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Professional Responsibility/Legal Ethics
South Texas College of Law Houston
Powers, Jean Fleming

a. Professionalism
i. Elements
1. Intellectual training, complex judgment
2. Trust of clients
3. Clients and public over self-interest
4. Self-regulating
ii. Image of Attorneys
1. Conflicting duties/loyalties – Preamble – responsible to:
a. Clients
b. The legal system – officer of the court
c. Attorney’s own interest and values
d. Contribute to society
2. Inevitable conflicts – What to do?
a. Danger in leaning too much to any one interest
iii. Can we improve the image of attorneys?
1. Some problems are inherent
a. Lawyers on both sides – “good guys” and “bad guys”
b. Part of the dignity of the profession
2. Some ways to improve
a. Get out (or reform) “bad apples”
b. Good system of rules
c. Better training
b. Service in the Public Interest
i. Duty to perform Pro Bono work (suggest 50 hours per year).
1. “Public service” aspect of professionalism
2. What is pro bono?
a. Offering legal services, free of charge.
b. To people of “limited means”
c. To charities, etc.., that address needs of people of “limited means”
d. Reduced fees to appropriate people or groups
e. Participation in “improving law”
f. Should make financial contributions
g. Can’t become pro bono after the fact.
3. Rule 6.1 {Note: Not in the Texas Rules}
a. “Every lawyer has a … responsibility…”
b. “A lawyer should aspire to render…”
c. Not really a rule
i. Not mandatory – but pressure
ii. “Rule” much more detailed
iii. Not enforced through discipline
4. Mandatory Pro Bono
a. PRO – Encourage the pro bono experience
b. CON – Indentured servitude, enforced charity
c. If so, what kind of system should be adopted?
i. Buy-out options
ii. Exceptions
d. Note: Mandatory reporting is different from mandatory pro bono
e. Texas has a voluntary reporting and contributions.
ii. Accepting Appointments
1. RULE 6.2 – Accepting Appointments (TX Rule 6.1 in Texas)
a. Lawyer should not avoid appointment except for good cause (not just because unpopular)
i. Would result in violation of rule or law
ii. Unreasonable financial burden
1. Solo practitioner
2. Long engagement envisioned
iii. So repugnant impairs relationship or ability to represent client
1. Must involve circumstances uniquely repugnant to the lawyer individually
b. No requirement that attorney must work for free (although likely at a reduced rate)
c. Texas has this rule also (TX Rule 6.1).
c. Areas of Concern for Attorneys
i. Discipline
1. Rules
2. Main focus of course, but more involved
ii. Civil Liability
1. Malpractice
2. Liability to non-clients
3. Not governed by rules, may be related
iii. Criminal Liability
1. Subject to same laws everybody else is
2. No immunity because lawyer
d. Quality Control for Attorneys
i. Make sure that only licensed attorneys practice law
1. Unauthorized practice rules
ii. Make sure that licensed attorneys are competent
1. Controlling admissions to the bar
a. Legal education
b. Bar exam
i. Texas admission requirements –
ii. Info on state bar, attorneys, rules –
c. MPRE –
d. Character and fitness
i. Applicant for bar admission has the burden of proof regarding their character and fitness. IN RE: APPLICATION OF CHAPMAN, OH, 1994
1. Bar applicant denied admission based on prior history of bad business practices.
2. The court held that Mr. Chapman’s had failed to prove good character and fitness sufficient for immediate admission into the practice of law.
3. Dishonesty is a significant taboo in the legal field.
4. Had he already been a member of the bar, Chapman’s activities would ha

activities as “Marilyn’s Secretarial Service” offering to perform typing services for “Do-It-Yourself” divorces, wills, resumes, and bankruptcies.
2. The Court held that although Δ never held herself out as an attorney in soliciting clients for her secretarial service, respondent overstepped proper bounds and engaged in unauthorized practice of law to extent that her clients placed some reliance upon her to properly prepare necessary legal forms for their dissolution proceedings.
3. Resolution:
a. Brumbaugh could:
i. She can type forms.
ii. She can sell forms.
iii. She can give printed instructions.
b. Brumbaugh could NOT:
i. She could NOT give advice.
4. Most states say that sale of books, forms, instructions are not the practice of law.
a. Not tailored to specific facts or case
b. Texas statute to same effect.
i. Disclaimer required – not substitute for legal advice.
ii. 81.101(c) – refers to books, forms, computer software or similar products
c. Key in both cases is giving information vs. giving advice.
5. Law-related work
a. Often exceptions/concessions for certain professions, situations:
i. Real estate agents/brokers – Land men
ii. Bankers, accountants, insurance agents
iii. Title insurance companies
iv. Preparation of medical powers of attorney, advance directives, guardianships
v. Representation in certain administrative proceedings.
b. Note: Assistance with insurance claims generally practice of law – NOT ALLOWED.