Ethics Hotline

800-238-4427 (toll free in California)
415-538-2150 (from outside California)
800-843-9053 (Attorney Complaint Hotline)

The Ethics Hotline, a confidential research service for attorneys only, helps lawyers identify and analyze their professional responsibilities.

Since 1983, the Ethics Hotline has been one of the State Bar's most popular services. In 1998, the bar's funding crisis resulted in the temporary shut down of the Hotline, but service was re-established in spring 1999.

Although staff members cannot provide legal counsel, advice, or opinions, they can discuss issues and authorities with lawyers. By referring callers to statutes, rules, cases, and bar opinions, staff members strive to assist attorneys in reaching informed decisions about their professional responsibility questions.


Attorneys may call the Ethics Hotline from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (PST) on weekdays by calling 1-800-238-4427 (1-800-2-ETHICS) within California or 415-538-2150 from outside of California.

  • Due to limited staff, the Hotline receptionist will take your name and phone number, and a Hotline staff member will return your call.

    You are welcome to inquire about the current turnaround time with the receptionist when you call. On a normal day the turnaround time may be 3 to 5 business hours. During high call volume times the turnaround time may be as long as 1 to 1 1/2 business days.

    If your inquiry is time-sensitive and requires assistance sooner than our current reported turnaround time, please ask the receptionist to consider making an arrangement for a quicker reply. An emergency call receives top priority and at the discretion of Hotline staff may get an immediate response.

  • All calls to the Ethics Hotline generally are confidential. Staff members may refer callers to other State Bar departments, but ordinarily do not inform any other departments about the contents of calls.
  • The Hotline accommodates attorneys who do not wish to divulge their names or telephone numbers. The receptionist will take pseudonyms and schedule appointments for anonymous callers.


Staff members monitor new cases and laws to provide helpful information. They keep up-to-date on many topics, including advertising, communications, competence, confidences and secrets, conflicts of interest, fees and costs, files, misconduct, unauthorized practice of law, and withdrawal from employment. Staff members also produce the online newsletter Ethics Hotliner and update the California Compendium on Professional Responsibility. The Compendium includes a comprehensive index of ethical issues and contains the:

Intake System

Calls are answered by a live receptionist. However, our system requires that all callers listen to a brief recorded message. After the message, each call is promptly routed to our receptionist.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

If you have already called the hotline, we value your feedback. Please complete the Ethics Hotline Customer Satisfaction Survey.