Ethics & Professionalism Committee

The Ethics and Professionalism Committee was established to promote and improve the ethics and professionalism of lawyers and judges in the community. Committee members engage in a number of initiatives intended to educate CMBA members about the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee publishes a monthly column in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal called Ethics Perspectives and administers the Ethics Hotline for CMBA members. The Committee also sponsors an annual ethics and professionalism CLE, an essay competition, the William K. Thomas Professionalism Award and the ‘What If’ Preparedness (WIP) Program.

The Committee meets the second Thursday of each month at noon at the Association where members are invited to bring a brown bag lunch.

Membership is open to Association members in good standing, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees. Members can normally join the Committee throughout the year simply by expressing an interest in serving on the Committee.


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Kimberly Vanover Riley 


Kimberly M. Baga 


Montgomery Rennie & Jonson 


Vice Chair 

 Attorney at Law 



For more information on this Committee, please contact:

Heather Zirke, Bar Counsel


Helping Solo Practitioners Prepare for Business “What Ifs” 

Solo practitioners can prepare for the “What Ifs” of business life with the help of CMBA’s What If Preparedness (“WIP” program), developed by the CMBA Ethics & Professionalism Committee. By taking advantage of the WIP program, you provide important information that can be used to protect your clients and aid your family members who may not know where to begin.  And if none of the scary “what ifs” come to pass, the information that you compile and update will help you prepare to bring in a new associate or partner, sell your practice, or wind it down yourself.

Are you prepared for the “what ifs”? 

Here are additional resources for lawyers planning for contingencies and transition: 

As a benefit to Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association members and the legal community as a whole, the Ethics & Professionalism Committee has written numerous ethics advisory opinions which address questions about the ethical obligations that a lawyer should consider in hypothetical or prospective situations. These opinions are informal and nonbinding. Please note that the opinions have not been modified or withdrawn since their year of issuance, and they may be outdated or not current because of subsequent rule or case law changes.

In addition, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct Aug. 1, 2006, effective Feb. 1, 2007. These rules supersede the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility, adopted Oct. 5, 1970 and as amended throughout the intervening years. It is suggested that you consult the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and supplement these opinions with your own statutory and case law research.



A lawyer may not participate in a so-called group 'advertising program' that exercises discretion and makes legal judgments by screening calls to 'insure' that a participating lawyer receives 'quality referrals.'
**Also see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 91-7



As long as an attorney's conduct conforms to the rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, there is nothing to preclude him from associating himself with more than one law firm or legal professional association.
**Also see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 97-2
**But see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 89-35



Attorney who is aware that a witness has presented fabricated evidence must discuss the matter with his client, and advise him to rectify the situation. The lawyer must also inform the tribunal, and possibly the opposing counsel if ordered by the court to do so, of the fraud. This applies even after the attorney has withdrawn.
**But see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 90-7 


An attorney's duty to reveal a client's fraud to the affected person or tribunal is not altered by the fact that the affected person is another client of the attorney. An attorney must re-evaluate if he may continue multiple representation when one of the clients asks him to hold a communication in confidence from the other clients in the multiple representation.



Except where it is reasonably clear that the client is not entitled to the funds, an attorney is ordinarily bound by a client's instructions to pay to the client funds collected by the attorney for the client even though the funds are subject to an assignment or claim in favor of a third party.
**But see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 95-12  


An attorney is charged with a greater responsibility to a client than the responsibility his is charged to other clients when there is cause to believe that this client is mentally disabled, dysfunctional, impaired or incompetent. 


An attorney may reveal a confidence or secret of his client indicating child abuse if a) the client has consented after full disclosure, b) the attorney reasonably believes that he is required to do so by law, or c) the attorney reasonably believes that his client will be endangering a child contrary to law and that the disclosure of the secret will prevent the crime.
**But see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 90-7 


An attorney undergoing an audit by the IRS may not reveal confidences or secrets of a client.
**And see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 90-4



Attorney should reach a clear agreement regarding the fees and extent of his representation as soon as practicable after he has been engaged.



A judge may not appoint a relative within the third degree to himself or his spouse (by blood or by marriage) to an administrative position, such as bailiff.
**And see Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Advisory Opinion # 93-4



A law firm cannot purchase either uncollected debt from a client or debts in which its client has an interest in acquiring.



A lawyer may violate the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct by soliciting or engaging in sexual activity with the lawyer's client or with other individuals closely connected with the representation.



An attorney may not make false statements about a judge; however, publicly made false statements are protected by the First Amendment as long as they are made without actual malice. 

The Ethics Hotline is available to members of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association who have questions about their own prospective conduct as it relates to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Questions may be answered by the Association’s Legal Department or a member of the Ethics and Professionalism Committee.

Resources available at the Association are limited to advisory ethics opinions and ethics materials. Often times, the advisory opinions that exist are not directly on point with a question asked, but instead bear indirectly on the conduct or implicate similar provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It is always suggested that members supplement these materials with their own statutory and case law research. Any information or analysis provided should be considered only as information that may factor into the member’s own analysis and independent decision-making process. Members must exercise their own professional judgment in every situation.

The Hotline is merely a benefit to Association members and is not intended to represent the Association’s legal advice, opinion, or conclusions of law.

Members may also request in writing that the Ethics and Professionalism Committee use their question as the basis for a formal opinion. The Committee may accept or decline requests. Please note that formal opinions take, at a minimum, several months before they are issued.

To submit a question to the Ethics Hotline please contact:

Heather Zirke, Bar Counsel

The Honorable William K. Thomas Professionalism Award recognizes one of our colleagues' individual contributions of ethical and professional conduct in the legal profession and emphasizes our profession's commitment to the cause of legal professionalism.

The Professionalism Award is annually awarded to a lawyer or judge who has significantly contributed to the enhancement of professionalism in the Greater Cleveland legal community by exemplifying the goals of the Ohio Supreme Court's "A Lawyer's Creed" and "A Lawyer's Aspirational Ideals" and by furthering the ideals expressed in the mission of the CMBA.  The nominees need not be a member of the CMBA.

The distinguished honorees of the Professionalism Award are as follows:

The Honorable Michael P. Donnelly, 2015
Jacqueline Johnson and Hugh Stanley, 2014

John H. Lawson, 2013
Ann C. Rowland and Michael M. Hughes, Sr. (posthumously), 2012
Thomas S. Kilbane (posthumously), 2011 
Ian N. Friedman, 2010 
Frank R. DeSantis, 2009 
Hugh E. McKay, 2008 
Deborah A. Coleman, 2007 
C. Lyonel Jones (posthumously), 2006 
Charles F. Clarke, 2005 
Niki Z. Schwartz, 2004 
Mark O'Neill, 2003 
The Honorable Patricia A. Hemann, 2002 
Marvin L. Karp, 2001 and the Law Office of David B. Malik proudly present:


The Competition is open to all full- and part-time students enrolled in a JD or LLM program at an ABA-accredited law school.

FIRST PRIZE: $1,000.00

This year’s topic: Best Practices for Using Social Media to Develop a Legal Practice
Submission Deadline for 2015 has passed.
Click here for competition rules and here for a submission form

Be certain to carefully read the rules before finalizing your essay and submission form.