SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


This Article suggests a novel concept in climate change law and attorney ethics law by proposing that many states’ attorney ethics laws could be interpreted to require, or at least permit, attorneys to disclose client activity relating to greenhouse gas emissions. Every state has some form of ABA Model Rule 1.6(b), either requiring or allowing attorneys to disclose client activities that result in death or substantial bodily harm. This Article asserts that precedent surrounding this disclosure rule indicates that the rule could be applicable to harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Attorney disclosures, in turn, could impact a wide swath of greenhouse gas-emitting activities, making it more transparent and, in certain cases, requiring attorneys to counsel cessation of such activities or withdraw from representation. Because climate advocacy organizations are seeking to use all legal tools at their disposal to slow or stop greenhouse gas emissions, attorney ethics law could present an additional strategic tool to try and control greenhouse gas emissions activities. Thus, attorneys from the private sector and in government should be aware of the potential ethical issues they may face when handling greenhouse gas-related legal work.