The regulation of lawyers has been a traditional concern of the legal profession in general and the American Bar Association in particular. In 1970, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the Clark Committee Report (Problems and Recommendations in Disciplinary Enforcement), and many jurisdictions amended their disciplinary rules to implement the Clark Committee's recommendations. The ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline incorporated the Clark Committee's recommendations into Suggested Guidelines for Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement. The Suggested Guidelines eliminated probable cause hearings and added public members to the model disciplinary structure and procedure.
The ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline created a Subcommittee on Lawyer Standards to develop standards for courts to use in establishing a structure for lawyer disciplinary proceedings. This structure included one-third public membership, public proceedings upon the filing and service of formal charges, and complainants' rights to notice and appeal. These changes were intended to increase public confidence in lawyer discipline. The ABA House of Delegates adopted the Standards for Lawyer Discipline and Disability Proceedings in February 1979. The Standards were published in Professional Discipline for Lawyers and Judges.
The ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline then transformed the Standards into court rule format. In 1989, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement. In 1992, the ABA House of Delegates adopted all but four of the twenty-two recommendations of the Report of the McKay Commission (Commission on Evaluation of Disciplinary Enforcement). The McKay Commission Report recommended an expanded system of lawyer regulation under the direct supervision of the judicial branch of government. It was published under the title Lawyer Regulation for a New Century. The ABA House of Delegates amended the Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement in 1995 and 1996 to reflect this broader system of lawyer regulation. The House of Delegates adopted technical amendments to the Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement in 1999 to keep the model current and useful to jurisdictions considering review and revision of their lawyer disciplinary systems. In adopting the Final Report of the ABA Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice in August 2002, the House of Delegates amended Rules 6 and 22 of the Model Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement.