Common Legal Ethics Problems for Attorneys
Helping You Identify Frequent Ethical Trouble Spots
If you were driving along a road that suddenly ended up in a construction zone, any lack of warning that road work was ahead could result in disaster. The same can be said for an attorney or law student who is unfamiliar with common ethical problems facing the legal profession, or could use a refresher from what they learned in the past.
As you’re no doubt aware, being an attorney means that your professional conduct must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the California State Bar. At State Bar Help, we’re here to show you some of the road signs that indicate trouble may lay ahead if you don’t take caution right now.
Here, we’ll discuss some common legal ethics problems for attorneys, such as:
- Duty of Competence
- Duty of Confidentiality
- Trust Accounting Duties
- Conflicts of Interest
- Duty of Communication
- Honesty and Candor
- Retainer Agreements and Billing
Duty of Competence
Rule 1.1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct concerns a lawyer’s relationship with his or her client. Specifically, when this relationship is formed, the lawyer owes the client competent representation.
Competent representation requires that the lawyer has the legal knowledge, experience, skill, and preparation that’s reasonably necessary to represent the client.
Duty of Confidentiality
Rule 1.6 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct broadly states that an attorney’s client-lawyer relationship is confidential unless the client gives informed consent or that disclosure is implicitly permitted in order to represent the client.
Additionally, it is the lawyer’s duty to take reasonable measures to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure or access to information related to his or her representation of a client.
Trust Accounting Duties
An attorney can hold a client’s financial assets by acting as a trustee over them. As with any trustee, the firm or attorney has a fiduciary duty to keep the client’s funds separate from those of the firm’s. There are man other important aspects of managing a trust for a client that all attorneys should be aware of, and which our legal ethics attorney can provide counsel.
Conflicts of Interest
Unless an attorney has written and informed consent from each client, the attorney may not represent a client if such representative is in direct opposition to the interests of another client in a similar or the same legal matter. Such a matter can include judicial proceedings, application, contract, transaction, investigation, accusation, charge, deliberation, etc.
Duty of Communication
An attorney must reasonable and promptly make an effort to communicate necessary information to his or her client. This allows the client to make an informed decision about importation options that may be available, and it also allows the lawyer to ensure that actions being taken are in the best interests of the client.
Honesty & Candor
Attorneys must act with honesty and candor with regard to their clients’ issues, even if the information is difficult for the client to hear or would be considered “bad news.” Unless protected by the attorney’s duty of confidentiality, this also means a lawyer must act with honesty and candor toward opposing counsel and court – even if doing so is not in their client’s best interests.
Retainer Agreements & Billing
Should a client need an ongoing and long-term relationship with an attorney, the client can reserve the attorney’s services on a retainer basis. A retainer is typically a fixed monthly payment that permits the client to consult with the attorney and request services without interrupting the attorney-client relationship.
The common legal ethics problems that attorneys face near Montebello can seriously disrupt or even end their careers. At State Bar Help, our goal is to help our clients know how to avoid ethics problems that can lead to State Bar disciplinary charges.
By helping attorneys identify common problems and intervening with a mitigation plan to resolve them, we can help them protect their careers and livelihoods from unnecessary sanctions.
If you are interested in learning more about what we can do for you, fill out our online contact form to get in touch with someone who can help!