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Reporting Professional Misconduct Under Rule 8.3: Ethics of Impaired Lawyers and Lawyers Needing Assistance

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, July 20, 2023

Recorded event now available

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This CLE webinar will discuss dealing with impaired or compromised lawyers in the context of reviewing a lawyer's and a law firm's obligations to report another lawyer to the appropriate disciplinary authority under ABA Model Rule 8.3. The panel will discuss when specific reporting is triggered, the consequences of acting or failing to act, and best practices for taking effective action whether the lawyer is working in person or remotely. The panel will explore the most common reasons ethical violations occur and what firms and lawyers can do about it.


ABA Model Rule 8.3 and its many state counterparts require lawyers to inform the appropriate professional authority once a lawyer "knows" another lawyer has engaged in certain professional misconduct. The issue often arises when the attorney being reported suffers from an untreated or undiagnosed substance use disorder or mental health issue, is experiencing extreme stress or anxiety, or develops a cognitive disease.

The duty or opportunity to "know" of such violations can vary depending on the relationship between the lawyers in question. Identifying, addressing, and managing one's own or a colleague's impairment can be a difficult task for any lawyer or firm to confront.

The problem of lawyer impairment, whether from a substance use disorder or mental strain, is well documented and many bar associations have recognized that an attorney's mental, emotional, and physical well-being impacts the lawyer's ability to represent clients in almost every way. Every firm regardless of size should have a program for dealing with this issue.

Listen as this esteemed panel of experts reviews the ethics of lawyers needing assistance.



  1. Model Rule 8.3: Reporting Professional Misconduct
    1. Supervising lawyers
    2. Non-supervising lawyers
    3. Colleagues
    4. Current cases of interest
  2. Misconduct risks
    1. Model Rule 1.16(a): Declining or Terminating Representation
    2. Model Rule 1.1: Competence
    3. Model Rule 1.3: Diligent Representation
    4. Model Rules 5.1 and 5.2 and the Responsibilities of Partners and Subordinate Lawyers
    5. Model Rule 1.4 and Communications with Clients
    6. Model Rule 5.3 and Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants
    7. Model Rule 1.6 and the Duty of Confidentiality
    8. Model Rules 1.15 and 1.16 and Safeguarding Property
    9. Model Rule 8.4: Misconduct
    10. Model Rules 4.1, 4.4, and 8.2: Truthfulness and Civility
  3. Relevant ethics opinions
    1. ABA F.E.O. 03-429 (June 11, 2003): Duties of lawyers in the same law firm as a lawyer suffering an impairment
    2. ABA F.E.O. 03-431 (Aug. 7, 2003): Duties of lawyers not in the same law firm as a lawyer suffering an impairment
  4. Strategies and best practices
    1. For the impaired attorney
    2. For the concerned colleague
    3. For the law firm


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • When does a lawyer "know" a violation has occurred?
  • Does an attorney have a duty to report conduct unrelated to the practice of law or to judicial duties?
  • What information is reported and to whom?
  • Does a lawyer have a duty to self-report his or her own misconduct or that of an associate?
  • Does an attorney have a duty to report a suspended or disbarred lawyer?
  • What are some of the signs of a substance use disorder?


Anderson, Christine P.
Christine P. Anderson

Director of Probation and Lawyer Deferral Services
Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois

Ms. Anderson is a graduate of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1988, she joined the Illinois Attorney Registration...  |  Read More

Kepler, Tracy
Tracy L. Kepler

Risk Control Consulting Director, Global Specialty, Lawyers Professional Liability
CNA Insurance

Ms. Kepler designs and develops content and distribution of risk control initiatives relevant to the practice of law....  |  Read More

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