Lawyers’ Professionalism and Ethics

Alyssa Johnson
Alyssa Johnson Committee Chair Barron & Newberger PC Milwaukee, WI

About the Committee

The practice of law is continually changing, and with these changes come new and challenging ethical issues that need to be addressed. Only a few years ago, the profession struggled to address the impact of third party audits on the practice of law and to discuss the tripartite relationship among the insurer, the insured and the attorney. What are the ethical issues the profession is currently facing? They include such issues as: privacy and the use of electronic information; the off-shoring of legal research; innovative fee agreements; multi-state practices and the trend toward multi-state licensing arrangements; conflicts of interest and bigger and bigger law firms; and the effect of market forces on the blurring of the definition of the unauthorized practice of law. While we work to address these ethical issues, the profession struggles with an alarming decrease in civility and professionalism towards others in the profession. Discovery abuse tactics, rude and insulting behavior at depositions, and refusals to grant extensions or otherwise accommodate other lawyers has increased significantly. This behavior has resulted in an unprecedented number of sanctions.

Perhaps in recognition of the many ethical and professionalism issues that all attorneys face, the membership of this Committee has increased tremendously over the past five years and continues to grow each month. The increasing membership affords us both the opportunity and manpower to take on more and more projects and to play a more active role within DRI. The Committee publishes a biannual newsletter, Professionalism Perspectives, and contributes a regular column to For The Defense. In addition, we sponsor webconferences, provide ethics speakers for the substantive law seminars of other DRI committees, and participate in joint presentations at the DRI Annual Meeting.

In the upcoming year, we would like to increase our level of activity to include a newly designed website featuring articles and accomplishments of our members, recent ethical decisions, and spotlight articles on our members. We would also like to increase the number of ethics speakers that we provide for both DRI substantive committee seminars and SLDO meetings throughout the country. Finally, we would like to consider designing a stand alone seminar in collaboration with other DRI committees. We have a newly revised and expanded Steering Committee, but we can always use more eager volunteers. We look forward to hearing from you.

Additional Resources