The Attorney’s Code of Ethics
Various governmental bodies and law firms offer their own codes of professional conduct for attorneys. The most influential ethics document for attorneys practicing in the United States is the American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct.”
The “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” addresses elements of the client-lawyer relationship such as fees, duties to current, former and prospective clients, confidentiality and dealing with conflicts of interest related to clientele.
As Counselor and Advocate
The model code also obliges lawyers to give clients candid advice and permits a lawyer’s legal evaluations to benefit someone other than the client with the client’s informed consent. The code also bars lawyers from engaging in legal proceedings that are frivolous or have no basis in law.
The model code addresses other issues of client advocacy, such as how to approach trial publicity and what behavior is appropriate in relation to the opposing party.
Persons Other Than Clients and Associations
Lawyers are prohibited from making false statements or in some cases failing to disclose information that may prevent the commission of a criminal or fraudulent act by a client. The code also limits the parties with whom a lawyer may communicate information related to their client and establishes guidelines for dealing with third parties to a legal matter.
“The Model Rules of Professional Conduct” also lays out rules for a lawyer’s relationship with a law firm and sets forth other precepts for administration of a legal practice.
Public Service and Information About Services
The code provides guidelines on providing services free of charge, dealing with appointments within organizations, participating in law reform activities and other guidelines for activities outside the client-lawyer relationship that may impact clients. The code also provides a framework for advertising of services, how a lawyer should represent herself in communications and prohibits lawyers from accepting appointments in exchange for political contributions.
Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession
The model code also provides a framework for ensuring the good standing of the profession and enforcing good practices. Among other things, this framework includes an obligation to report misconduct and false statements and forbids lawyers from recklessly questioning the qualifications of public legal officials.