Skip to main content

Don’t post ABA formal ethics opinions on the web

By October 18, 2012September 8th, 2022law practice

Last week I got an email from someone in the legal department of the American Bar Association.

They wanted me to remove a PDF file with a formal ABA ethics opinion on metadata, because I hadn’t sought, and received, permission to post it.

Of course, I had no idea that ABA opinions were subject to strict publication controls.

I would have thought the ABA would want to make it as easy as possible for people to know about their formal ethics opinions.

I told two lawyer friends about the ABA’s email. One is an ethics expert, and said “the ABA has long taken this position, and it’s annoying.” The other is an intellectual property expert; she was surprised the ABA would claim a copyright in formal opinions.

She offered to help me craft a response letter to ask the ABA to explain their position, but I told her I’d rather just take down the file and move on.

What do I care if fewer people have access to ABA formal opinions?

It’s not my job to make lawyers more aware of ethical issues. I thought that was the ABA’s mission.

Clearly, I don’t understand the ABA. But I wonder how other lawyers would feel about the ABA’s position.

I’m pretty sure many of them would think it’s strange.

Update: Carolyn Elefant has been complaining about the ABA’s position for years, and has some really thoughtful observations on her blog. She’s even created an online petition at for folks to use to register their disagreement.

P.S. If you're a practicing lawyer, check out this Law Practice Assessment . After answering a few questions, you'll get detailed recommendations for improving five key areas of your practice.


Skip to content