Ethics and Professional Responsibility
- Legal Ethics is the term used to describe a code of conduct that prescribes proper behavior and establishes the nature of obligations owed to individuals and to society. Ethics generally has legal implications only when business interactions with professionals are involved.
- Professional Responsibility is the term used to describe a professional's obligation to comply with rules of professional conduct. Professional responsibilities include concepts of morality, ethics, etiquette, and professional values and attitudes. Issues of professional responsibility often arise in the legal profession, which is subject to a formal and detailed code of ethics and responsibility.
- Legal Malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to perform according to the standards and codes of ethical and professional conduct that all attorneys must adhere to -- in dealing with clients, other attorneys, courts, and other entities. An essential aspect of a legal malpractice case is that the attorney's failure to meet his or her professional obligations resulted in some sort of harm, usually to his or her client's case.
- In the legal profession, attorneys must abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Adopted by the American Bar Association in 1983, the Rules provide comprehensive treatment of professional conduct as to what an attorney may and may not do in dealing with the court, opposing counsel, his or her client and third persons.
- These Rules, which replace the former ABA Code of Professional Responsibility, have been adopted by many states (usually by the state supreme court) to govern conduct of attorneys admitted to practice in the state.
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PRACTICE AREA NOTES
- Every practicing attorney is bound by a code of conduct called professional responsibility or professional conduct. New attorneys must attend a mandatory course on the subject of legal ethics and pass a rigorous exam (MPRE) in order to be eligible to take the bar exam.
- A lawyer's professional responsibilities are set forth in the ABA rules, state bar association rules, as well as in substantive and procedural law. However, a lawyer is also guided by personal conscience and a respect for the law as an officer of the court.
- All lawyer jokes aside, it is imperative for an attorney to abide by these rules or face disciplinary action and/or possible disbarment.
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