The Fundamentals of Attorney Ethics

The Fundamentals of Attorney Ethics

Attorney Ethics

Attorneys are bound by a code of professional ethics, and each state bar promulgates specific rules outlining professional responsibilities. Before admitting individuals to the state bar, most bar associations require that attorneys pass a multistate exam that covers key principles of professional responsibility and ethics.

The Ethical Foundation of the Attorney-Client Relationship

Attorneys owe their clients the highest possible duty of care. Their duty to their clients is that of a fiduciary, and failure to act in accordance with their clients’ best interests is a violation of attorney ethics. Unethical conduct in a representation may cause clients substantial damages or harm to their legal rights.

Examples of Ethical Standards

The code of conduct that governs attorneys encompasses far more than financial honesty. Attorneys need to be very careful about the following types of professional responsibility:

  •         Avoiding conflicts of interest in representations
  •         Taking on a representation that involves knowledge and expertise beyond an attorney’s competencies
  •         Filing court documents in a timely manner
  •         Cooperating with opposing counsel during the discovery process

Consequences for Violations

If attorneys violate the duty of care that they owe to their clients or fail to comply with their state bar’s rules of professional responsibility, there could be serious consequences. Attorneys could be subject to disciplinary action including censure, fines, suspension of their license, or even disbarment.