Published on: Thursday, March 2, 2023

Lawyers who work in more than one jurisdiction should follow the ethics rules of the place where the "predominant effect" of their conduct will occur, according to a new American Bar Association ethics opinion released Wednesday (article available here).

Dubbed Formal Opinion 504, the document was prepared by the ABA's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and addresses matters such as fee agreements, law firm ownership, reporting professional misconduct, confidentiality duties and screening lawyers who leave one firm to join another.

"A lawyer must comply with the ethics rules of the jurisdiction where the lawyer's conduct occurs or, if different, where the predominant effect of the lawyer's conduct occurs," the opinion says. "Factors to assess where that 'predominant effect' occurs may include the client's location, where a transaction occurs, which jurisdiction's substantive law applies to the transaction, the location of the lawyer's principal office, where the lawyer is admitted, the location of the opposing party and the jurisdiction with the greatest interest in the lawyer's conduct."

The 12-page opinion notes that ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.5 states that when a lawyer's conduct is in connection with a matter pending before a tribunal, the lawyer must comply with the ethics rules of the jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits, unless otherwise provided.

The opinion gives several different scenarios to illustrate the "predominant effect" analysis.