If you try to publish an ABA ethics opinion on your blog without first seeking permission, you can apparently expect a copyright takedown notice. That’s what lawyer-blogger Ernie Svenson got (PDF) when he published ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 06-442. I had to link to it in Google’s cache because PDF for Lawyers apparently got the same notice and the ABA won’t give it to you unless you pay $20.

The ABA has every legal right to claim copyright on its ethics opinions and sell them. It is a private company, not a governmental entity. However, it also has the right to have those ethics opinions ignored by everyone because they aren’t freely available for review and comment. Open access to regulations is essential if you want anybody to follow them or take them seriously.

Read Ethics Alert: Be Careful About Posting ABA Formal Ethics Opinions On The Web on Ernie the Attorney.


  1. Ron Coleman says:

    Good point, although these ethics opinions aren’t really “regulations.” Chances are the ABA is figuring that most people who want copies of their opinions are law firms doing research, which won’t hesitate to shell out $20 if they think an ABA opinion is helpful on a research project or submission. But it’s not too public-spirited.

  2. Gyi says:

    Are they really that hard up?

  3. Ricardo Barrera says:

    The ABA does not have the right to have those opinions ignored by everyone. Rather, everyone has the option to ignore them. Indeed, if no one knows about them, the issue doesn’t even arise.

  4. Yet they are the body responsible for accrediting law schools.


    • Sam Glover says:

      Yes, well, the ABA has obviously lost all credibility when it comes to accrediting or regulating law schools.

    • Ron Coleman says:

      What does this have to do with accrediting law schools?

      • Sam Glover says:

        If the ABA can’t be trusted to regulate law schools (and it clearly can’t), what business does it have trying to regulate lawyers?

        • Ron Coleman says:

          That’s a non-sequitur. Also, they don’t try to “regulate” lawyers.
          Not carrying water for the ABA here, but “just saying.”

          • Sam Glover says:

            The Model Rules of Professional Conduct (and interpretive opinions) aren’t an attempt to regulate lawyers? Isn’t that the whole point of model rules?

      • The ABA is taking the position is it a private corporation, and it cares more about churning a profit than it does bettering the profession. Fine, I get that.

        However, state Supreme Courts are governmental entities. So why should governmental entities like a state Supreme Court preface admission based on what the ABA, an organized that exists to make money, thinks about a school?

        Why not make attending a school Wal-Mart approves a prerequisite to getting a government job, too?

  5. GeorgeInez says:

    Oh, if only all of you knew the Ohio Supreme Court. I was found responsible for a guardianship conflict of interest because I had applied to be the guardian but when I found a family member willing to step forward, I dismissed my petition and represented the family member. Even though before the Court had held that potential guardians had no interest in the proceeding, the OSC reversed course and based its decision on an ABA ethics opinion.

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