Member Groups

Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

November 2007, vol. 13, no. 1

Lawyers “lawgh” about ethics at MCLE forum

 “Lawghter” was the keyword for the morning on September 7, 2007, at the ISBA’s 3rd Annual Solo and Small Firm Forum held in St. Charles, Illinois. Legal Humorist, Sean Carter (see www.lawhumurist.com), a frequent contributor to the ABA’s on-line journal and other publications, took the stage at the conference as the keynote speaker and as a section presenter. Mr. Carter spoke on the issues of ethics and of how to handle stress in the profession. His well considered and sage advice to the 300-plus lawyers in attendance (about a third of which were women lawyers) was: (1) “get a clue”; (2) “get a grip”; and, (3) “get a life.” By the end of his keynote address Mr. Carter had his audience chanting these tips like a new-age mantra for the practice of law in Illinois.

For Catalyst readers who are not already acquainted with the ISBA’s Solo and Small Firm Conference, it is being billed as the yearly “one-stop shopping forum” for all things C.L.E. and a resource for all things innovative to the practice of law. Mr. Carter’s referred to his C.L.E. presentation as “Comedic Legal Education.” However, his area of concentration was the very serious subject of ethics and the relationship of stress to breaches in ethical conduct by practitioners. Although he presented this topic in a way that was funny and entertaining, he still evoked fear and an appreciation for the fact that no matter how careful we might attempt to be in our daily practices we may still inadvertently cross that imaginary line into unethical territory if we are unable to manage stress. He reminded those present that “the law is not what we are, but what we do to make a living and support our families” and that we should not take ourselves so seriously as a profession. He left his audience to ponder that “lawghter” may be one of our greatest untapped resources and a good tool for surviving the stress inherent in helping clients, dealing with other professionals and navigating the legal system.

This year’s conference offered three tracks from which participants could choose: (1) a substantive law track; (2) a technology and office management track; and (3) the ethics track. The author personally concentrated her course selections in the ethics track. As you may know the recent Illinois continuing legal education rules require a minimum of four hours per reporting period in the area of professionalism, diversity, mental illness and addiction, civility or legal ethics. This yearly venue is a good resource for getting those credits and other credits at one time in one place.

In his hilarious ethic track presentation, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Disciplinary Hearing,” Mr. Carter explored some of the more outrageous disciplinary cases that have come before various state disciplinary committees and opined on how one could avoid finding herself in like situations. He also imparted his version of the “10 Commandments” and related those to the applicable ABA Model Rule(s). The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct mirror the ABA rules. Mr. Carter’s “10 Commandments” are as follows:

1. THOU SHALT NOT KILL 
a. Rule 8.4 - Misconduct

2. THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS
a. Rule 3.3 - Candor Before a Tribunal
b. Rule 4.1 - Truthfulness in Statements to Others
c. Rule 7.1 - Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Service
d. Rule 8.1 - Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters

3. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL
a. Rule 1.15- Safekeeping Property

4. THOU SHALT NOT DISCRIMINATE
a. Rule 8.4- Misconduct

5. THOU SHALT NOT GOSSIP
a. Rule 1.6- Confidentiality of Information

6. THOU SHALT KNOW THY SELF
a. Rule 1.1- Competence

7. THOU SHALT “ JUST DO IT”
a. Rule 1.3- Diligence

8. THOU SHALT CALL THY CLIENT BACKETH
a. Rule 1.4 – Communication

9. THOU SHALT TAKE CARE OF THYSELF
a. Rule 1.16 - Declining or Termination Representation

10. THOU SHALT UPHOLD THE DIGNITY OF THE PROFESSION
a. Preamble

Next year’s Solo and Small Firm Conference is scheduled to take place again in early September. In addition to the opportunity to hear wonderful speakers and leaders in the profession, like Mr. Carter, this three-day event offers opportunities to network with lawyers from around the state and to learn about new trends in the law and in practice management. Even if you are not a solo or consider yourself a small firm practitioner, there are opportunities available to all ISBA members to speak and present at this forum. Sitting on a panel and speaking at conferences like this is another way which one can receive CLE credit hours. So until next year—please remember a key to success in the practice of law is—“getting a clue, getting a grip and getting a life.”


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