The Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) are a set of legal ethics rules created by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1983 in place of the 1969 Code of Professional Responsibility. The MRPC is comprised of the following sections: Client-Lawyer Relationship, Counselor, Advocate, Transactions with Persons Other than Clients, Law Firms and Associations, Public Service, Information About Legal Services, and Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession. The MRPC provides both mandates and guidance in discretionary situations on topics including conflicts of interest, attorney duties of competence, diligence, confidentiality and loyalty, conduct owed to the courts, attorney fees and solicitation, and more.
In contrast to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct are not inherently binding but have come into effect only when states choose to adopt certain rules. For example, New York was one of the last states to continue to use the 1969 Code, only adopting a modified version of the Model Rules in 2009. It is also important to note that the MRPC is not the exclusive source of ethical rules in the legal profession. Rather, it co-exists with federal and state statutes, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the inherent judicial authority to discipline and regulate proceedings by the courts, the general torts, contract, evidence and constitutional law, among others. Further, an attorney’s a violation of the MRPC is not considered negligence per se or malpractice per se.
Other sources of ethical guidance include the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers, the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (1972), the American College of Trial Lawyers Code of Pretrial and Trial Conduct, and more.
[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]