CBA Record - Legal Ethics Column by John Levin

The CBA Record is the magazine of The Chicago Bar Association

Article by John Levin :: Most of the time mentoring young lawyers in your firm or who work for you is a voluntary effort – good for you, good for the firm, and good for the young lawyer. 

Article by John Levin :: However, in some cases, mentoring is not voluntary, but mandatory. 

Article by John Levin :: If you spend any time watching cable TV news, you might begin to wonder where lawyers cease being officers of the court and start being public relations agents.  Especially in the more sensational class action and criminal cases, lawyers sometimes seem to spend at much time in front of the cameras as they do in front of the jury.

Article by John Levin :: Is it permissible to include an arbitration clause in a retainer agreement requiring that disputes under the agreement, including malpractice claims, be resolved by binding arbitration?  This is one of the questions that was recently brought before the Professional Responsibility Committee of the Chicago Bar Association.

Article by John Levin :: How does the average lawyer go about getting advice on questions concerning the Code of Professional Responsibility?  There are several approaches.

Article by John Levin :: While all lawyers have similar educations and similar licensure requirements, lawyers are often engaged in very different types of business.  Nevertheless, the few printed pages of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct are expected to govern both the sole practitioner with a single, neighborhood office and the partner in a multi-national firm with offices all over the world.   I recently came across two examples of the extent of this dilemma. 

Article by John Levin :: When George Overton retired from writing this column, I asked him how he came up with ideas for new columns month after month for over 20 years. He told me that something new always happened that he could write about. Little did I imagine that in following recent developments in ethics opinions I would be stepping through the looking glass into a very strange land.

Article by John Levin :: Even while the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association mull over the recommendations of their joint committee concerning major revisions to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, the Illinois Supreme Court has been busy making some changes on its own.   On July 1, 2004, two new Supreme Court Rules, 716 and 717, come into effect.

Article by John Levin :: When we hear the phrase “multi-jurisdictional practice” we generally think of a lawyer practicing law in two different states.  From the point of view of professional responsibility, this usually raises a question of unauthorized practice or of which state’s ethical rules apply.  However, multi-jurisdictional practice may also apply to practicing before different courts or agencies.  For example, who has jurisdiction to censure a lawyer when the lawyer practices before an independent Federal agency such as the Patent and Trademark Office?

Article by John Levin :: Rule 1 of both the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Rules state that a “lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.”  Other Rules impose numerous obligations on lawyers in the context of their practice.  Since lawyers are subject to the risk of illness, aging and substance abuse, a serious question arises when a lawyer becomes disabled or impaired and not able to provide competent representation.  Each of us hopes that we will be enough aware of our own impairment to take appropriate action for the good of our clients and the profession.  What, however

Article by John Levin :: It is hard to believe, but it has been five years since the decision in Birbower, Montalobano, Condon & Frank, P.C.  v. Superior Court in which the California Supreme Court held that a New York lawyer representing a New York client in an arbitration in California was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  Readers of this column over these five years have no doubt read of the furor created by that decision and the various attempts to modify what was an embarrassment for the legal profession.

Article by John Levin :: To paraphrase Marx and Engels: a spectre is haunting the legal profession -- the spectre of Sarbanes-Oxley.  For those of you who may not have heard, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was adopted in order to address the corporate abuses made public in the Enron, WorldCom and other scandals.  (Issues relating to Sarbanes-Oxley will appear from time to time in this column.)