Since 1908, the American Bar Association has published ethical rules to govern the conduct of lawyers. The Canons of Ethics became the Model Code of Professional Responsibility in 1969. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct replaced the Model Code in 1983. The model rules are not binding on lawyers in a jurisdiction until that state’s supreme court adopts them. With variations in some of the rules, 49 states and the District of Columbia have done so. The one exception is California, which has its own ethics rules.

The ABA periodically reviews the model rules and their explanatory comments in relation to trends in the practice of law, and when necessary makes amendments to the rules or comments. States typically follow suit with conforming amendments.

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