Document Type


Publication Date





The legal profession is regulated with numerous ethical rules designed to ensure that practitioners comply with its high standards of professional conduct. Federal Government attorneys, while generally held to the same ethical standards as other attorneys, are subject to an additional set of requirements mandated by federal laws and regulations. This article focuses on the rules most crucial to the protection of the public welfare: 1) Government attorneys’ ethical obligations, and 2) Government attorneys’ duty to properly control information.

Government attorneys of the Executive Branch must comply with the “Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.” This article provides an overview of the rules most relevant to daily practice, such as the acceptance of gifts, bribery and gratuities, conflicts of interest, post-employment restrictions, and limitations on outside activities. In addition, the paper discusses the Hatch Act, which restricts Government attorneys from engaging in certain political activities.

Government attorneys face a unique tension when handling nonpublic information. Generally, Government attorneys should keep client information confidential; however there are two important exceptions: 1) the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), and 2) the Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”). The article provides an overview of both statutes and their impact on Government attorneys.

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-117, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-117

Included in

Law Commons