Ethics Advisory Opinions
A trained Bar lawyer is available via telephone or e-mail to answer ethics questions, provide analysis of the Rules of Professional Conduct as applied to certain facts and make recommendations regarding risk management, while leaving final decisions up to the Bar member. All conversations are confidential and protected by Rule 8.3(d) of the S.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. Call (803) 799-6653, ext. 154 or e-mail
The South Carolina Bar Ethics Advisory Committee provides the full text of all ethics opinions since 1958 online. To find the opinion you need, simply use the search form below.
The opinions in this database contain the advice of the Committee based on the state of the law at the time of each opinion.  Opinions are not updated to reflect changes in the Rules of Professional Conduct, more recent opinions, or other law.  Further research may be necessary.


Ethics Advisory Opinion Search
Year (example:1998,2000,etc.)
Opinion (example:98-02,00-17,etc.)
New Ethics Advisory Opinions
2014 14-03

While compensation of mediators is normally an obligation of litigants and not their lawyers, a lawyer who chooses to guarantee payment of mediator fees is responsible for payment of those fees. Refusing to honor this obligation would likely violate Rules 8.4(d) (dishonesty) and (e) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). 

2014 14-02

A lawyer may not ethically discharge his duties as a prosecutor in a municipality that has a policy of “no dismissals and no negotiations.” Such policy prevents the lawyer from exercising prosecutorial discretion and is therefore inconsistent with the lawyer’s responsibilities under Rule 3.8(a).


2014 14-01

An attorney–matching contract that includes a clause preventing discussion of the particulars of the agreement with the client, including payment between attorney and the matching company, violates Rule 1.8(f).

2013 13-09

A lawyer may not pay for Preferred Closing Attorney status, where such status entails being listed as a Preferred Closing Attorney, the right to place advertising materials in the Real Estate Agency’s office, and the right to participate in Real Estate Agency meetings and training sessions; and such status does not include any other “commercially reasonable” terms.

2013 13-08

Attorney A may defend clients or serve as guardian for clients against whom attorney A’s spouse, Attorney B,  litigated on behalf of DSS. Attorney A is not prohibited from such representation by Rule 1.8(k) since his spouse, Attorney B, is no longer employed by DSS.  Attorney A is not prohibited from such representation by Rule 1.9, as Attorney A was not previously employed as counsel by DSS.  Finally, Attorney A is not prohibited from such representation by Rule 1.11(b) since Attorney A and Attorney B do not practice in the same firm.

2013 13-07

A law firm may request attorney fees at default foreclosure hearings based upon a percentage of the total debt, despite the fact that the firm’s contract rate with its clients is a flat fee for a lesser amount. Lawyers also  must comply fully with Rule 3.3 when responding to inquiries of the Court.  The attorney’s fee affidavit, if required, should accurately reflect the amount actually paid as well as the value of the services, if different. 

2013 13-06

A government attorney may defend her agency or command as to furlough-related complaints, provided that she reasonably believes she will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to her employer-client as required under Rule 1.7(b)(1). However, it will likely be unreasonable for the attorney to believe that she can provide competent and diligent representation to the agency in furlough-related matters while actively challenging the agency regarding her own furlough.

2013 13-05

An attorney may participate in a rotation-based, call-in  advertising service,  provided the advertisements and relationship with Company B are carefully structured to comply with Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.4 and 7.5. Advertisements must include the name and office address of a responsible South Carolina attorney and, in order to avoid misleading the public, should state that the advertising company is not acting as a referral service and not performing any screening function, but merely serving as an agent of the advertising lawyers. The advertisement must also avoid misleading the public with labels such as “Legal Helpline” or“Injury Hotline” that, combined with a toll-free number, might imply a bar or other governmental or charity affiliation. Finally, the advertisement may not falsely imply a practice affiliation among the advertising lawyers.

2013 13-04

When a third-party  wants to retain Attorney to represent Client in a legal matter, the ownership of the funds in Attorney’s trust account must be determined by and between the payor and client; Attorney must not arbitrate disputed funds. Also,  Attorney must not allow the third party payor to direct the representation of Client.  Attorney is obligated to tell the client that a third party has paid for all the legal expenses and keep the client informed as to the amount and status of those funds.

2013 13-03

There is no ethical prohibition on  Law Firm renting office space from the Real Estate Agency in order to be considered one of the Real Estate Agency’s “preferred attorneys”; provided the rental agreement calls for commercially reasonable terms including a fair market rental amount.  Additionally, Law Firm and Real Estate Agency may form a partnership to act as the Title Insurance Agent  and to split the agency’s portion of the title insurance premiums generated by real estate closings involving Law Firm and Real Estate Agency’s customers.