"An attorney has a constant and perpetual rendezvous with ethics." McClure v. Donovan (1947) 82 Cal.App.2d 664, 666
No, its not The Twilight Zone, although it can seem like it when you, a practicing attorney, are caught in an ethical dilemma or facing a State Bar matter. Suddenly, you are not entirely sure about what you thought you knew about legal ethics.
But it's actually a place that you go to every day of your professional life, whether you want to or not. Legal ethics is woven directly into the fabric of law practice in a way other substantive areas of law are not. That is what the McClure court meant by your "constant and perpetual rendezvous with ethics." You are going to encounter legal ethics whether you want to or not. Or its going to encounter you, in one or more of the following: professional discipline, legal malpractice, bankruptcy or even criminal prosecution.
The stakes are high. Best to make this rendezvous with the best possible knowledge. This is where the Ethics Lawyer can help.
A big part of the David Cameron Carr's mission as an Ethics Lawyer is to keep lawyers out of trouble in his capacity as an advisor and counsellor to lawyers. Ethics advice can be a simple as a conversation about an issue or as complex as comprehensive review of fee agreements and conflict waivers.
The two biggest problems in legal ethics are complacency and ignorance. The second is easily cured, the first more intractable. Many lawyers think they have a good grasp of legal ethics but what you learn in law school and in MCLE may not be enough, especially as discipline has evolved into regulation. There are many traps for the unwary. If you assume that you know legal ethics, you are almost certainly wrong. The subject has gotten so big that the average lawyer has a hard time keeping up with it.
Even knowledge of the ethical rules is sometimes hard to put into context; the rules and statutes that you know of may seem straightforward until you are faced with applying them to a stubborn set of facts. Talking through a problem with experienced Ethics Lawyer can save more than time and money; it can save a career and livelihood.
Keeping lawyers out of trouble is big part of the Ethics Lawyer's brief. But you can practice ethically and still be the subject of a State Bar complaint or even the target of a formal disciplinary proceeding.
Most State Bar complaints are closed without action but as the discipline system has evolved into its present day law enforcement model, instances of harsh and unfair treatment are not unusual. The discipline system plays by its own rules and not all of them are written down. Ensuring fair treatment by the discipline authorities is the Ethics Lawyer's charge when acting a discipline defense counsel.
Applicants for admission to the bar can find themselves enmeshed in a process that is best described as opaque. The deliberations of the Committee of Bar Examiners are done behind closed doors with no written record generated of their reasons for recommending or denying admission. The Ethics Lawyer can help the applicant understand the impact that negative information can have on a bar appliction and help the applicant present his or her case for admission in the best possible light.