Legal Ethics and Malpractice
Areas of Focus
- Disciplinary Actions
- Outside Ethics Counsel
- Malpractice + Civil Litigation
- Lawyer Moves + Conflicts Investigations
- Litigation Financing + Emerging Issues
- Legal Ethics in Criminal Litigation + Investigations
- Legal Ethics Resource Center
One of only two firms awarded Best Lawyers 2023 top rank for legal ethics and professional liability law, HWG counsels lawyers, practice groups, companies, and law firms on complex ethical issues that profoundly impact the course of individual careers and business decisions.
Our ethics team, all experienced litigators, represent lawyers and law firms in civil litigation, criminal investigations, and disciplinary matters.
HWG’s ethics team has significant experience counseling lawyers and law firms on business issues, particularly on matters involving operations, conflicts of interest, and lateral moves.
As widely published authors, active members of state and national committees that shape professional responsibility and legal ethics rules, adjunct legal ethics professors at law schools including Georgetown and Duke, and frequent speakers on professional responsibility topics, HWG’s ethics lawyers have a nuanced understanding of the rules and their application as well as a deep dedication to their clients.
HWG frequently represents individuals responding to bar and disciplinary board investigations and complaints at the state and federal level in the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, the US Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility and before the United States’ Patent and Trademark Office’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline.
We have participated in all aspects of the disciplinary process from complaint response to hearings and appeal. Our responses to inquiries have led to the outright dismissal of complaints without any adverse action against our clients.
Outside Ethics Counsel
HWG serves as outside ethics counsel to dozens of law firms, including many with global footprints. We regularly advise law firms on issues involving conflicts among existing, former, and prospective clients. We also advise law firms in all phases of their operations from formation and organization to internal disputes, dissolutions, and bankruptcies. HWG has assisted law firms in documenting bank loans, drafting and amending partnership agreements, drafting form retainer letters, and other matters necessary to law practice.
In addition to serving as outside ethics counsel to law firms, HWG offers pro bono representation to organizations that provide access to justice to underserved populations. These organizations include the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Defender Service, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Bread for the City, and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
Malpractice + Civil Litigation
There are few accusations of legal malpractice or disqualification that we have not confronted for our clients. Legal malpractice, disqualification, and sanctions litigation require litigating both the propriety of lawyers’ actions and litigating the underlying “case within a case.” Discovery in these cases often involves millions of pages of documents, and extensive law and motions practice. We have considerable background both on the plaintiff and defense side with subtle and complicated causation issues, statute of limitation problems, attorney-client relationship questions, and privacy concerns. Our extensive experience litigating these cases gives us added insight into often knotty damages issues.
Lawyer Moves + Conflicts Investigations
HWG counsels lawyers and law firms regarding ethical issues surrounding lateral attorney moves. We regularly advise lawyers contemplating lateral moves regarding the requisite ethical rules—including notice and client-file obligations—and the negotiation process. Over the last twelve months, we have successfully transitioned all of our clients to new law firms without any ethical issues or loss of client relationships.
HWG also serves as independent counsel to law firms to investigate potential conflicts for lateral lawyer candidates. In this role, HWG gathers material information and determines if any conflict issues exist without revealing confidential information or waiving privilege. If a conflict issue arises, we counsel our clients as to how to resolve the issue.
Litigation Financing + Emerging Issues
HWG advises law firms and parties on emerging issues in the legal industry. Our work includes counseling law firms on litigation funding arrangements and advising litigation funders on key ethical issues surrounding funding agreements. We regularly advise lawyers and firms on how to leverage D.C.’s rule allowing non-lawyer partners in law firms, and how to use social media consistent with the ethics rules.
Criminal Litigation + Investigations
HWG’s ethics team has significant experience defending clients in criminal proceedings and investigations where ethical questions play a critical role. We have defended lawyers against criminal charges while navigating attorney client privilege issues and the confidentiality requirements under the rules of professional conduct.Read More+