This course provides a practical and practice-oriented approach to the ethical, moral, and social issues that lawyers deal with in the practice of law. The primary objectives are to prepare students to recognize ethical problems when they arise; to identify the applicable authorities – in particular the rules of professional conduct – that are most likely to bear on the matter; and to arrive at a sound resolution. Necessary to these ends will be consideration of the ways in which the ethics rules address the often competing interests involved: those of clients, opposing parties, non-parties, the justice system as a whole, and lawyers themselves.
Class discussions will focus primarily on the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Because disciplinary matters are largely the responsibility of state supreme courts, most of the cases we will discuss arise under the ethics rules adopted by individual states (which are often based on, but not always identical to, the ABA Model Rules). We will also discuss a limited number of federal cases that implicate ethical issues, including the recusal of judges and First Amendment considerations.
Although particular attention will be placed on the ABA Model Rules and other authorities that govern the resolution of ethical issues, some attention will be paid to putting the subject in a setting that encompasses both a macroscopic view of the role of lawyers in society and a more earth-bound understanding of the processes by which the professional responsibilities of lawyers are enforced.