May 4, 2017

5 Common Ethical Traps for Attorneys

By: Colleen Jilio-Ryan | Posted in: legal experts

5 common ethical traps for attorneys

Ethics rules of professional conduct for attorneys involve a mix of common sense and complex scenarios. Professional conduct rules may vary from one jurisdiction to another. To learn more about these rules, you can call your local bar’s ethics hotline.

Here are five of the most problematic traps for attorneys:

  1. Ethical Traps for AttorneysImproper Attorney-Client Relationship
    Since it’s unnecessary to sign agreements to establish an attorney-client relationship, you must use clear communication in case the prospect misunderstands the relationship. They may try to hold you responsible if they lose a case that you did not intend to have involvement. It’s unethical when attorneys take advantage of client or prospect misunderstandings.

  2. Following Unethical Orders
    You are allowed an out, as an attorney, by ABA and local ethics rules if you are following the orders of a supervisor who reasonably resolves questionable ethics. But you are also required to report any ethics violations.

  3. Failure to Communicate
    A lawyer has a fundamental fiduciary duty to communicate with clients to a certain degree so that the client’s interests are sufficiently represented. Failure to communicate clearly with clients can lead to a malpractice lawsuit. It’s up to the lawyer to clarify the scope of his or her duty and to reveal any conflicts of interests, even to ex-clients.

  4. Noncompliance With Fiduciary Duty
    The law firm must set fair and reasonable terms in writing for transactions. It must be disclosed that the attorney is representing the client, but you must still inform the client they should get a second opinion from another professional attorney within a reasonable amount of time. When attorneys promote themselves over state lines, they may be violating ethics rules within a local jurisdiction.

  5. Ignoring Market Rules
    Lawyers may use the internet for communications under local and ABA ethics rules. But they should not attempt to have control over the audience or where their marketing visuals and messages can be viewed.

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