An Ethical Dilemma
If a lawyer suspects, but does not know, that a client or potential client is seeking their services to engage in criminal activity, can they still offer legal counsel? When does a lawyer have a duty to investigate her own clients? In its Formal Opinion 491 issued in 2020, the American Bar Association addressed lawyers’ obligations to inquire further to determine whether a client may be attempting to perpetrate a crime or fraud. Professor Peter Joy, legal ethics scholar, explains the ethics rules governing the lawyer’s scope of representation. He examines the standards put forth in Opinion 491 and raises surprising questions as to whether such standards actually fit with the ethics rules as they are drafted.