Avoid The Top 10 Ethics Problems For Lawyers

Acting with integrity and making ethical choices are important in all human interactions, but legal ethics are of particular import. While you need not be a legal ethics attorney to understand the basics of ethical behavior in the scope of the legal profession, there are a slew of ethical pratfalls made every day in large and small  law firms around the country.

In this guide we will look at 10 legal ethics attorney conduct issues to watch out for and what you can do if you suspect that your attorney may have behaved in an unethical manner.

1. Cybersecurity & Client Data Protection

A lawyer has access to a client’s most sensitive data and therefore has a duty to ensure that proper care is taken to protect that information from falling into the wrong hands. The rapid adoption of technology based case management tools has opened up the potential risk of hackers and other bad actors exploiting a weak point in a law firm’s cybersecurity practices to gain access to private information.

classified information

2. Client Neglect & Client Abandonment

The legal profession is extremely competitive and law firms which place a strong emphasis on case volume may find individual attorneys stretched too thin to provide adequate service to individual clients. This can lead to client neglect or, in the worst case scenario, case abandonment as the overworked lawyer begins to cut corners.

3. Creative Financial Practices

There are so many ways to go wrong when it comes to finances. The most common legal ethics attorney conduct issues arise from a failure to maintain clear and absolute separation between law  firm and attorney financial accounts and client escrow holdings or other client funds held under the stewardship of the attorney or firm.

4. The Establishment Of A Lawyer/Client Relationship

The popularity of web based “Ask a Lawyer” platforms, legal advice forums, and social media threads have provided a vast new pool of potential clients. Unfortunately, these anonymous online interactions can also provide a vast pool of potential legal ethics attorney/client relationship problems. Legal professionals who engage with the public on web based platforms must be mindful that the advice they dispense is generic and cannot be construed as the establishment of a binding attorney/client relationship.

5. Witness Interviews

A legal professional never knows what sort of information might surface in the course of an otherwise mundane fact finding interview. If this information is gleaned from a conversation that takes place between the lawyer and the witness alone, ethical concerns can render the information inadmissible in court. To avoid this potential ethical pitfall all interviews should be conducted in the presence of a third party who is qualified to act as a corroborating witness to the witness statements.

Legal Ethics Lawyer - Witness Interview

6. Padded Legal Resume

Because of the competitive nature of legal practice attorneys can face a strong temptation to exaggerate their legal credentials, case outcomes, and practical experience. Misrepresentation of one’s legal background, qualifications, abilities, and experience is a serious ethics violation.

7. Client Review Response

Word of mouth advertising in the modern era has taken the form of client reviews. There are an array of review sites that serve the express purpose of allowing clients to post their compliments, recommendations, concerns, and complaints about the service providers, retailers, and venues they patronize. Legal professionals are no exception. Law firms must remain proactive and mindful in responding to negative reviews from clients to avoid disclosing confidential or compromising information or behaving in an unprofessional manner.

8. Personal Issues

Legal professionals are entitled to enjoy personal lives separate from their professional life. However, because lawyers occupy a position of trust they must fastidiously avoid engaging in activities in their personal life which may compromise their professional reputation or give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

9. Sexual Relationship With Client

This is a particularly thorny ethical grey area, but as a general rule, a sexual relationship between an attorney and their client is acceptable only when the relationship predates the attorney/client relationship. Essentially, an attorney can represent their spouse or partner without fear of violating established legal ethics but they should avoid entering into a new sexual relationship with an existing client.

10. Lack Of Attention To Detail

An attorney who does not maintain a strict attention to detail opens the door wide for potential legal ethics violations that arise from missed legal filing deadlines, mishandled evidence, and cases that are lost based on the construction rather than the merits of the argument.

Legal professionals who engage in unethical practices can have a detrimental effect on the outcome of a client’s legal case. Furthermore, unethical lawyers and law firms erode the public trust in the ability of the legal system to deliver fair and impartial justice. If you suspect that your lawyer engaged in unethical legal practices during the handling of your case you are strongly advised to consult with a legal ethics attorney who can help determine the best course of action, if any,  to remedy any harm caused and to prevent future harm.