Ethics School for Lawyers

Article excerpt

Mentioning the word "ethics" and "lawyer" in the same breath at a dinner party might earn you a lot of chuckles. Lawyers are probably used to such abuse. But to be fair, many are ethical and uphold the standards of the profession. Stop your snickering; it's true.

In fact, a group of lawyers who serve on the Board of Governors for the Florida Bar Association are so concerned that their colleagues uphold ethical standards that they are implementing an ethics school for those accused of minor misconduct. Minor misconduct could include neglecting a client's case (for instance, not returning a client's calls) or not working on a client's case in a timely fashion. It could also include violations of record keeping or a lack of preparation for a legal proceeding.

Thomas Ervin, a lawyer who until recently chaired the Florida bar's special committee on evaluation of disciplinary enforcement, helped come up with the concept of an ethics school. He said the Florida bar gets about 9,000 complaints a year concerning the performance of lawyers from former clients, other lawyers, and others who have had dealings with the lawyers.

Most of the complaints aren't valid, says Ervin. "Many times the bar receives complaints such as a man complaining that his ex-wife's lawyer was rude during their divorce proceedings," he says. "Those kind of complaints aren't in violation of any rules."

Staff from the Florida Bar Association reviews and investigates the complaints to determine whether the allegations are in violation of the bar's discipline rules.

Under the new ethics school program, lawyers who the bar determines are guilty of minor misconduct will be asked to take the ethics course. …

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