WILL DAVIS, YLD President State Bar of Georgia.
Ethical Concerns Facing Young Lawyers
On Feb. 25, the State Bar of Georgia’s
Transition into Law Practice Program will host a Beginning Lawyers continuing legal education seminar. All new Bar members admitted within the past year (except prosecutors, solicitors and public defenders, who have separate mentoring and CLE programs) are required to take this seminar to fulfill their initial CLE requirements.
The daylong program will be held at the Bar Center headquarters in Atlanta and will be simulcast to the Coastal Georgia Office in Savannah and the South Georgia Office in Tifton. The seminar will cover a broad array of issues that all new lawyers have to deal with when entering the practice of law.
Along with Jamie McDowell and Peter Werdesheim, I will participate in a panel discussion, “Stay out of Trouble: A Primer on Ethics,” moderated by State Bar General Counsel Paula Frederick. The ethical concerns facing young lawyers these days are numerous and potentially career-altering depending on how they are handled. Following are a few specific topics I anticipate we will cover in the Beginning Lawyers CLE.
Not Hiding Mistakes From Supervisors or Clients
No one is perfect. But in the legal profession, what might seem to be even the smallest mistake that can be fixed right away can be compounded by failing to disclose it to your supervisor or mentor. “Your partners and senior associates need to be able to trust you to tell them if you’ve dropped the ball,” write Nancy B. Rapoport and Jeff Van Niel in their “Law Firm Survival Manual: From First Interview to Partnership.” “Hiding the mistake will always come back to haunt you.”
According to Michael E. McCabe Jr., writing for his law firm’s blog, “Lawyers owe an ethical and fiduciary duty to their clients to report their own ‘mistakes’ in the course of representation.” ABA Model Rule 1.4 (USPTO Rule 37 CFR Section 11.104) requires an attorney to “promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance” adversely affecting the representation, as well as to “keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter.”
“The rules of professional ethics and common law fiduciary obligations of a lawyer have been found to require lawyers to admit their mistakes under certain circumstances,” McCabe writes. “Lawyers generally face the possibility of grave negative consequences if they fail to admit their mistakes when required. The consequences of concealing such mistakes are even more serious. Owning the mistake, self-reporting the mistake, and doing everything humanly possible to fix or...