Oklahoma Bar Journal
December 2018 | Ethics & Professional Responsibility
Ethical Issues That Arise in the Practice of Estate Law
Many different ethical issues can arise when a lawyer is an estate planning practitioner. Generally, clients tend to be older, financially established and perhaps have a blended family. Clients will often request the lawyer to prepare documents for multiple members of the family or even family business. Sometimes, the clients rely heavily on someone else to communicate information to the lawyer. These types of scenarios lead to numerous ethical issues.
Ethics: A View From the Bench
The practice of law is a tough business, and the trial process can be contentious and difficult. Nevertheless, our legal system is the best in the world. A good trial, handled fairly and with healthy advocacy, usually results in a rough form of justice. As difficult as the process may be participants should not have to suffer discourteous, impolite, impudent, uncivil or impertinent behavior from each other.
The Attorney's Ethical Duty to Maintain Technological Competence
According to an American Community Survey Report published by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015, the percentage of households in the United States with a computer has steadily increased from 8 percent in 1984 to 87 percent in 2015.1 Likewise, the percentage of households using internet has steadily climbed from 18 percent in 1997 to 77 percent in 2015.2 Computers have become an integral part of everyday life. With advancements in technology, the practice of law has necessarily evolved as well. It would be unfathomable for a lawyer today to use a typewriter in his day-to-day practice, and lawyers practicing in the 1980s would have dismissed as fantastical the idea that legal research could be performed via an “app” on a hand-held cellular phone. The reality is, most entry-level lawyers of the 2030s will never have heard the expression “word processor.” As technology continues to advance, lawyers have an ethical obligation to stay abreast of practical developments in technology and to incorporate such advancements into their practice.
Have You Ever Had a Case That Stuck With You?
Aside from doctors, attorneys are viewed as one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded professionals in the United States. Attorneys are known for being intelligent, analytical and refined individuals. Starting in law school, aspiring legal professionals are immersed into dense academics that require a complete shift in priorities. Students often put their personal relationships and hobbies aside in order to attain the level of rigor that is necessary to be successful within the legal profession. However, after passing the bar, issues arise when new attorneys are faced with emotional and moral dilemmas presented by their clients’ cases.2
Attorneys Are Responsible for Actions of All Employees
The Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC) mandate that attorneys are responsible for the conduct of all persons in their employ.1 That includes not only attorneys, but also all legal support staff including legal assistants, receptionists, expert witnesses and perhaps even the janitorial staff.