California Lawyers Code of Ethics

What is the California lawyers Code of Ethics? All California lawyers must strictly abide by a code of ethics or risk being disciplined, and in extreme cases of professional misconduct, lose their license to practice law in California. There are different sets of rules for different aspects of the legal process, including the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

The State Bar of California maintains an “Ethics Information” page on their official website. This page essentially serves as a clearinghouse for all matters relating to the required and suggested ethical conduct of lawyers practicing law in California. This page contains links to official references, legal documents, research tools, plus the latest news and legal decisions and opinions. Here is the link:

From the link above, you can also download the entire California Rules of Professional Conduct in PDF format to have as a handy reference for any electronic device including laptops, tablets, e-readers, PDAs, and smartphones.

Helpful When Choosing or Working with a Lawyer

Most legal clients never read these rules. Some legal clients don’t even know they exist. However, if you are in need of legal assistance, it can be helpful to at least skim over these rules. Familiarizing yourself with these rules can be helpful in picking out a lawyer and it may also help you have a mutually productive relationship with the lawyer you select to represent your legal interests.

California’s Unique Set of Rules

Most states adopt rules that closely mirror the model established by the American Bar Association (ABA model rules) when establishing their state governed code of ethics, including their rules of professional conduct for lawyers. However, California is an exception to this and the California Supreme Court has adopted a unique set of rules to govern lawyer conduct. These rules are also governed by the California Constitution and the State Bar Act. These statewide ethical rules apply to all lawyers in California since a lawyer cannot legally practice law in California without being a member of the State Bar of California. The State Bar of California is a public corporation within the judicial branch of state government that is governed by a board of trustees.

Even though California has established its own set of ethical rules which lawyers must follow, when a California court is asked to make a ruling on an issue that is not covered under the California rules, they may look to the ABA model rules for guidance. However, case law indicates that these ABA model rules may not be considered as binding authority and the California courts are not obligated to apply them or agree with them.

Further, California lawyers are not required to follow ABA model rules.

Different local jurisdictions within the state of California add additional rules that lawyers must follow. For example, the local Rules of Court are different in each county and some of these rules may fall within an ethical purview. Therefore, some of the ethical rules a lawyer must follow may be different depending on which county the case is filed in. However, the statewide ethical rules apply in every county.
The May Firm is firmly committed to providing legal services that adhere to the highest standard of ethics. In fact, we do our best to go above and beyond what is legally required.