The Bar and Ethics Education

Article excerpt

The Bar has the obligation to promote and to police the ethical conduct of lawyers. To fulfill its obligations, the Bar rightfully concentrates on lawyers. However, the ethical conduct of lawyers also may be promoted and policed by educating clients about lawyer ethics.

The Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) deserves praise for its efforts to educate lawyers about their ethical duties. Oklahoma lawyers must take one hour per year of ethics training. The OBA publishes an annual OBA Handbook that contains many of the rules relating to lawyer ethics. The Oklahoma Supreme Court publishes the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Code of Judicial Conduct on its OSCN Web site. Recently, the Legal Ethics Committee of the OBA has developed a CD-ROM called Ethics at Your Fingertips, containing Oklahoma ethics rules, advisory opinions on ethics, and court decisions relating to ethics. With these resources, Oklahoma lawyers have no excuse for being uniformed about their ethical duties.

The Bar should expend an equal effort to educate Oklahoma clients. The Bar can do so by using its Internet site to post information about lawyer ethics. Two examples of information that Oklahomans would find useful will make the point. * The Oklahoma Disciplinary System. Oklahoma clients may feel aggrieved by the conduct of their own lawyer or others' lawyers. The Office of General Counsel should post an explanation for Oklahomans about an informal grievance (which does not lead to a disciplinary investigation) and a formal grievance (which does lead to a disciplinary investigation). The Office also should post a form for Oklahomans to use in filing grievances. The Canadian Lawyers Index has a grievance form posted on its Internet site that could serve as a model for Oklahoma. See http://www.canlaw.com/forms/complain.htm Some might worry that posting this disciplinary information on the Internet, particularly the grievance form, would induce the filing of frivolous grievances against lawyers. If the form requires a fully completed document that asks for proper identification and information, frivolous grievances over the Internet are no more likely than they are by telephone or mail. Indeed, one might argue that the explanation about informal-formal grievances and the grievance form on the OBA Web site would allow the general counsel's staff to spend less time and money answering basic questions about lawyer ethics for the client public. …