Every semester students of the Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program (PREP), under the direction of Jan L. Jacobowitz, visit with attorneys at various bar associations to present interactive legal ethics CLE programs. The animated discussions that ensue create a valuable and fun experience for both the students and the attorneys.
This fall PREP students developed ethics trainings for the South Miami-Kendall Bar Association (SMKBA), the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA), and the Coral Gables Bar Association (CBA). The bar associations each requested “hot topic” issues, which included updates in the areas of social media discovery, cyber security, attorney advertising, and professionalism.
PREP fellow Dalisi Otero, along with PREP interns Ivana Alvarez and Ellen Kruk, presented at SMKBA on the best practices for electronic communication, advice to clients on social media, and cyber security issues. The presentation resulted in a dynamic discussion among the attending attorneys.
“Speaking at the SMKBA was such a unique experience for me,” said Alvarez. “Having worked as an intern in the Health Rights Clinic, I have experienced what it's like to make decisions regarding my own course of action in a case, but presenting a CLE training was a rare opportunity to inform professionals--practicing attorneys, at that--about whether various courses of action comply with professional rules of conduct. It felt like a huge responsibility, and I greatly enjoyed the challenge in an environment where I was designated as the ‘expert.’”
“The ability to text prospective clients is a controversial new development in the world of legal ethics, so it was a unique experience to explore the topic with a room full of practicing attorneys,” said Kruk. “Emerging technology has changed the way attorneys practice and interact with the community, so helping them understand the appropriate guidelines for doing so was very exciting.”
Describing her experience at the presentation, Otero said, “This particular presentation was an exciting and unique learning opportunity. I learned as much or more from the attorneys who attended as they learned from our presentation. Several attorneys shared their thoughts and experiences. We had the chance to learn about the realities of legal practice, which shed light on the newest legal ethics issues affecting lawyers everywhere.”
PREP fellow Janelly Crepo and interns, Luiz Miranda and Brian Vaca presented similar issues at CABA, but added to the mix the potential use of fitbit and apple watch data as evidence in a case and the corresponding issue of attorney competence. The CABA CLE also included a lively discussion about what to do when receiving the “angry email.” The students learned much about the reality of the practice while the attorneys shared tips for dealing with a difficult opposing counsel.
The presentation afforded Crespo “the opportunity to see how social media and technology continue to affect the legal community, especially with the use of wearable technology such as the AppleWatch and FitBit. Engaging the attorneys in a lively discussion was not only rewarding but educational.”
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to present on relevant topics of ethics and professionalism to practicing attorneys,” said Miranda. “It was a great way to see where scholarship met reality, and understand the present challenges to the legal profession. I feel that the PREP program really prepares soon-to-be attorneys to start off on the right track.”
Finally, PREP fellows, Samuel Bookhardt IV, Tiffany Hendricks, and Daniel Hentschel presented the last program of the semester to a lively crowd at the Coral Gables Bar Association. When asked about her experience, Hendricks said, “It was such a pleasure presenting for the Coral Gables Bar Association. The audience was interactive and engaged. It is a rewarding experience when I learn as much from attorneys as they learn from our ethics presentation.” Hendricks, who graduated this past December, has become a go-to person on issues of social media discovery.
Bookhardt, whose presentation focused on professionalism standards in the digital age, said, “It was my first time presenting to the Coral Gables Bar Association and it was great to see that the attorneys shared my enthusiasm for the program and actively participated in our discussion.”
“Educating practicing attorneys is a one of a kind experience,” said Hentschel, PREP’s resident authority on attorney advertising. “Their differing views on various issues are eye opening.”
PREP develops customized CLE ethics trainings thereby providing an opportunity for students to explore diverse areas of the law and interact with attorneys practicing in those areas regarding the ethical challenges that confront today’s legal profession. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, and has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar.
In 2012, PREP was recognized by the ABA with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award —the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and advancement of professionalism among lawyers and judges. In addition to presenting ethics trainings, throughout the semester PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions and cases. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, may be found here.