Hot T(r)opics in Ethics

I’m in San Diego for the mid-year meeting of the National Organization of Bar Counsel.  No Ron Burgandy sightings yet, but lots of great info to share with you.

The conference opened yesterday and included the traditional “roll call.” One representative from each jurisdiction gets 2 or 3 minutes to update the group on trends/hot topics in that jurisdiction.  A nugget:

  • In Vermont, FY 2015 saw both a record number of inquiries of bar counsel and a 10 year low in the number of complaints filed & referred to disciplinary counsel. FY 16 is shaping us as a continuation: as of January 31, inquiries are up 35%, while complaints are down 18.5%.  These numbers are consistent with what other jurisdictions reported.  A theory why? More and more states are focusing resources on preventing misconduct thru education & ethics hotlines.  I’m looking forward to today’s seminar on “A New Model of Regulation:  Proactive Management Based Regulation.”  Sounds complex, but it’s not.  It’s the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a  pound of cure.”  Vermont’s Professional Responsibility Board endorses this approach and I hope to learn more about it while I’m here.
  • A great seminar yesterday on the changes that are coming to the legal profession.  Who is part of it & how it’s regulated.  In 2014, NOBC president Tracy Kepler started from this premise: “Globalization, new technologies, concerns over access to justice, and other disruptions to traditional regulatory and professional systems have changed the ways legal services are accessed and delivered in the United States and abroad.”  She tasked an ad hoc committee to gather data that “will enable member jurisdictions to evaluate the regulatory impacts and challenges posed by recent developments and to develop responses and local initiatives that will ensure the continued protection of the public and integrity of the profession.”  Here are the results:  (note – the NOBC has not taken a position on the issues.)
  • Alternative Business Structures: should nonlawyers be allowed to have ownership interests in law firms?  what about lawyers and nonlawyers working together in a business entity that provides legal and non-legal services?  For more, go HERE.
  • Alternative Licensure: should courts authorize nonlawyers to provide legal services that, for now, only lawyers are authorized to provide?  For more, go HERE.
  • Entity Regulation: in Vermont’s current model, the Court and the PRB have jurisdiction over lawyers. There is no present ability to regulate (or sanction) a firm, and certainly no jurisdiction over nonlawyers within a firm.  Should that change?  For more, go HERE.
  • International Cooperation (Reciprocity): as borders blur and lawyers practice in multiple states and nations, how should courts, bar associations, and regulators react?  For more, go HERE.

That’s all for now.  Join me tomorrow for another #FiveforFriday ethics quiz, perhaps with a West Coast or Super Bowl theme.  In the meantime, not a bad view from the hotel:

palm trees.jpg