Welcome to the Contemporary Approach to Professional Responsibility Blog

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Welcome! We would like you to join our community as we promote study of, and debate regarding, the professional responsibility of lawyers.  Although our blog will serve as a resource for users of Professional Responsibility:  A Contemporary Approach (2nd. ed 2013), the current developments, innovative teaching materials, and commentary should be thought-provoking and fun for all those interested in the legal profession.  Please feel free to share your ideas and we will post as much as we can.

Florida Bar Adopts New Professionalism Expectations

The Florida Bar Board of Governors adopted a new set of “Professionalism Expectations” on January 30, 2015. These Expectations  are divided into seven categories:

1. Commitment to Equal Justice and to the Public Good;

2. Honest and Effective Communication;

3. Adherence to a Fundamental Sense of Honor, Integrity, and Fair Play

4. Fair and Efficient Administration of Justice;

5. Decorum and Courtesy;

6. Respect for the Time and Commitments of Others; and

7. Independence of Judgment.

The vast majority of the expectations are expressed as “should” or “should not” which is to signal, as stated in the Preamble, that these are recommendations of correct action rather than matters covered by the Professional Rules of Conduct. A few of the expectations are stated as “must” or “must not” to indicate that they correlate with the Rules.

For a full copy, see here:

I am not convinced that this additional layer of recommendations will add much to the professionalism of Florida Lawyers, but let’s see.

Why We Need Law Schools – Noah Feldman – Bloomberg View

By Noah Feldman

Who needs law school? For centuries, the answer in the English-speaking world was: no one. You prepared for the bar by serving as an apprentice or an intern alongside practicing lawyers. Sure, you had to read a lot of cases. At first, they probably made no sense. But over time, you learned by watching and doing to connect the decisions in the books with real cases and real clients.

Today there’s renewed talk of returning to a world where you could join the bar after extended internships rather than formal legal study. I’m a law professor, so you’d expect me to defend the current system.

Before I do, however, let me make a big admission: Law school isn’t really necessary for lawyers or their clients. Practicing lawyers could, if they had the time and inclination, train interns to become excellent practitioners who fulfilled their obligations to their clients more than adequately. In fact, at big law firms in big cities, and smaller firms everywhere, partners and senior associates still do spend a lot of time informally training junior associates. If they didn’t, the junior lawyers wouldn’t be very good.

Graduating from law school, even having learned everything the professors have to teach, doesn’t prepare you to practice at a high level. Lawyering is an art, not a science. And the only way to learn an art well is by doing it. Yet law school is absolutely essential — not for lawyers with clients, but for our society as a whole. The reason has everything to do with what makes law distinct as a social phenomenon.”

Read More

via OTHERWISE: Why We Need Law Schools – Noah Feldman – Bloomberg View.

Willingham Prosecutor Accused of Misconduct // The Marshall Project

In a major turn in one of the country’s most-noted death penalty cases, the State Bar of Texas has filed a formal accusation of misconduct against the county prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters.

Following a preliminary inquiry that began last summer, the bar this month filed a disciplinary petition in Navarro County District Court accusing the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, of obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.

“Before, during, and after the 1992 trial, [Jackson] knew of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel,” the bar investigators charged.

via OTHERWISE: Willingham Prosecutor Accused of Misconduct // The Marshall Project.

Louisiana Prosecutor Stroud’s apology to Glenn Ford

OTHERWISE: Louisiana Prosecutor Stroud's apology to Glenn Ford.

“Glenn Ford deserves every penny owed to him under the compensation statute. This case is another example of the arbitrariness of the death penalty. I now realize, all too painfully, that as a young 33-year-old prosecutor, I was not capable of making a decision that could have led to the killing of another human being.”
Video of statement by Marty Stroud, II, prosecutor of Glenn Ford, who was convicted of capital murder and later exonerated. “I believe my failure in that case was that I should have done more…Ford was represented by two men who had never tried a jury case.”

H&R Block’s immigrant legal services…now shut down

From Richard Granat, H&R Block Forced to Shut Down Immigrant Document Service by the Bar | eLawyering Blog

H&R Block launched an experimental and innovative service in Texas in January to assist immigrants in completing INS forms. The forms were powered by software and H&R Block’s role was to provide a service to assist users in completing the forms within their offices– , but no legal advice was to be provided.

It didn’t take long for the organized immigration bar to shut this service down.

More details here:  http://buff.ly/1xn92pl

Lawyer Well-being and Mental Health in the News

Several recent articles have called attention to the challenges that lawyers face in the midst of this stressful profession.

The Florida Bar News recently highlighted the problem of lawyer suicide in a provocative article by Scott Weinstein, Clinical Director for the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program.

http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/8c9f13012b96736985256aa900624829/5c5dc6e5081d87cf85257df5004a43cc!OpenDocument

The March 2015 ABA Journal also features an article by Stephanie Francis Ward on lawyers who self-medicate to address the stresses of the profession. This article includes an excellent directory of national referral services.

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/lawyers_who_self_medicate_to_deal_with_stress_sometimes_steal_from_those

I discussed both of these articles in the context of the Chapter 6 duty to report misconduct materials, and the class quickly evolved into a lively discussion of the challenges confronting law students, and the role that drugs, alcohol and mental health play.

Please note the upcoming ABA Mental Health Day activities scheduled for March 27, 2105.

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_students/initiatives_awards/lshealth.html

The time is now to have your law school participate in this important national initiative. This is an opportunity to highlight professionalism and the relationship to wellness, and distribute information information including your local lawyers assistance program.