rights August 25, 1981
#24. Charging Attorneys Fees Beyond Amount Allowed by Commission August 25, 1981
#25. Disqualification of Former Prosecutor in Subsequent Personal Injury Case Against Respondent August 25, 1981
#26. Limitation of Liability in Title Opinion April 2, 1981
#27. Client Reneging on Agreement to Pay Creditor Through Attorney September 9, 1981
#28. Duties of Attorney-Legislator and Partner Lobbyist February 4, 1982
#29. County Commissioner-Lawyer vs. District Attorney February 4, 1982
#30. Depositing Client's Funds in Out-of-State Bank February 4, 1982
#31. Profit-Sharing Plan for Law Firm Employees September 22, 1982
#32. Suing Former Client September 22, 1982
#33. Disqualification of Public Advocate's Counsel September 22, 1982
#34. Listing Office Manager on Letterhead January 17, 1983
#35. Providing Opposing Counsel with Copy of Draft Order January 17, 1983
#36. Litigation of Criminal Cases by Law Firm of Assistant District Attorney's Husband January 17, 1983
#37. Representing Both Customers and Retailer Against Manufacturer January 17, 1983
#38. County Commissioner Taking Cases Against Towns in the Same County June 2, 1983
#39. Associates of Part-time Assistant D.A.Representing Criminal Defendants June 2, 1983
#40. Regarding Charges for Title Insurance Amended June 2, 1983
#41. Referring Cases to Attorney with Whom Office Space Is Shared August 23, 1983
#42. Prosecution of Criminal Cases by Spouse of Member of Firm Defending the Accused (Revision of Opinion #36) August 23, 1983
#43. Purchase Price of Real Estate Deposited in Trust Account of Seller's Attorney November 22, 1983
#44. Representation of Injured Claimant and Subrogated Insurance Company of Same Attorney November 22, 1983
#45. Accepting Claims Against City by a Municipal Officer (or his Firm) November 22, 1983
#46. Advertising for Personal Injury Cases May 10, 1984
#47. Representing Both Personal Representative and Beneficiaries of the Estate May 10, 1984
#48. Enforceability of Medical-Legal Cooperation Code May 10, 1984
#49. Part-time District Attorney Representing Private Client Where County Commission Acts as Decision-Maker May 10, 1984
#50. Representing Partner in Case in Which He Will Be Called as a Witness May 10, 1984
#51. Refusal to Provide Deposition to Ex-Client Without Reimbursement of Cost December 5, 1984
#52. City Attorney as Partner of Planning Board Member and Board of Appeals Member December 5, 1984
#53. Individual Attorneys as "Associates" But Not Partners March 14, 1985
#54. Attorney for Corporation Who Also Serves as Director or Trustee March 14, 1985
#55. Disclosure of Confidences of One Client in Defending Grievance Filed by Another April 22, 1985
#56. Attorney's Use of Own Affidavit in Support of Motion June 4, 1985
#57. Fee Bonus Contingent on Successfully Obtaining Commercial Permits July 1, 1985
#58. Entering Plea of Insanity If Client Objects September 4, 1985
#59. Volunteer Lawyers Project September 4, 1985
#60. Attorney's Acceptance of Possession of Physical Evidence of a Crime September 4, 1985
#61. Establishment of Attorney-Client Relationship September 4, 1985
#62. Attorney Remitting Percentage of Collection Fee to Collection Agency November 5, 1985
#63. Attorney Assigned by Insurance Company as Lawyer for the Insured November 5, 1985
#64. Assertion of Contingent Fee Interest in Real Estate Which Is the Subject of the Lawsuit January 7, 1986 Enduring Ethics Opinion #64
#65. Defense of Criminal Cases by Attorney Whose Spouse Is Related to District Attorney December 4, 1985
#66. Settlement of Malpractice Claim Which Also Involves Withdrawal of Grievance January 7, 1986
#67. Advisory Opinions Regarding Past Conduct by Other Attorneys January 7, 1986
#68. Obtaining Release of Claims of Present and Future Professional Misconduct March 14, 1986
#69. Agreement of Public Interest Litigation Organization to Receive Percentage of Court-Awarded Attorney's Fees on Referred Cases March 14, 1986
#70. Representation of Criminal Respondent by Spouse of Assistant District Attorney May 7, 1986 Enduring Ethics Opinion #70
#71. Law Firm Offering Divorce Mediation Services May 7, 1986
#72. Refusal of Insured to Cooperate in Defense of Wife's Claim August 6, 1986
#73. Partner of City Councilor Litigating with the City August 6, 1986
#74. Disposal of Client Files October 1, 1986
