Select Page

Professional Responsibility/Legal Ethics
University of South Carolina School of Law
Adams, Gregory B.

General
– Role of the lawyer: advisor, counselor, zealous advocate, negotiator, evaluator
– To whom do you owe duties: client, public, court, other lawyers, other parties, yourself
– What duties do you owe a client: confidentiality, competence, diligence, zealousness, honesty, communication, respect, loyalty
– What duties do you owe the court? Honesty, respect
– What duties do you owe third parties? Honesty, respect, fairness

Introduction to PR
Why study the law governing lawyers?

important element of professional security
need to know law imposed boundaries on lawyer conduct so that you will recognize improper conduct and protect your clients from it
Major Obj: to assist in avoiding professional discipline, civil liability, and criminal charges

Why Study the history and sociology of the legal profession

to acquire a useful background knowledge about the various organizations that make and enforce the rules for lawyers

ABAis a private nonprofit organization which is run by lawyers; governing body for lawyers

need to be familiar w/ various policy issues relating to structure and regulation of the profession so that you can participate in improving the system

What is the difference b/w ethics and morals?
– Morals: values that we attribute to a system of beliefs that help the individual define right v. wrong, good v. bad ; being guided by self sense of right/wrong
o Refers to the broad question of whether an act is right or wrong
– Ethics: also called moral philosophy, concerned w/ what is morally good and bad, right and wrong; conformity to social norms of what’s right
o May be applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles
– Legal Ethics: principles of conduct that members of the profession are expected to observe in the practice of law
o Critical pt: in evaluating any legal ethics question must asked whether the conduct violates the ethics codes. (for protection of both the lawyer and the client, you must also ask whether the conduct violates other law, such as criminal law or regulatory law)

What difference does it make that lawyers are “professionals”?

professionals are licensed
commitment to serving others
must perform an unusually careful job
person joining adopts a defined role and agrees to comply with articulated stds of conduct

Central Themes in PR

Conflicts of interest

Situation which a person notices conflicting obligations to 2 or more ppl, one of whom may be herself

Truthfulness

Question of whether and to what extent a lawyer is obliged to be truthful
Some issues involve a conflict b/w a lawyer’s personal interests and an obligation to a client or a conflict b/w his duty to a client and to another person

Lawyers’ duties to clients v. their duties to the justice system

“client centered”

i. Lawyers see themselves as important cogs in the adversary system
ii. Role almost exclusively to be the protection and advancement of client interest

“public centered”

i. Primary resp. to protect our system of justice
ii. To ensure that proceedings are fair, that participants play by the rules

Lawyers’ personal and professional interests v. their fiduciary obligations

Situations in which a lawyers’ own interests conflict in some way w/ her duties to a client

Self interest as a theme in regulation of lawyers

One often may see reflections of the drafters’ concern for their own or other lawyers’ interest

ctions to state bar associations
– state bars often administer bar exams and review candidates for admission
– maj. Of states have an “integrated” bar system, meaning that every lawyer who is admitted to practice must be a member of the state bar
– some states may have other bars i.e.; minority, voluntary, country etc

Lawyer Disciplinary Agencies
– these agencies investigate and prosecute alleged misconduct by lawyers
– American Bar Association (ABA)
o Private nongov’t org. which produces model ethical rules and ethics opinions
– American Law Institute (ALI)
o Private organization of lawyers that produces summaries of the law called Rest.
– Federal Courts
o Admit lawyers to practice before them and adopt procedural/ethical rules
o Impose sanctions for misconduct under their rules, disqualify lawyers based on conflicts of interest, review and decide petitions for fees pursuant to fee shifting statutes
o FRCP 11 and 26 include ethical stds and sanctions authority
– Legislatures
o Much legs. Law governs lawyers
o May impose ethical or procedural rules on lawyers who appear before them

Administrative Agencies
– Admit lawyers to practice before them w/o a separate bar exam
– Some impose their own ethics regulations on lawyers
– Prosecutors
o Have authority to bring criminal charges against lawyers for crimes committed in or out of practice
– Malpractice Insurers
o Set conditions for obtaining insurance