C in ethics? You’re on the right track.

I think we have too many rules.  Even some of the most important include too many words.  In 2019, I intend to work to streamline the rules.

This isn’t a new idea.

I started as disciplinary counsel in 2000.  Shortly after I started, I was talking with a lawyer who was representing an attorney against whom I’d filed disciplinary charges.  I don’t remember the lawyer’s exact words, but I’ll never forget the gist of something that he told me:

“Mike, the rules say blah, blah, blah. You should interpret them to prosecute lawyers who lie, cheat, or steal.”

In a way, he’s right.

A conflict is a form of cheating.  An unreasonable fee is stealing.  The lack of diligence – letting a client think you’re doing your job when you’re not – is lying,

Of course, I’m not so foolish as to think anyone would support amending the rules to one sentence:

  • “It shall be professional misconduct for a lawyer to lie, cheat or steal.”

Still, for those of you who looking for the crib notes version, it’s not a bad start.

A better start?  The 5 C’s.

Again, this isn’t something I came up with on my own.  This morning, I was reading Faughnan on Ethics.  I found this post: A recipe for ethical lawyering?.  In it, Brian Faughnan posits that the 5 Cs can serve as “a basic road map for being an ethical lawyer no matter the nature or setting of [the lawyer’s] practice” and could serve as “those pieces of the ethics rules” that we must keep as we constantly evaluate (and improve) lawyer regulation.

Faughnan’s 5 Cs:

  • Competence
  • Confidentiality
  • Communication
  • Candor
  • Conflicts

I like it.

Let’s take a look at how the 5 C’s apply to a new client, with links to some of my prior posts.

New client?

Seems to cover it.

Now, some of you might ask “what about trust accounting?”  Good question.

As Faughnan points out, “commingling” might be the 6th C.  As he also notes, several of the other Cs cover trust accounting.  To me, it’s part of competence: your job includes safeguarding & tracking money that isn’t yours.

If you find yourself on the horns of a dilemma, call me.  It’s free and part of my job.  But, as life and your practice happen in real-time, the two thoughts we’ve discussed today serve as good guideposts:

  1. Don’t lie, cheat or steal.
  2. Remember the 5 Cs.

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5 thoughts on “C in ethics? You’re on the right track.

  1. Don’t forget “C” for Conversion. (the “C” version of theft)

    Good idea to revise Rules language. More text than is necessary. Can be done without sacrificing description of complex relations back pertinent to party behaviors.


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