Ethics Committee: How to Obtain Answers
The Ethics Committee provides several services for members of the Bar.
- Opinions – on complex or difficult questions of general interest.
- Ethics Corner Articles – on simpler issues of general interest.
- Helpline – informal assistance by individual members of the committee.
What should I do before seeking help from the Ethics Committee?
What should I do if these resources do not solve my problem?
Contact staff liaison to the Ethics Committee Robin E. Knippers, (603) 715-3259, or NHBA, 2 Pillsbury Street, Suite 300, Concord, NH 03301-3502.
Is my issue appropriate for an opinion from the committee?
- The committee will accept for consideration written inquiries by members of the Bar.
- The committee will not render opinions pertaining to conduct which is an issue of pending litigation or disciplinary action.
- The committee will not render opinions involving past conduct.
- The committee may decline to render an opinion as to the proposed conduct of someone other than the inquirer.
What is the process for obtaining an opinion?
Requests for action by the full committee must be submitted in writing. A response can take two to three months, sometimes more, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. The committee member assigned to draft an opinion may contact you for more information.
The full committee will consider the draft, and any redrafts that may be necessary, at its monthly meetings. If the committee agrees on a final opinion or Article, it will be presented to the Board of Governors. After review by the Board of Governors, you will be sent a letter with a copy of the opinion responding to the inquiry.
May I request that my identity as the inquiring attorney be kept confidential?
The procedural rules of the Ethics Committee specifically prohibit the voluntary disclosure of the identity of a member of the Bar requesting an opinion on his or her own behalf to any person other than the current members of the committee and the Bar staff members assigned to the committee, unless otherwise ordered by compulsory legal process.
Is my issue appropriate for Helpline?
- It must involve proposed conduct, rather than past conduct.
- It must involve your own conduct, not the conduct of another attorney.
- It cannot involve conduct which is an issue of pending litigation or disciplinary action.
What is the process for obtaining assistance through Helpline?
Contact Robin by telephone, (603) 715-3259. She will take your preliminary information and try to put you in touch with one of the members of the committee who might be able to help you.
The committee members are lawyers who are volunteering their time to help other lawyers work through their ethical issues. Accordingly, it can sometimes take a day or two for someone to contact you.
Is Helpline providing me with legal representation?
Absolutely not. That is not the purpose of Helpline. The members are acting as a "sounding board" and providing "reality checks". The members will try to be helpful in directing the further research of the inquirer. Due to the limited nature of the informal telephone conversation, the members will not give definitive answers to Helpline questions.
Even without the attorney-client relationship, however, both you and the member should be careful about conflicts. Please consider carefully the identity of the person you are assigned, as well as his or her firm and business affiliations, to avoid conflicts.
Will my conversations with the committee member be "confidential"?
Since there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the committee member, there is no confidentiality or privilege with respect to such communications in the legal sense. As with opinion inquiries, however, the committee will limit the voluntary disclosure of the identity of the inquiring attorney, and of all discussions, deliberations, files and records of the committee, to the extent that they may disclose the identity of the inquiring attorney, to members of the committee and Bar staff assigned to the committee, unless otherwise ordered by compulsory legal process or unless the inquiring attorney waives these protections in writing. If you have reason for greater restriction on disclosure, let your assigned member know.
What if Helpline doesn't help?
The member may conclude that your issue is too difficult or complex for informal assistance, and may provide you with the names of New Hampshire attorneys who handle these sorts of issues professionally. When you are in need of counsel, staff liaison, Robin E. Knippers, is able to connect you with the Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service for courtesy referrals.