Students Explore Legal Challenges in Diverse Arenas – Social Media and Special Education


Miami Law's Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program continues to evolve as a wide-ranging forum for education and discussion of issues of conscience that confront the legal profession.

Two student interns in the program, Christina Flatau and Danielle Singer, recently presented an interactive ethics CLE program for the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. Under the supervision of Jan Jacobowitz, PREP's director, the students created a lively hypothetical format that focused on ethical issues arising from attorneys' use of social media. The two students also engaged the attorneys and judges in an in-depth discussion about the use of social media as a litigation tool.

"All of the attorneys who attended contributed to the discussion," Singer said later. "I think we definitely raised some thought-provoking issues regarding the impact of social media and advances in technology on the practice of law."

Flatau said that it was "interesting to learn what both attorneys and judges think about how Facebook should be used in litigation."

Sherril M. Colombo, a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, wrote to Jacobowitz after the session to thank her for the "wonderful presentation," and commended Daniels, Singer and Flatau "for their excellent contributions and very thorough research." Colombo said she had heard numerous compliments about the session from people who attended.

In a separate event, PREP Fellows Michael Greenfield and Shanelle Johnson – along with intern Stacy Byrd – presented a CLE ethics training session at Legal Services of Greater Miami. They facilitated a discussion with LSGMI attorneys concerning conflicts of interest, the ethical challenges that may arise when a parent and child disagree in special education representation, and the duties a lawyer owes the client during settlement negotiations.

"This presentation was particularly interesting because the topics came directly from the attorneys who encounter these ethical dilemmas," Greenfield said. "It was fascinating to present our research to them and to hear their insights on these issues."

For her part, Johnson said that researching and preparing for the training "forced both the students and the lawyers to think critically about the appropriate application of the Rules of Professional Conduct in complex ethical situations."

Byrd agreed. "The presentation was on common ethical issues, but it was focused in unique areas of law such as education and landlord-tenant law," she said. "This provided us an exciting opportunity to delve into unfamiliar areas to prepare for the training, and then discuss the issues with the attorneys practicing in these areas day in and day out."

PREP, a 2012 recipient of the American Bar Association's Smythe E. Gambrell Award, was established in 1996 as an in-house program within the Center for Ethics and Public Service at Miami Law. PREP's programming originated as an outgrowth of a collaborative effort with the nonprofit legal community to provide training on ethics issues arising in the context of serving the underprivileged. Today, PREP has expanded to present ethics training to lawyers working throughout the legal profession in venues ranging from small gatherings at nonprofit offices to large bar association meetings and national webinars.