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Legal Ethics Advice for Hawai`i Lawyers


Formal written opinions are issued only by the Disciplinary Board and are restricted to questions of broad interest and applicability to the bar[1].  The Disciplinary Board does not issue formal opinions covering individual situations or circumstances.  Formal opinions arise as a result of inquiries by the bar, ODC, the Disciplinary Board and the Hawai`i Supreme Court.

Formal opinions are binding on all members of the bar, and should an attorney fail to observe a formal opinion, that failure can be a basis for disciplinary proceedings.

The following formal opinions are currently in effect:

Number 18 and 22: Sharing Office Space (amended March 19,2015)
Number 24: Gifts (amended March 19, 2015)
Number 28: Retaining Lien (amanded March 19,2015)
Number 31: Donating Legal Services to Charitable Organization
Number 32: Charging Interest on Client’s Outstanding Account
Number 34: Obtaining Loan Financing for Clients (amended March 19,2015)
Number 35: Deleted and incorporated in Number 45 (March 19, 2015)
Number 36: Insurance Defense Counsel’s Disclosure of Confidential Client Information to Insurer’s Outside Auditors
Number 37: Insurer Guidelines for Insurance Defense Counsel (amended March 19,2015)
Number 38: Disclosure of Deceased Client’s Confidential Information (amended March 19,2015)
Number 39: Deleted, superseded by new HRPC Rule 4.4 (March 19, 2015)
Number 40: Email Security
Number 41: Attorney Websites (amended March 19,2015)
Number 42: Captive Law Firms (amended March 19,2015)
Number 43: Of Counsel (amended March 19,2015)
Number 44: Pro Se Communication
Number 45: Handling Credit Card Payments (amended March 19,2015)
Number 46: Referral Fee (amended March 19,2015)
Number 47: Cost to Client for Use of a Contract Attorney
Number 48: Public Defender Imputed Disqualification
Number 49: Deleted, superseded by HRPC 1.2(d) [amended 10/20/2015]

[1] RSCH Rule 2.4 (e)(7); DBR Rule 3(c); DBR Rule 8(b)


Informal oral opinions may be rendered by ODC.  These oral opinions address specific factual situations faced by individual attorneys or law firms and are limited to prospective (future) conduct only.

The inquirer must provide a complete statement of the facts as well as citations to the relevant Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct to demonstrate his or her analysis.  If an attorney fails to review the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct prior to contacting ODC, this may be noted in ODC’s telephone log.

Informal opinions are based solely upon the facts which relayed by the inquiring attorney.  The inquirer will be provided with the best advice available based upon the facts presented by the attorney and that advice may be limited to simply pointing the attorney to the relevant rules for the inquirer to do his/her own analysis.  As such, all informal opinions are nonbinding and receipt of an informal opinion does not constitute a defense in any future disciplinary proceeding.

ODC does not answer informal opinion requests from attorneys not licensed or otherwise specially admitted in Hawai`i; or from the public; and does not opine on past conduct.  Such matters would require thorough investigation and analysis and are beyond the scope of ODC’s consulting and advisory mission.  ODC does not provide legal advice to anyone.

The ODC usually responds to over a thousand hotline calls for oral opinions annually from Hawai`i attorneys, and thus it is a significant resource for the attorney community, but it is not a substitute for learned self-examination and research by the caller.

ODC Procedures for Attorney Opinion Requests

Click here for the October 2014 Hawai`i Bar Journal article that describes Informal Opinions

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