Why Ethics? Why now?

First. Headlines.

We are inundated with headlines and stories that call all kinds of (un)ethical behavior into question.

Today’s headline:  “Wife of Trump ethics attorney arrested having sex with Virginia jail inmate in back seat of car”.

Ethics, attorneys, and inmates. Oh my.

And while this story did not directly involve legal ethics, there are plenty of headlines that do.

How about the story of the Nebraska lawyer who was disciplined last Spring for failing to meet his ethical obligation to adequately communicate with his client. Primarily he had been communicating with his client using Facebook messenger–and had adopted the whole breezy tone that “messaging” implies.

Applying old rules to new forms of communication can be done–but it is tricky, and requires careful consideration of the rules that dictate what we do in our day to day practice of law.

On the outer edge there are new technologies that will raise questions about legal ethics that have never been asked as artificial intelligence makes the prospect of robo-lawyers more than just a far-fetched proposition.

Creating new rules and disciplinary procedures that will stand the test of time demands open minds and a vision of the future that today we can only imagine.

Second. Sunset in Texas.

No, not the stunning burnt-orange skyline that occasionally hangs over the west late in the day.

But the Legislative Act that allows a 12-member Commission to give a thumb’s up or down to the Texas State Bar’s very existence.

The State Bar was up for review again in 2017 and the Sunset Commission made its recommendations to the Texas Legislature in the form of Senate Bill 302, which became law and took effect September 1, 2017. The law includes numerous provisions directly affecting the attorney grievance process and makes some big changes in how the disciplinary rules are created, changed, and applied.

Oh, and the Texas State Bar can continue to exist for at least 12 more years.

I figure that gives us a little time to ponder the disciplinary rules and their modern-day application.

Headlines about ethics and the implementation and creation of new disciplinary rules for the Texas State Bar are of special interest to me because I just rolled off the District 6 Grievance Committee as the Chairperson and was a Panel Chair for two years prior to that.

But what does it mean for the rest of you?

It means there will be plenty of legal ethics questions in the media to analyze and plenty of old and new disciplinary rules to apply.

It also means we can have some fun. Leave me a comment letting me know what legal ethics topic you are most interested in to have a chance to win the ABA’s newly published handbook on Legal Ethics and Social Media. Click here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Essential. Ethics.

 

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