The study of ethics is a branch of philosophy. The ethics discussed in this session is more appropriately labeled legal ethics, which has developed over the past century from an intuitive sense of duty and responsibility to an explicit set of rules governing the professional conduct of attorneys. Violation of the rules subjects attorneys to disciplinary action.
It must be cautioned at the outset that a strong sense of right and wrong will not guarantee avoidance of violations of professional ethics, though it certainly minimizes the danger. Personal ethics should be distinguished from legal ethics in that, while they sometimes overlap, they are not coextensive. The practice of law involves duties to clients, to the public, to the courts, and to colleagues. Lawyers have access to sensitive, confidential information about their clients, and that information must often necessarily be shared with law office staff. In the representation of clients, attorneys are frequently faced with ethical dilemmas that are not easily solved. Ethical codes are designed to provide answers to most of these dilemmas, but they cannot precisely address every possible situation. Clients can be unpredictable and even unscrupulous, consciously or unconsciously putting attorneys in positions that lead to unfavorable outcomes. Only by strictly following the ethical codes and acting in utmost good faith can attorneys avoid the many traps that the practice of law entails.
In the past two decades, the legal profession has expended great effort to define and refine the principles governing the ethical conduct of attorneys and judges. Sanctions for an attorney violating ethics rules can be private (letter of warning, private reprimand, admonition) or public (public reprimand, probation, suspension, disbarment). More than any other profession, the legal profession has embarked on a campaign to identify and police unethical conduct and fulfill its primary duty of serving the public and the legal system.
This short information session will cover the fundamentals of legal ethics.
Date: March 2, 2017
Time: 10:00am to 10:15am PST
To learn more about Legal Ethics purchase the text Foundations of Law: Cases, Commentary and Ethics, 6th Edition from Cengage Learning. Paralegal Power Breaks are short information packed sessions that provide useful career information to paralegals at all career levels.