Miami Law’s Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program develops interactive continuing legal education ethics trainings that are designed to facilitate discussion with practicing attorneys about cutting-edge ethical issues. Recently, PREP students, Sarah Cohen, Madeleine Kleinberg, Lina Mesa and Carla Menda visited Legal Services of Greater Miami.
Sarah Cohen, Lina Mesa, Jeffrey Hearne, LSGMI director of litigation, Carla Menda, and Madeline Kleinberg
Supervised by PREP director, Jan L. Jacobowitz, and PREP fellow, Nicole Chipi, the students presented four hypotheticals to reflect recurring issues that confront LSGMI attorneys. Act 1, presented by Carla Menda, discussed conflicts of interest and reporting professional misconduct in a landlord-tenant situation. The hypothetical elicited a discussion of what an attorney should do when he has a reasonable belief that an opposing counsel, with whom the attorney often collaborates to resolve cases, has filed a false affidavit.
“An attorney’s obligation to a current client takes precedence and in order for the attorney to represent his client zealously, the attorney needs to address the filing of the suspicious affidavit," said Menda. "Even if an attorney’s lack of direct and actual knowledge does not obligate an attorney to report opposing counsel to the Florida Bar, the attorney’s obligations under rule rules of competence, diligence, and candor to the tribunal obligate him to act insofar as he must investigate whether the affidavit is false and take steps to rectify the situation."
Act 2, presented by Sarah Cohen, involved an attorney’s competency and candor to the tribunal in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. “Often times, attorneys are unclear about when exactly their duty of candor to the tribunal kicks in, especially when it involves misinformation from their clients. I enjoyed discussing the ethical implications of a client’s social media postings with the attorneys at LSGMI and hearing their respective inputs,” said Cohen.
Act 3, presented by Lina Mesa, analyzed a hypothetical where an attorney had to maneuver a difficult representation of an aging client with an ambiguous disability in an eviction context. The hypothetical led to a lively discussion of an attorney’s duties under Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-1.14 Client Under A Disability. “ An attorney has a duty to maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship when representing a client with diminished capacity,” said Mesa.
Act 4, presented by Madeline Kleinberg, considered possible ethical implications of attorneys utilizing new technology to perform legal work. The discussion that followed the hypothetical revolved around an attorney’s duty of competency, including technological competence, as well as the obligation to maintain client confidentiality. The group then considered how the practice of mindfulness can lead to better decision making. “By noticing our thoughts, feelings, and sensations before we react to situations, we gain a sense of clarity that often leads to a more thoughtful response,” said Kleinberg.
PREP is an award-winning program, which develops continuing legal education ethics training for the legal community. 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. During training, students are often able to make a positive impact on attendees by prompting them to consider and reconsider their approaches to some of the toughest ethical dilemmas that may arise in the practice of law.
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 training, throughout the semester PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, can be found here.