#75. Contingent Fees in Certain Divorce Cases December 3, 1986
#76. Refusal of Court Appointments in Criminal Cases December 15, 1986
#77. Inclusion of Deceased Partner on Office Letterhead March 4, 1987 Enduring Ethics Opinion #77
#78. Withdrawal of Mortgagee's Attorney Who Will Be Called as Witness Regarding Fees Charged in Foreclosure Action April 1, 1987
#79. Propriety of Business Venture in Which Lawyers and Accountants Are Principals May 6, 1987 Enduring Ethics Opinion #79
#80. Representation by Probate Judge's Law Firm on a Matter upon Which He Has Acted in a Judicial Capacity August 5, 1987
#81. Contingent Fee in Case in Which Fee Award Is Permitted by Statute November 4, 1987 Enduring Ethics Opinion #81
#82. Communication with Opposing Party's Physician November 4, 1987
#83. Domestic Litigation Against Former Client March 10, 1988
#84. Disclosure of Client's Incapacity to Protect Own Interests March 2, 1988
#85. Distribution of Newsletter to Non-clients April 7, 1988
#86. Firm Name Including "Of Counsel" August 31, 1988
#87. Structuring a Privately Operated Lawyer Referral Service August 31, 1988
#88. Disclosure of Unsolicited Communication Between Client and Member of an Administrative Tribunal August 31, 1988
#89. Drafting Complaint Signed by Pro Se Client August 31, 1988
#90. Written Communication with Amicus Curiae Regarding Matter in Litigation August 31, 1988
#91. Including Designation of Stockholder as Attorney on Business Corporation's Letterhead November 16, 1988
#92. Representation of Client in Which Lawyer Has Limited Partnership Interest December 22, 1988
#93. Requesting Release of Medical Records from Adverse Party Represented by Counsel February 15, 1989
#94. Communication with an Employee or Official of a Municipality February 24, 1989 Enduring Ethics Opinion #94
#95. Pre-settlement Negotiation of Statutory Attorney's Fees Claims March 13, 1989
#96. Nonappearance of Attorney at Hearing upon Request or Consent Of Client April 15, 1989
#97. Mortgaging Marital Residence to Attorney to Secure Fees in Divorce Case May 3, 1989
#98. Allowing Undisbursed Fees Earned to Remain in Client Trust Account August 16, 1989
#99. Collection of Lawyer Referral Service Administration Fee September 6, 1989
#100. Threatening Grievance Action to Influence Malpractice Settlement Negotiations October 4, 1989
#101. Referral of Real Estate Transactions by One Attorney-Spouse to the Other January 17, 1990
#102. Application of Vicarious Disqualification Rule to Students in Legal Clinic February 2, 1990
#103. Splitting Fees Without Regard to Responsibility Assumed February 7, 1990
#104. Suit by Lawyer Member of Board of Overseers Against Attorney Who Is the Subject of a Grievance February 7, 1990
#105. Disclosure to Buyer of Attorney's Authorship of Broker's Purchase and Sale Agreement Form May 17, 1990
#106. Law Firm Acting as "Escrow Agent" to Assist Both Parties in Purchase and Sale of Business May 25, 1990
#107. Obligation of Attorney/Corporate Director to Maintain Client Confidences June 27, 1990
#108. Limitations on Witness-Lawyer September 20, 1990
#109. Duties of Lawyer/Mayor and Partners or Associates During Representation Before Public Bodies October 4, 1990
#110. Representation of "Potentially Responsible Parties" in Superfund Litigation October 12, 1990
#111. Disqualification of Former State Administrative Agency Board Member Entering Private Practice November 1, 1990
#112. Law Firm Advertising as Title Company November 1, 1990
#113. Limitations on Attorney-Witness and Contingent Fee Agreements December 5, 1990
#114. Communication Between Staff of the Office of Advocacy and Clients and Employees of the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation February 26, 1991
#115. Accepting Gifts From Court-Appointed Clients April 25, 1991
#116. Obligation of Attorney Regarding Client Funds Owed to Third Persons June 6, 1991
#117. Mortgaging Marital Residence to Attorney After Property Division and Divorce Judgment June 7, 1991
#118. Lawyers with Ownership Interest in Corporation Providing Public Relations Services September 13, 1991
#119. Class Action Against Government Agency November 14, 1991
#120. Delivering Client's File December 11, 1991
#121. Specialization February 4, 1992
#122. Notifying Employer of Settlement in Worker’s Compensation Cases March 5, 1992
