Miami Law's Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program (PREP) recently presented a CLE ethics training at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. Under the supervision of director Jan L. Jacobowitz, second-year law students Shanelle Johnson and Nicole Pearl conducted a training session that addressed the ethical implications of an untruthful client and the use of social networking to uncover the truth, as well as conflicts of interest between the rights of a former client and the duties to a prospective client.
The students presented two hypothetical scenarios to discuss the ethical implications of representing a potentially untruthful client and an intern's unsupervised use of a social networking site to inadvertently obtain information that contradicts the client's story. They also presented a hypothetical scenario that highlighted the necessity of conflict checking systems and the potential conflicts of interest between a former client and a prospective client within different units of a legal services organization.
"Researching, preparing, and presenting this training was a remarkable experience that allowed us to understand the grey areas in law," said Pearl. "We were compelled to tackle these challenges as though we were facing them in our own practices today and determine the most appropriate and beneficial course of action for all parties involved."
"The discussions that took place among the lawyers in response to our hypotheticals were lively and educational in regards to how the rules are understood and used in everyday practice," explained Johnson. "It was an amazing experience to be among lawyers who were excited and passionate about working through the complexities of the rules with us and open to sharing the difficulties they faced in applying them."
"These hypotheticals were specifically created for Legal Services of Greater Miami and their daily challenges," noted Pearl. "I realized the intricacies of conflicts of interest and how necessary it is to have a thorough understanding of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, especially in a Legal Services organization. Without this understanding, some clients may be denied access to legal representation."
The Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program was established in 1996 as an in-house program within the Center for Ethics and Public Service at the University of Miami School of Law. The program develops and presents continuing legal education (CLE) ethics training for the South Florida legal community and has dedicated countless student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Florida Bench and Bar. The experience serves as a great opportunity for students to learn about cutting edge ethical issues and through their presentations affect the views and policies of individuals within the legal community.