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May 26, 2021

ABA ethics meeting to include virtual sessions on regulatory change, civility among lawyers

CHICAGO, May 26, 2021 — The American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility will convene its three-day annual national conference focusing on ethics and professional responsibility on June 2 with programs examining a host of timely issues, including the growing movement for regulatory change in the legal profession as well as civility among attorneys.

46th ABA National Conference on Professional Responsibility
Sponsored by the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility (CPR)

June 2-4                                                      


The conference will run concurrently with the 36th National Forum on Client Protection on Friday, June 4, an event for professionals working with client protection funds. Among other programs on the forum’s agenda is a panel titled “The Proliferation of Alternative Legal Service Providers and the Implications for Client Protection Funds: A New Frontier for the Practice of Law?” It will be from 2:45 to 3:35 p.m. ET.

With several states recently approving either changes or pilot programs in the broad area of regulatory structure, the conference is tackling such hot-button topics as alternative business structures, multijurisdictional practice, other authorized paraprofessionals providing legal services and lawyer business development, including paying for referrals, lawyer-matching services and advertising.

A plenary panel, “Regulatory Reform: Debating the Key Issues,” will occur on Thursday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. ET. One of the breakout sessions, “Regulatory Reform, Part Deux: Lessons Learned So Far from Three States,” examines changes in Utah, Arizona and California in the context of politics, implementation, obtaining buy-in from stakeholders and other facets of re-regulation. It will be from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.ET.

Other notable programs include:

“Effective Advocate or Just a Jerk? The Ongoing Discussion of Lawyer Incivility” — This session will discuss how lawyers and judges do and should treat one another, the courts, opposing parties, clients and, in the case of judges, persons appearing before them. The discussion will focus on the concern about incivility, unprofessionalism and bullying tactics used in the profession, and whether and when such behavior violates the rules of professional conduct. It will also explore whether mandatory civility codes are workable or enforceable, and the role that regulators and the judiciary play in curbing incivility and fostering professional practice.

Wednesday, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET.

“Model Rules and First Amendment Freedoms: An exploration of Model Rules 8.2 and 8.4(g)” —

With its 2016 amendment to Rule 8.4(g) to prohibit discrimination and harassment in lawyers’ conduct related to the practice of law, the ABA recognized the importance of creating more effective measures to end harassment and discrimination in the legal profession. While 25 jurisdictions have a rule that adopts some version of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions, few states have adopted revised ABA MR 8.4(g) verbatim or with minor changes while some states have expressly declined to adopt the amendment, citing infringement on constitutional rights and religious freedom. This interactive program will explore whether Model Rule 8.4(g) places lawyer regulation on a new First Amendment battleground or is a replay of past battles.

Wednesday, 12:30-1:45 p.m. ET.

“Where Were the Lawyers? The Lawyer as Whistleblower: Conflicting Obligations Governing Lawyers’ Conduct” — Whenever a corporate scandal is unearthed, the question arises where were the lawyers? While the duty of confidentiality is recognized as almost sacrosanct, there are exceptions. This panel of experts will examine the ethical concerns and issues that lawyers face when confronted with problems that may require a report to external authorities. The panel will explore this catch-22 dilemma for lawyers between the duty of confidentiality and obligations to report client wrongdoing.

Wednesday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. ET.

On Thursday at 4 p.m., two awards will be presented.

Nancy Moore, a professor and Nancy Barton Scholar at Boston University School of Law, is the recipient of the Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award, named in honor of Michael Franck, the late director of the State Bar of Michigan and longtime champion of improvements in lawyer regulation in the public interest. Moore is a nationally recognized leader and scholar in the field of lawyer professional responsibility, has been teaching and writing on the subject of professional responsibility for more than 40 years and has authored nearly 50 articles on the topic.

Tamara P. Nash, a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law, will receive the 2021 Rosner & Rosner Young Lawyer Professionalism Award from the ABA CPR and Young Lawyers Division. She now serves as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sioux Falls, and has been involved in the ABA YLD and CPR, having served on several committees and entities in each section; as well as the bar association in her home state of South Dakota.

The full conference agenda is available here.

All sessions are open to the media. To register, please contact Bill Choyke at 202-662-1864 or [email protected]. Also, individual pictures of the award recipients are available upon request by emailing Choyke.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews).