Research guides

Legal Ethics & Professional Conduct

PA Ethics Opinions (PBA & County Bar)

"The [Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility] will issue opinions of two kinds: Formal and Informal. . . . Formal Opinions will issue if (1) the Committee, deems a request to be of widespread interest . . . or (2) the person seeking an opinion requests consideration by the full Committee . . . or (3) the request concerns an issue which is not clearly settled. Informal Opinions will issue to the inquirer, in letter form . . . [and s]uch letters will make clear the informal nature of the answer." Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Procedure ¶ 3 (1970), reprinted in Pennsylvania Bar Association Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association will only distribute opinions to members of the PBA. Only select opinions are available via alternative sources.

Online Resources

PBA Ethics Opinions Pennsylvania Bar Association
1970s-present. Full text. Formal opinions only. Select opinions may not be available.
If you know the ethics opinion number you are looking for, type the number in the search box. It may be beneficial to try searching a few different ways for the opinion (for example: YYYY-NNN or YY-NN). If searching by number does not return the desired ethics opinion, try searching by topical words and phrases, making sure to search for synonyms or alternate phrases. PBA members can also contact the Ethics Hotline (800.932.0311, ext. 2214).

Ethics Opinions Philadelphia Bar Association
1987-present. Full text.

Supreme Court and Disciplinary Board Opinions Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board

Professional Ethics Committee Allegheny County Bar Association
Selected opinions available to ACBA members.

Onsite Lexis & Westlaw

National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility - PA Opinions
Available on library's Lexis computers.
1991-2004. This file contains selected legal and judicial ethics opinions from Pennsylvania, as provided by the National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

Pennsylvania Legal Ethics Opinions
Available on the library's Westlaw computers.
Select coverage. Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility: begins in 1990 (select coverage prior to 1990). Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Guidance Committee: begins in 1987.
To search using the opinion number use adv: DN()

Print Resources

ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct: Ethics Opinions ABA/BNA
8 vols., 1980-1985, 1986-1990, 1991-1996, 1996-2000, 2001-2005, 2006-2010, 2011-2015, 2016-2020.
Select ethics opinion summaries for ABA, various states, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Philadelphia Bar Association, and Allegheny Bar Association.

Digest of Bar Association Ethics Opinions American Bar Foundation
4 vols., 1924-1979. Opinion summaries from the ABA, 26 bar associations, and 2 speciality associations. Coverage varies by jurisdiction.
Pennsylvania opinions include Pennsylvania Bar Association opinion 1978-1, Philadelphia Bar Association opinions, and Allegheny Bar Association opinions. Library also has on Micro.

National Reporter on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility University Publications of America
Library has 1983-2004. Selected ethics opinions from all 50 states. Ask the Reference Desk for a full list of included Pennsylvania opinions.

Pennsylvania Bar Association Formal and Informal Ethics Opinions Pennsylvania Bar Association
Selective coverage of formal opinions 1975-2007. Selective coverage of informal opinions 1972-1997.
Includes index. Full text available.

Pennsylvania Bar Institute Publications
Some PBI publications may contain ethics opinions. To find PBI publications, check the Jenkins' catalog. To limit your search results to only PBI materials, select "Modify Search" and enter Pennsylvania Bar Institute in the Publisher field.

Report of the Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Pennsylvania Bar Association
Library has 1895-1968. Coverage varies by year. Most years do not list summaries or full text.
Includes the Report from the Committee on Legal Ethics and Grievances (formerly the Committe on Grievances).

Subject Index of Published Disciplinary Opinions Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Library has May 1978 - August 2004. Subject index only, no full text.

Summaries of Opinions Compiled by Professional Guidance Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association Philadelphia Bar Association
1939-1981 (summaries only), 1970-1980 Minutes (no full text of opinions), 1982-1986 (summaries only), Opinions 90-14 through 94-30 (full text), Opinions 95-1 through 97-15 (full text).

Summaries of Private Discipline Imposed on Pennsylvania Attorneys Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
1976-1994.

Periodicals

Pennsylvania Bar News Pennsylvania Bar Association
Library has vol. 9:9-24 (May 10, 1999) - present. See Ethics Digest.

Pennsylvania Lawyer Pennsylvania Bar Association
Library has vol. 1 (February 1979) - present. Library also has on Micro.
See Discipline summaries and Ethics Digest. Ethics Digest begins with April 1987 issue. Some opinions may be full text.