Informal verbal opinions are issued by ODC. Informal verbal opinions are of more limited applicability because they address specific factual situations faced by individual attorneys or law firms and are limited to prospective conduct only. ODC devotes a significant amount of time (well over a thousand opinions annually) and effort answering informal opinion requests from Hawai`i attorneys. ODC does not answer informal opinion requests from attorneys not licensed in Hawai`i or from the public and does not opine on the conduct of other attorneys or on past conduct. These latter matters can only be handled through thorough investigation and analysis. ODC’s advice is limited to ethics issues; ODC does not provide legal advice.
Informal opinions are as only as solid and valid as the facts upon which they are based, a factor solely within the control of the inquiring attorney. Since a truly comprehensive statement of all relevant facts cannot be presented by the inquiring attorney and due to the inherent bias in the presentation of those facts, all informal opinions are nonbinding and cannot be relied upon the inquiring attorney. Furthermore, the verbal opinion provided by ODC do not prevent ODC from conducting an investigation in the future and finding the inquiring attorney violated the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct.
An informal nonbinding verbal opinion is usually sought by an attorney when the inquiry is relatively simple. The inquirer must provide a complete statement of the facts as well as citations to the relevant Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct so as to demonstrate his or her prior analysis. An attorney’s failure to review the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct prior to calling, demonstrated by a lack of citing to the relevant rule, may be noted in ODC’s telephone log. The inquirer will be provided with the best advice available under the circumstances based upon the facts as the attorney has provided.