Smart and successful lawyers are guided by ethics and professional conduct. It is the easiest way to avoid malpractice suits, and it helps legal firms develop a solid reputation and a faithful client base.
According to the American Bar Association, four out of five lawyers will be sued for malpractice at some time in their career. Many of these lawsuits are aimed at small firms of less than five lawyers. These lawsuits are damaging to the firm’s reputation and are costly in terms of time and money.
For anyone planning a career in law, it is important to be aware of the ethics and professional conduct that govern law and how they will guide your profession.
Some students are reluctant to enter into a career in law because they feel it is a field that’s getting a little crowded.
What can you do with a law degree? There are many career options you can pursue with a law degree, especially if you are passionate about something and feel you can be a legal advocate for it. A Juris Doctor degree earned from Cleveland State University teaches you the basics of the law, and you can specialize in whatever branch of law you would most like to work within. You can choose from areas such as business law, family law, corporate law, criminal law, international law and even cybersecurity law.
If you are passionate about children’s rights, for example, you can earn a law degree and focus on advocacy for minors. Whenever an issue affecting a child or children comes up in your state, you will be in a position to represent that child and let their voice be heard within the legal system.
If you would like to explore your options even further, you can look for employment in non-governmental institutions that represent children’s rights. They are always looking for fresh talent and they pay rather well.
Whatever specialty you choose, you will be guided by ethics and a code of conduct, and it is important to be familiar with the concept and how important it will be when you become a practitioner.
What are the ethics and code of conduct within law?
Ethics have to do with the values, actions and choices that are used to determine what is right and what is wrong.
Many of the legal principles that are established in America today were enacted decades or even hundreds of years ago, and they are deemed worthy because they help us define what is right and what is wrong in a court of law.
Ethics govern human behavior. In law, for example, it is considered sound ethical practice for a lawyer to advise their client on all matters regarding their case so that the client can make informed decisions as the case progresses.
Ethics are used to help us make decisions. It would be wrong to assume that just because you mean well that what you are doing is ethical. For lawyers, it is even more dangerous to make those kinds of assumptions because they are misleading and can lead to malpractice suits.
For instance, if you are a very busy lawyer, you might refer a client to a junior partner who is less experienced and who eventually costs the client the case. This may not have seemed consequential at the time, but the client can sue you for referring them to inadequate counsel.
The subject of ethics is varied, and it encompasses tomes of legal books. Unfortunately, there is no way around it. You may learn some of it during your law degree, but throughout your career, you will need to learn accepted ethical and legal conduct that pertains to the various matters that you handle.
How can lawyers stay ethical?
Every state has a different code of ethics for lawyers. It is up to you to familiarize yourself with what is legally accepted as good conduct in your state. There are certain things you can do to make sure that you uphold the ethics of your field during your law career, some of these things include:
Making sure that you maintain confidentiality at all times
Many of the people who come to you have gone against the law and need your representation. You may abhor what they have done, but whatever they tell you must remain confidential at all times. You cannot reveal client confidences or you may be sued.
There are certain cases when lawyers can reveal what a client has told them, such as when they intend harm to themselves or others. If you keep such knowledge to yourself you may be sued as an accessory to the crime.
Remaining professional at all times
Defining professionalism can be difficult because it is such a broad area and encompasses a lot of ground. However, it is up to you to have a set of professional ethics that you abide by, and they must be in accordance with the law.
Being open in your financial dealings
So many lawyers get caught in the financial trap. They charge more than they should, charge their clients for things that they shouldn’t or acquire financial interests beyond their legal fees.
Never take a dime that isn’t legally yours. If you recover compensation on behalf of a client make sure that they receive their portion as agreed. Make sure that all paperwork is transparent and easy for your client to understand.
Only take cases that you are competent in so that you can provide your client with the best possible representation. Avoid being tempted by large potential payouts or convincing yourself that you will be able to familiarize yourself with new subject matter by the time you go to court. If you should lose, your client can sue you for inadequate and incompetent counsel.
The topic of ethics and conduct is broad and more than can be covered in this short article, but you can see the sorts of issues you will face. If you wish to be a successful lawyer, you must aim to be ethical at all times.