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Bar proposes duty to address impaired lawyers

A Virginia State Bar committee is seeking comment on the duty of law firm leaders to take action when another firm lawyer shows signs of impairment.

The VSB Standing Committee on Legal Ethics is proposing a legal ethics opinion calling for law firms to have enforceable policies requiring intervention for impaired lawyers.

According to a bar notice, the proposed advisory Legal Ethics Opinion 1886 addresses the ethical duties of law firm partners and supervisory lawyers to take remedial measures when they reasonably believe another firm lawyer may be suffering from a significant impairment that poses a risk to clients or the general public. The proposed opinion specifically focuses on the obligations of partners and supervisory lawyers to take precautionary measures before a lawyer’s impairment has resulted in serious misconduct or a material risk to clients or the public.

Any individual, business or other entity may file or submit written comments in support of or in opposition to the proposed opinion with Karen A. Gould, Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar, not later than Sept. 9. Comments may be submitted via email to publiccomment@vsb.org.