Q: Is the Advisory Committee or Legal Ethics Counsel part of The Missouri Bar?
A: No. The Advisory Committee is appointed by the Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 5.01. The Advisory Committee may provide formal opinions regarding ethical matters. Rule 5.30(a). The Legal Ethics Counsel serves as staff and counsel to the Advisory Committee and provides informal advisory opinions to members of the bar. Rules 5.07(b) and 5.30(c).
Q: Is the Advisory Committee or Legal Ethics Counsel part of the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC)?
A: No. They are all part of the Missouri attorney discipline system, but the Advisory Committee and LEC are separate from OCDC.
Q: What is an informal advisory opinion and what does it mean?
A: An informal advisory opinion is just that – informal and advisory. It is nonbinding and is given for the guidance of the attorney asking the question. Although informal advisory opinions are nonbinding, OCDC will take an informal advisory opinion into consideration, to the extent it considers appropriate, when it relates to a complaint received on that attorney. If the facts found by OCDC through investigation vary from the facts upon which the informal advisory opinion was based, it is less likely that OCDC will give much weight to the informal advisory opinion.
Q: What is the difference between an informal advisory opinion and a formal opinion?
A: Formal opinions are binding in disciplinary proceedings that occur after the formal opinion is issued. Formal opinions are subject to review by the Supreme Court when petitioned by any member of the bar who is substantially and individually aggrieved by the opinion. Burgess v. State, 342 S.W.3d 325, 329 fn 6 (Mo. Banc 2011). No formal opinion has been reviewed by the Supreme Court, to date.
Q: What are the functions of the Advisory Committee?
A: Please see the About Us section of this website.
Q: How do I request an informal advisory opinion?
A: An attorney may call or write the Legal Ethics Counsel to request an informal advisory opinion. The articles section of this website has more information.
Q: Where can I find informal advisory opinion summaries that have been published?
A: Published informal advisory opinion summaries dating back to July 1, 1993, can be found on The Missouri Bar’s website in a searchable database.
Q: Where can I find formal opinions?
A: The formal opinions and informal advisory opinions through June 30, 1994 are included in a deskbook entitled Missouri Advisory Opinions published by The Missouri Bar in 1995. A supplement to the deskbook was published in 1996. Opinions included in the deskbook and supplement are indexed by topic and include an annotation to the particular rule(s) involved. The book is no longer being published; however, you may search an electronic version of the deskbook and supplement and formal opinions published since 1996 by on The Missouri Bar website. Copies of the original deskbook may be found at many law libraries throughout the state. Westlaw also includes a number of the more recent formal opinions.
Q: How do I request a formal opinion?
A: Formal opinions are issued at the discretion of the Advisory Committee. A letter should be written to the Chair of the Advisory Committee or the Legal Ethics Counsel requesting that the Advisory Committee issue a formal opinion. The request should include any facts that are relevant to the request and the issue the requesting attorney would like the opinion to address. Formal opinions are not intended for specific, individual situations. Because formal opinions must be approved by the Advisory Committee, formal opinions frequently take six to twelve months or more.