As law schools around the country are graduating a fresh crop of lawyers-to-be, consider where we stand within the legal profession. Anointed as both promoters and defenders of the administration of justice, lawyers are called to respond to the ever present challenge (and honor) of serving the rule of law. The rules of professional conduct require not only that attorneys encourage respect for the administration of justice, but seek also to improve it. It goes without saying (even as I so write) that our common law, statutory and constitutional rights and obligations are meaningless if the public cannot enjoy them through fair and timely resolution or enforcement. To that end, the first statement contained in the Preamble to the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct provides that “A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
To be a member of the Bar and an officer of the court is a high calling which bestows unique opportunities on one so endowed. However, there is an obligation which corresponds to the privilege of being a member of the Bar and it is best expressed in a passage from the book of our most fundamental laws: “… For unto whomsoever is much given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
The Florida Bar v. McCain, 361 So.2d 700 (Fla. 1978) (Sundberg, J., concurring) (quoting Luke 12:48 (King James)).
Putting the principles into action (and answering our profession’s call), requires recognizing that serving the public interest is an essential part of our profession and our professional lives. The legal profession is based upon a specialized body of knowledge and skills, entry into which is restricted to those who prove their character and competence, and which is conducted in the interest of those it serves and of the public generally, subject to self-imposed and self-regulated rules of ethical conduct. Our promotion of the rule of law and meeting our duty to the greater public interest is self-interested, yes, but to the betterment of our clients, justice and society.
Suggestions on marrying service to the profession and promotion of the rule of law can include: (1) service on a judicial selection committee; (2) service with a bar organization; (3) service on a disciplinary committee; (4) participation in a law school mentorship program; (5) pro bono service; and, of course, (6) representing our clients well and ethically.
I have been invited to speak on June 8, 2020, at a national teleconference to address the topic of “Legal Professionalism: Practical Solutions to Real Life Dilemmas.” I hope you will be able to join me as we work through addressing every day ethical issues.
Jeff Geiger assists attorneys and law firms with ethics, legal malpractice and professional responsibility matters. If you have any questions about this post or other issues, please contact Jeff at (804) 783-7248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.