PREP Zooms into LSGMI and Catholic Legal Services to Discuss Legal Ethics & Technology

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PREP students

Top: Paige Fairman, John Vasquez, Marissa Stockwell; bottom: Claire Chatellier, Timothy Loftus, Fahad Al Asban

The Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program at Miami Law continued its legal ethics and technology training tour with recent “virtual” stops at two venerable South Florida nonprofit organizations: Legal Services of Greater Miami and Catholic Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Due to the ongoing considerations regarding COVID-19, the training sessions were completed over Zoom video conference and highlighted topics such as conflicts of interest regarding landlord-tenant and immigration cases, the ethical implications of using technology and social media, and the ethical challenges of working remotely. Participation from the attending attorneys was lively and the debate robust as PREP Interns presented hypothetical scenarios and best practices to avoid ethical dilemmas, while PREP Director Jan Jacobowitz provided input and guidance in order to facilitate and focus the discussion.

Fahad AL Ashban opened and closed the presentation at Legal Services of Greater Miami discussing a lawyer’s duty to disclose a client’s relevant prior convictions and ethical implications on meeting clients on Zoom, respectively.

“It was especially interesting as the shift to Zoom meetings is relatively new, so law firms are in the process of updating their rules to accommodate this shift and protect client’s confidential information," said AL Ashban. "Conducting the presentation through Zoom and the technical difficulties that arise from it, whether it’s bad Wi-Fi reception or a problem in navigating through the presentation, gave me a better experience on how to utilize a virtual platform.”

Paige Fairman followed by discussing the ethical implications of civility to opposing counsel and third parties, including whether an attorney can respond to a represented client who has made accusatory statements. “Speaking at Legal Services was and amazing experience,” Fairman said, “and it was great to see attorneys so engaged in discussion about ethics. It was also interesting to hear real life anecdotes from the lawyers that encompassed the issues we had discussed in our hypotheticals.”

Marissa Stockwell, who rounded out the presentation discussing conflicts of interests, had this to say about her experience. “PREP has been a captivating experience from first receiving the hypos, to doing the research, and then presenting. It is unlike anything I have experienced in law school thus far. I have enjoyed the collaborative process learning from Professor Jacobowitz and my fellow classmates to hearing what actual practitioners are experiencing in the field at Legal Services.”

PREP Fellow John Vazquez led Interns Claire Chatellier and Timothy Loftus in presenting various ethical implications facing attorneys practicing immigration law to Catholic Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami.

“PREP has been the perfect opportunity for me to gain invaluable experience learning how to use Zoom professionally and effectively,” said Chatellier. “The CLE training we presented was engaging and interesting, suggesting that attorneys are becoming more and more comfortable with Zoom as the pandemic continues. So, I’m especially grateful that I’ll be fully experienced with Zoom before I even graduate from law school.”

“The CLS presentation over Zoom went quite smoothly,” Loftus said reflecting on his experience with his first PREP presentation. “The enthusiastic discussion around several ethical issues far surpassed our team’s hopes given the new platform. For me, the experience added valuable context to how ethical challenges play out in day-to-day law practice. For many of us, it was our first time doing a formal presentation via Zoom. The success speaks to all of the participants’ enthusiasm for the PREP program as well willingness to adapt.”

PREP is an award-winning program that develops continuing legal education ethics training for the legal community. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, 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.