GPSOLO December 2008
SITES FOR SORE EYES
Do-It-Yourself Guide to Legal Ethics
In today’s episode, “Sites for Sore Eyes” columnists Jim Calloway and Courtney Kennaday are going to guide us through the often-tricky world of legal ethics using their favorite websites. Let’s hear what they have to say.
Kennaday: For the last few years, I’ve helped answer lawyers’ questions about ethics as a practice management advisor for the South Carolina Bar. Jim, you’ll be shocked, shocked, to learn that many of the lawyers who call haven’t bothered to read the Rules of Professional Conduct adopted in my state.
Calloway: And reading the Rules is pretty much the foundation of today’s do-it-yourself episode, I’d say, particularly because some states have adopted changes based on the “new” Model Rules of Professional Conductpromulgated by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Kennaday: You read me like a cheap dime-store novel, Jim. In my experience, you can find the Rules of Professional Conduct for your state either through your state bar’s website or your state supreme court’s website.
Calloway: Actually, I was thinking that Cornell University Law School’s American Legal Ethics Library ( www.law.cornell.edu/ethics) features a listing by jurisdiction. Sure, they include the Rules of Professional Conduct, but they also include other legal ethics material, such as ethics opinions.
Kennaday: According to their site, the materials are structured to function as an integrated collection. Meaning, if you perform a search in the library, the materials you find are cross-linked in multiple ways.
Calloway: Right! Check out the Topical Overview; it takes the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and, section by section, does a comparative analysis of each state covered by the narratives, or explanatory materials.
Kennaday: You know who has the best-named website on our list of ethics sites?
Calloway: Would that be Legalethics.com?
Kennaday: Yes. Legalethics.com ( www.legalethics.com) focuses on ethical issues associated with the use of technology by legal professionals. Lawyers David Hricik and Peter Krakaur keep it updated. It’s the first site I check if I have an ethics question about metadata, or website advertising, or e-mail—basically, anything that has to do with technology and ethics.
Calloway: Me, too! And you can sign up for RSS feeds, too. I do love an RSS feed!
Kennaday: I know you do. But I love the handy index of topics. Taking that question I had about meta-data—I can go to the Index, click on Metadata, and see all the posts that pertain to it.
Calloway: They were also kind enough to include links to some other ethics sites, including some of our favorites that we mention here today.
Kennaday: Since we’re on the topic of ethics and technology, there’s another site our viewers should check out: The ABA’s own Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC; www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/home.html) and its Technology and Ethics Page ( www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/techethics.html). This site even has links to LTRC presentations by LTRC Director Catherine Sanders Reach.
Calloway: So if you miss her presentations live at ABA TECHSHOW or elsewhere across the country, you don’t have to feel left out.
Kennaday: Naturally, the LTRC site links to the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility (CPR; www.abanet.org/cpr), one of the big players on our list. Among their offerings is a free online version of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct at www.abanet.org/cpr/mrpc/mrpc_toc.html.
Calloway: Yes! You know, the CPR has been providing leadership and vision in the area of legal ethics since 1978. There is a $100 annual membership fee that will get you discounts on CPR publications, programming, and services. That will also get you access to the Formal Ethics Opinion Library, The Professional Lawyer newsletter, and more.
Kennaday: Isn’t it true that as an ABA member, I can download free copies of the Formal Opinions for one year following their release?
Calloway: You bet. Just log in as an ABA member and look for “ABA Members Formal Ethics Opinions Complimentary Copies” ( www.abanet.org/cpr/mo/ethicsopinions.html). It strikes me that downloading and reading new opinions would be a good thing to do on a regular basis.
Kennaday: Let’s not forget the extensive list of links on the CPR site (www.abanet.org/cpr/links.html). It’s definitely your one-stop shop for state ethics rules and opinions.
Calloway: And let’s not be nationalistic—they also have links to foreign rules of professional conduct. Plus, there are links to law school ethics programs and other ABA entity websites with professional responsibility resources.
Kennaday: Oui, oui, Monsieur. Jim, if you can tear yourself away from the Latvian Code of Ethics, I was going to show you a site I found: the National Organization of Bar Counsel ( www.nobc.org/state_ethics_opinions.aspx). Their comprehensive list of state bar organizations includes links to state disciplinary authorities. You know, in my state, the bar isn’t the disciplinary authority; it’s the state supreme court.
Calloway: Good point. I was going to say that, when I got a word in edgewise. While I have the microphone, let me just say that no one should forget the ABA Ethics Research Service, ETHICSearch ( www.abanet.org/cpr/ethicsearch/home.html). Many of their searches are free, but, if you need an answer, paying for it is not the worst thing you can do. They also have links to their prior “Eye on Ethics” columns that appear monthly. These are great bite-sized chunks of reading on interesting issues.
Kennaday: Okay then, maybe you want to tell them about Legal Ethics Forum ( www.legalethicsforum.com)?
Calloway: Sure! This blog posts contributions from some of the finest legal minds at law schools across the country. A perusal of some of the posts shows the breadth of the topics covered—from the death penalty to securities law. Many recent cases from all jurisdictions are analyzed. It also has links to some great websites and blogs we don’t have time to talk about today, but which are definitely worth checking out—
Calloway: Speaking of extensive lists, it won’t hurt to go to Findlaw ( www.findlaw.com) and visit their Ethics and Professional Responsibility page. From there, click on “Web Sites” in the Web Guide.
Kennaday: To close today’s show, we just want to remind everyone that there are many state-specific ethics web pages that we didn’t cover but that are definitely worth checking out . . . like Virginia State Bar Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries ( www.mcguirewoods.com/services/leo), prepared by Thomas E. Spahn of McGuireWoods.
Calloway: Well, I don’t know about you, Courtney, but I’m feeling extra ethical today just from visiting all of these sites. I hope everyone out there is feeling the same way.
Jim Calloway is director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program; he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Courtney Kennaday is a practice management advisor for the South Carolina Bar; she may be reached at email@example.com. An electronic version of SitesForSoreEyes also appears in the Technology eReport; you can find past columns at www.abanet.org/genpractice/ereport/past.html.