Ethics and Professionalism Committee
Welcome to the Ethics and Professionalism Committee. The purpose of our committee is to examine issues of ethics and professionalism through the particular lens of litigation practice. The mission is to be: (1) proactive, in identifying potential changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to accommodate the unique experiences of litigators; (2) reactive, in commenting on proposed rule changes initiated by others; and (3) instructive, in continuously striving to educate litigators about the boundaries within which they are required to navigate their practices. The committee also promotes professionalism in litigation, which the Model Rules do not address. The committee pursues this mission, stewarded by its chairs and subcommittee leadership, through a combination of programming (often in conjunction with other Section committees, which we encourage to incorporate ethics and professionalism issues into their other programming), publication of a newsletter, and website/email communications with our membership.
This recent Roundtable, presented by the Ethics and Professionalism Committee was held Thursday, April 28, 2016. Participants included as speakers committee cochair Scott Reiser, Professor James Milles of the University at Buffalo School of Law, and committee associate editor Jay Minga, and as moderator Sam Alba, of Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. The participants discussed the recent several recent decisions regarding attorney-client privilege and some practical steps attorneys can take to protect attorney-client privilege and avoid conflicts of interest when faced with potential attorney-client relationships, especially among friends and family.
Recent Roundtable: Ethical Implications of the 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for Class Action Attorneys
This recent Roundtable, presented and cosponsored by the Class Action & Derivative Suits Committee along with the Ethics & Professionalism Committee took place Thursday, March 31, 2016. Participants included as speakers committee cochair Scott Reiser and Andrew J. McGuiness of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as moderator Tonna Farrar, of Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint, PC. Watch this space for more information about ethical issues for class action practitioners arising from the recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including concerns relating to discovery practice and settlement.
This recent Roundtable, presented by the Securities Litigation Committee and cosponsored by the Ethics & Professionalism, Pretrial Practice & Discovery, and Commercial & Business Litigation Committees, occurred Thursday, March 31, 2016. Participants included as speakers committee cochair Irwin Warren, and Jason Halper, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in New York, NY, and as moderator Tiago Duarte-Silva, of Charles River Associates in Boston, MA. Keep a lookout for more information here regarding interactions between lawyers and expert witnesses, and the ethical questions these encounters are bound to pose, such as selection and engagement of an expert, witness preparation, ex parte contacts, discovery of expert materials, fee arrangements, conflicts, rules of conduct, or even reasons to sanction or disqualify experts or to exclude their evidence.
Watch this space for the latest in our Practice Points series to hone your skillset and stay up-to-date in a wide range of practical ethics issues. Practice Points can also be found in the "More Information" box in the right column of this website. Come back often as we publish new advice reflecting the latest developments.
Our latest Practice Points address the pitfalls of threatening non-parties with contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas, threatening attorney adversaries with disciplinary charges, the hazards and real-world problems in getting advance waivers of client conflicts, and what job titles law firm nonlawyer employees may be given or offered.
Please email Web Editor John Mastando or Associate Editor Jay Minga with any Practice Points you would like to offer. Pointers on Practice Points (really, a section of the Section of Litigation for committee content) are available on the committee’s Related Resources.
Share your insight.
Now accepting articles.
Please see the Guidelines or email the committee chairs for details.
E&P at the 2016 Section of Litigation Annual CLE Conference: "Getting Clients, Keeping Clients—and Keeping Your Good Name, Too?"
The E&P Committee recently participated in the April 15–17, 2016 Section Annual Conference at the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons in Chicago. The Ethics and Professionalism Committee presented a CLE program entitled, “Getting Clients, Keeping Clients—and Keeping Your Good Name, Too?,” that looked at these issues from all angles, including inside, outside, and state bar counsel, as well as judicial perspectives. The panel featured Irwin Warren, Larry Fox, and Ghenete Wright Muir, of the E&P Committee, as well as Judge Virginia Kendall (N.D. Ill.) and Lynn McCreary, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary of Fiserv, Inc. The committee also hosted an informal committee dinner and outings during the conference. To accompany the panel and further explore these issues, former committee cochair Irwin Warren and committee associate editor Jay Minga co-authored an article entitled "Getting Clients, Keeping Clients—and Keeping Your Good Name, Too? Some Key Issues in Addressing Conflicts When Taking on New Clients and Matters," available online from the ABA's website and the committee's Related Resources page.
The ABA recently hosted its Annual Meeting August 3–6 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Former Ethics and Professionalism Committee cochair Gregory Hanthorn anchored a program entitled “Thou Poisonous Bunch-Back’d Toad: Ethics of Insults Through the Centuries,” selected as a Section of Litigation CLE program at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The program was the subject of online coverage in the ABA Journal on August 5, 2016, in an article by Terry Carter entitled, "Jokes and Insults Need to Hit Above the Belt to Not Violate Ethics."
Irwin H. Warren and Scott E. Reiser, the Ethics & Professionalism Committee’s respectively former and current cochairs, were quoted in a Winter 2016 issue of Litigation News article by Kelso L. Anderson, “Doing Business with Clients Could Result in No Legal Fees.” Reflecting on the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ decision in Priest v. Coch, Warren emphasizes that the Section of Litigation advises attorneys to pay careful attention to the ethics rules when conducting business with clients. Warren further points attorneys to a report from the ABA’s Task Force on the Independent Lawyer, which elaborates on many of the legal conflicts and ethics rules potentially implicated by business between attorneys and clients. Reiser expressed similar sentiments and offered his cautionary observation that the North Carolina Court of Appeals honed in on North Carolina’s Rule 1.8(a). That rule requires not only a writing when an attorney wishes to conduct business with a client, but also the client’s signature. In the case of Priest, even though the client acknowledged the terms of the parties’ contract, the court denied the attorney quantum meruit because the attorney failed to produce a copy of such a writing with the client’s signature.
Message from the Chairs
Welcome to the Ethics and Professionalism Committee’s website. The Ethics and Professionalism Committee focuses on the substantive body of ethical rules governing lawyers’ conduct, as well as broader issues of professionalism. We conduct monthly committee calls, occasional telephonic roundtables, CLE programs, Sound Advice podcasts, and regular informational newsletters. You will find our newsletters and “Practice Points” linked here from our website, announcements of our upcoming CLE programs and Roundtables organized by the committee, as well as details for joining monthly committee teleconferences to discuss new case law, ethics opinions, and other matters of interest to our members.
Upcoming Committee Teleconference
We have scheduled our next teleconference for Monday, October 31, at 12:30 p.m. ET [US Toll-Free Dial-In: 1-888-235-7501 -- Conference Code: 2123108378].
We are always looking for submissions for the next newsletter: Topics could either address broad issues (in 750–2,500 word articles) or shorter (100–750 words) “news and developments” pieces. If you are interested in writing, please contact Scott Reiser or Basheer Ghorayeb.
John Mastando serves as editor of the committee’s website. The website provides another opportunity for you to learn about the committee and ongoing programs of interest and recent developments; and working on the website is a great way to become involved in the committee. If you are interested in writing for, or working on, the website, please contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to speak with you on October 31.
As always, please keep your programming and teleconference ideas coming to us. We look forward to hearing from you
Cochairs, ABA Section of Litigation Ethics and Professionalism Committee
Our active subcommittees include:
- Attorney Advertising
- Conflicts of Interest
- Corporate Counsel
- Government and NGOs
- Legislation and Rules
- Multi-Jurisdictional Practice
- Website (editors)
Find contact information for committee and subcommittee chairs: