Admission to State Bar
After passing the bar examination, an attorney is admitted to the state bar and allowed to practice law in that state. An attorney takes an oath of office.
Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility
After being admitted to the bar, an attorney's conduct is regulated by the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility. Every state has adopted some form of the Code, which sets minimum standards for an attorney's actions. The Code consists of three parts: Canons, Ethical Considerations, and Disciplinary Rules.
The Nine Canons
The nine canons contained in the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility provide general standards of professional conduct. Here are some examples of the general axioms contained in the canons. Canon 1 provides: “A lawyer should assist in the in maintaining the integrity and competence of the legal profession.” Canon 5 provides: “A lawyer should exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client.” Canon 9 provides: “A lawyer should avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety.”
The Ethical Considerations contained in the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility provide goals an attorney should strive to meet. For example, the Ethical Considerations that follow Canon 1 state that an attorney has the ethical responsibility to maintain the integrity and improve the competence of the bar. Under Canon 5, the Ethical Considerations provide that all transactions between the attorney and the client should be fair to the client. The Ethical Considerations following Canon 9 state that an attorney should avoid commingling his/her funds with the funds of a client.
The Disciplinary Rules contained in the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility give mandatory standards of conduct. If the attorney fails to meet these minimum standards, he/she will be subject to disciplinary action. The Disciplinary Rules that follow Canon 1 provide that an attorney is subject to disciplinary action if he/she makes a materially false statement or fails to disclose a material fact in his/her application for admission to the bar. The Disciplinary Rules associated with Canon 5 prohibit an attorney from simultaneously representing adverse parties if the representation would result in a conflict of interest. If the attorney engages in such behavior, he/she will be subject to disciplinary action. The Disciplinary Rules that follow Canon 9 prevent an attorney from commingling and misappropriating client funds or property. An attorney who commingles or misappropriates client funds or property will be disciplined.
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