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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of March 4, 2014

LawBiz(r) newsletter

I begin cycling camp as you read this today. I'm taking a week to join Chris Carmichael and his camp north of Santa Barbara, CA. If the weather cooperates, and the rain moves out, we'll have fun. But rain or shine, as the professionals say, we ride. I expect to be the "sweep" for the group, yet have fun. See you next Tuesday.

Be sure to contact me if you want more details about joining us for breakfast in Chicago on Thursday, March 27th.

Ed signature

Honesty, Ethics, and Image

Good news - kind of - for the legal profession. A December 2013 Gallup poll, accessed on, found that 20 percent of people polled rated the honesty and ethical standards of lawyers as very high or high, placing lawyers in a tie with TV reporters.

OK, that means that 80 percent of people are not so favorably inclined toward lawyers. Still, the percentage is the highest it has been since 1991, when 22 percent of people polled rated the honesty and ethical standards of lawyers as very high or high.

Lawyers are ethically bound to abide by the law and by the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4, which prohibits any "criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects," as well as "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

Examples of unethical attorney conduct regularly appear in media reports. But the commentary on Rule 8.4 about unethical conduct admits that there are "matters of personal morality . . . that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law." And here's where a host of gray areas can be found.

So, where is the ethics line drawn? There are many situations in which there is no intent to defraud, but harm is nevertheless done.

In today's society, nobody-perhaps least of all lawyers-is exempt from scrutiny and questioning about professional conduct. If concerns, even hypothetical ones, arise about your professional conduct, secure without delay the opinion of counsel specializing in the defense of lawyers.

Most importantly, avoid any conduct that might lead to the need for defense-and, hopefully, in a future Gallup poll, lawyers will surge ahead of TV reporters in the court of public opinion.

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