PREP Visits with Miami’s Public Interest Lawyers to Adress Legal Ethics Dilemmas

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PREP students

Samantha Iglesias, Chandler Culwell, Christina Jaramillo, AJ Hasan

 

Continuing a long-standing collaboration with Miami’s nonprofit legal services organizations, Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program students presented annual Legal Ethics CLE seminars to both Legal Services of Greater Miami and Catholic Charities Legal Services. Supervised by PREP director, Jan L. Jacobowitz, PREP students, all of whom are 2L interns in the program, developed customized hypotheticals, presented in four acts, to reflect recurring issues that confront attorneys at each organization. 

At LSGMI, law student Ten Stallings analyzed the ethical dilemmas that may arise when dealing with a client’s guardian and trust account issues. The hypothetical led to a lively discussion of an attorney’s duties under Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-1.14 on Diminished Capacity Clients.  “Rule 4-1.14 requires lawyers to find the balance between their ethical obligations to their clients and their guardians,” said Stallings. “We learned that real-life complications often make the Rules much less clear and had fun working through different scenarios with the lawyers to learn how they deal with the rule in their practice.”

Isabella Falcon presented Act 2, which dealt with various conflicts of interest. She explained, “After doing a deep dive, I realized how complex conflicts of interest can be. I had an exceptional experience speaking with the attorneys and learning both how the Florida Ethics Rules interact with everyday practice and realizing how spirited the discussion may become with practicing attorneys.” 

Act 3, presented by Alice Kerr, analyzed whether an attorney performing duties as a grant manager is required to disclose that they are employed by the same legal services organization that is a co-plaintiff in a suit against one of the grant’s funding sources.

“The discussion was both lively and enlightening,” said Kerr. “In the end, there was a consensus that even though the Rule allowed the attorney to make inquiries not directly related to the litigation matter, it would be best if the attorney did disclose his relationship with the legal services organization to counsel representing the adverse party.  And we all had a nice laugh when we discovered that several of us had called the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline prior to the presentation to see if we were on the right track! I am happy to report that we were right on point!”  

Act 4, presented by Rebekah Molasky, discussed a conflict of interest and reporting professional misconduct. Specifically, what may the attorney do when he overhears, through a misdialed call to his phone, an opposing counsel making questionable comments about the legitimacy of the case and the judge?  

“Knowing that you are going to talk to a room full of attorneys that have experienced some of the issues you present in your hypothetical is both exciting, but also extremely daunting,” said Molasky. “But, once I had a true grasp of the issues I was dealing with, it became more fun than challenging.”
Molasky continued, “The attorneys at Legal Services picked up on the issues right away, which made for a very lively discussion. It was a really cool experience trying to reconcile the “black letter law” with everyday issues the attorneys face.”

PREP interns Chandler Culwell, AJ Hasan, Samantha Iglesias, and Christina Jaramillo presented at Catholic Charities Legal Services. The presentation was well received, as reflected by Myriam Mézadieu, the Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Legal Services, who emailed feedback to Jacobowitz.

“When planning an event such as this, it is imperative to gain the participation of experts in the field,” wrote Mézadieu. “Your willingness to share your time and expertise was critical to the success of this event. Judging from the comments of those who attended, the Training was very successful. Most of the credit goes to you and your students who gave such interesting presentations.”

Hasan presented Act 1 that dealt with conflicts of interest, particularly those that arise when representing siblings whose objectives differ in an immigration case. 

Culwell presented Act 2, which highlighted the importance of lawyer well. “The engagement from the attorneys on such a sensitive topic was strong – there was a sense of openness and safety in the room. Everyone felt comfortable sharing the ways in which they’d learned to care for themselves and their colleagues, in a work environment where they’re dealing with such heavy subject matter,” Culwell said.

Iglesias discussed the ethical implications of pro bono referrals and how to handle referrals that go awry in Act 3 and Jaramillo presented Act 4, which focused on potential technological issues faced by attorneys.

“It was great getting to discuss the relationship between technology and legal ethics with attorneys whose careers have been directly impacted by developments in technology,” said Jaramillo. “I was delighted to be able to have a conversation with practicing attorneys, during which we all learned from one another. It was especially rewarding to share information that was new to some of the attorneys.”

PREP is an award-winning program that develops continuing legal education ethics trainings for the legal community. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic. It has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service, as well as 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 trainings, 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