#123. Participation in Seminar as Public Communication April 23, 1992
#124. Accepting Referrals from a Paralegal Advisor May 6, 1992
#125. Communication with Insurance Carrier's Adjuster June 9, 1992
#126. Non-Compete Agreements as a Condition of Employment September 25, 1992
#127. Disbursements to Client of Funds Assigned December 8, 1992
#128. Lawyer as Director of Non-Profit Corporation Providing Legal Services to Indigents December 30, 1992
#129. Lawyers Raising Funds for Judicial Education Committee On Behalf of Maine Bar Foundation December 31, 1992
#130. Vicarious Disqualification for Members of Special Assistant District Attorney's Law Firm February 3, 1993
#131. Representing Clients in Probate Court Where Partner is Register of Probate March 26, 1993
#132. Deletion from Firm Letterhead of Name of Attorney Who Has Been Suspended from the Practice of Law April 12, 1993 Enduring Ethics Opinion #132
#133. Lawyer Referral Service Fee Remittances and Questions Pertaining Thereto June 18, 1993
#134. Supervisory Liability for Breach of Confidentiality September 21, 1993
#135. Membership in a National Network of Participating Lawyers November 10, 1993
#136. Direct Communication with Adverse Party After Litigation Is Complete December 1, 1993 Enduring Ethics Opinion #136
#137. Preparation of Documents Ancillary to a Settlement Agreement by Mediator December 1, 1993
#138. Payment of Legal Fees by Finance Company March 25, 1994
#139. Charging Client for Defending Attorney Before Board of Overseers of the Bar June 1, 1994
#140. Obligation to Disclose Client's Perjury to Court June 23, 1994 Enduring Ethics Opinion #40
#141. Real Estate Escrow Accounts as Trust Accounts June 30, 1994
#142. Disclosure by Mediator of "Of Counsel" Affiliation August 19, 1994
#143. Disposition of Client Files on Death or Disability of Solo Practitioner July 19, 1994 Enduring Ethics Opinion #143
#144. Taking Security Interest in Client Property Unrelated to Litigation August 22, 1994
#145. Taking Fee for Referral When Conflict Bars Representation September 27, 1994 Enduring Ethics Opinion #145
#146. Obligation to Return Inadvertently Disclosed Privileged Documents December 9, 1994 Enduring Ethics Opinion #146
#147. Agreement with Referral Network Directing Lawyer's Professional Judgment December 14, 1994
#148. Disclosure of Client Financial Information under Indigent Defense Contract With State March 30, 1995
#149. Lawyer and Nonlawyer in Mediation Partnership May 10, 1995
#150. Charging Referral Fee While Representing Same Client in a Divorce May 12, 1995
#151. Fee Arbitration Clause in Lawyer-Client Contract May 12, 1995 Enduring Ethics Opinion #151
#152. Law Firm Granting Bank Security Interest in Accounts Receivable October 6, 1995
#153. Contingent Fee Agreement Providing Client Will Not Be Responsible for Any Disbursements September 9, 1996 Enduring Ethics Opinion #153
#154. Representing Child Where Parents May Have Adverse Interest November 12, 1996
#155. Arguing Different Sides of Same Legal Issue in Unrelated Cases January 15, 1997 Enduring Ethics Opinion #155
#156. Representing One Party in Divorce After Being Contacted by Both Parties February 5, 1997 Enduring Ethics Opinion #156
#157. Contingent Fee in Post-Divorce Proceeding March 5, 1997
#158. Formation of a Partnership With a Non-Lawyer for the Provision of a Governmental Services Including Lobbying April 3, 1997 Enduring Ethics Opinion #158
#159. Conflicts of Interest in Adoption Proceedings November 6, 1997
#160. Permissible Forms of Contingent Fee Agreements November 26, 1997
#161. Raising Funds in Support of National Center for Judicial Education January 21, 1998
#162. Lawyer as Witness in Real Property Case Where Lawyer Previously Certified Title October 14, 1998
#163. Prohibition on Invocation of Criminal Process to Assist in Collecting Bills November 4, 1998
#164. Release of Insured's Client Confidences and Secrets to Auditing Firm Retained by Insurance Company December 2, 1998
#165. Disclosures Required in Real Estate Transaction Where Lawyer Represents Lender and Issues Title Policy December 2, 1998
#166. Affiliation with Entity Selling Inter Vivos Trusts December 2, 1998
#167. Referring Attorneys January 6, 1999
#168. Secretly Taping Telephone Calls March 9, 1999
#169. Responsibility of Attorney Leaving Firm for Contingent Fee Clients September 9, 1999
