One of only two firms awarded Best Lawyers 2021 top rank for legal ethics and legal malpractice 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 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, 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.
- 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
- Legal malpractice, disqualification and sanctions litigation often 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. There are few accusations of legal malpractice or disqualification that we have not confronted for our clients. We have considerable background both on the plaintiff and defense side with subtle and complicated causation issues as well as commonplace statute of limitation problems, attorney-client relationship questions, and privacy questions. Damages often present knotty issues in legal malpractice cases, and our extensive experience litigating such cases gives us added insight.
HWG counsels lawyers as well as law firms regarding ethical issues surrounding lateral attorney moves.
- Advising Individual Attorneys and Practice Groups on Lateral 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, all such clients successfully transitioned to new law firms without any ethical issues or loss of client relationships.
- Investigating Potential Conflict of Interests
HWG 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 provide advice on resolving the issue.
Law Firm Management
- HWG advises law firms in all phases 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.
Litigation Financing / Emerging Issues
- HWG advises law firms and parties on emerging issues in the legal industry. This includes:
- Counseling law firms on litigation funding arrangements
- Advising litigation funders on key ethical issues surrounding funding agreements
- Advising law firms on non-lawyer partners
- Addressing the ethical issue presented by social media
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.