#170. Attorneys' and Clients' Agreement to Arbitrate Future Malpractice Claims December 23, 1999
#171. Consultations with Attorneys Outside the Firm on Client Matters December 24, 1999
#172. Obligation to Return Inadvertently Disclosed Privileged Documents and Withdrawal of Opinion No. 146 March 7, 2000
#173. Retainer Fees, Credit Cards and IOLTA March 7, 2000
#174. Legal Services Websites October 10, 2000
#175. Lawyer Acting as Solo Practitioner and "of Counsel" to Another Law Firm April 12, 2001 Enduring Ethics Opinion #175
#176. Complaint Justice Conflicts with Client July 10, 2001
#177. Advancing Litigation Costs Through Lines of Credit December 14, 2001
#178. Disbarred or Suspended Lawyer Selling Practice to Another Firm or Lawyer March 8, 2002
#179. Lawyer Providing Title Insurance Law-Related Services July 18, 2002 Enduring Ethics Opinion #179
#180. Lawyer as Salaried Employee of Private Non-Profit Corporation November 14, 2002
#181. Lawyer Contacting Municipal Officials as Agent for Unionized Employees January 14, 2003
#182. Real Estate Transactions Involving Title Insurance Companies Owned in Whole or Part by Attorneys August 6, 2003
#183. Lawyer's Obligations Concerning the Manner Of Retention of Client and Law Office Records January 28, 2004 Enduring Ethics Opinion #183
#184. Lawyer's Referral of Clients to an Investment Advisor in Exchange for Referral Fees March 30, 2004
#185. Lawyer's Retention of Closed Files in CD Format and Business Proposal for Scanning Other Law Firm's Closed Files to CD Format April 1, 2004
#186. Screening of Non-Lawyer Staff to Avoid Conflict July 22, 2004 Enduring Ethics Opinion #86
#187. Guidance Concerning the Contents of the Client File that the Client is Entitled to Receive November 5, 2004
#188. Conflict Analysis For Attorney Member of Municipal Planning Board February 2, 2005
#189: Unauthorized Practice of Law in Maine by Admittees of Foreign Jurisdiction November 15, 2005
#190: Pro Bono Representation Issues: Change of Fee and Use of Confidential Information May 3, 2006
#191: Loan from Litigation Financing Co. to Personal Injury Plaintiff December 21, 2006
#192: Deceased Client: Confidential Information Requested by Personal Representative June 20, 2007
#193: Loans: Non-recourse litigation expense loans to an attorney December 10, 2007
#194: Client Confidences: Confidential firm data held electronically and handled by technicians for third-party vendors June 30, 2008 Enduring Ethics Opinion #194
#195: Client Confidences: Communications with clients by unencrypted e-mail June 30, 2008 Enduring Ethics Opinion #195
#196: Transmission, retrieval and use of metadata embedded in documents October 21, 2008
#197: Nonprofit Board of Directors provides services to domestic violence victims, attorney member's obligation to preserve confidences between organization and a party receiving its services May 20, 2009
#198. Attorneys handling of fees in Social Security Administration case where client was previously represented by a non-attorney advocate. December 4, 2009
#199. Advising clients concerning Maine’s Medical Marijuana Act July 7, 2010
#200. Attorney Serving only as Guardian ad litem: Use of IOLTA Accounts/Working with Non-Lawyer GALs and Parent Coordinators August 11, 2010
#201. Client File Retention Responsibilities Where an Associate Attorney Leaves a Law Firm November 1, 2010
#202. Inclusion in Engagement Letter of Client’s Agreement to Waive a Jury Regarding Disputes between Attorney and Client January 9, 2011 Enduring Ethics Opinion #202
#203. Specialization April 13, 2011
#204. Prohibition of Attorney Entering Into a Hold Harmless or Indemnification Agreement in Favor of an Adverse Party Making Payment to the Attorney’s Client in Settlement of a Personal Injury Claim April 22, 2011
#205. Attorney’s representation of opposing counsel in an unrelated matter. November 3, 2011
#206. Non-Refundable Flat Fee Agreements (Vacated 12/03/2014) December 12, 2012
#207. The Ethics of Cloud Computing and Storage January 8, 2013
#208. Practice of Collaborative Law in Family Law Matters March 6, 2014
#209. Disclosure Issues in Deferred Disposition Settings May 20, 2014
#210. Restrictions on the Sale of an Attorney’s Law Practice July 14, 2014
#211. Allowance of Nonrefundable Fee Agreements December 3, 2014