Each state has a code of ethics governing the conduct of attorneys practicing under its jurisdiction. These are often known as Ethical Rules or Model Rules of Ethics and are usually based upon the American Bar Associations Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It is paramount that lawyers adhere to these codes in order to uphold both the credibility of their profession and the peoples confidence in the legal system. Though the codes may vary slightly by state, there are three important tenets that they generally have in common.
1. Good Faith
When carrying out their professional duties, attorneys need to act with the intention of being honest, fair and open. They may not deliberately operate in a way that leads to adverse outcomes for their clients.
Lawyers must keep the information shared by clients confidential. They are also barred from using this information for personal gain. This applies even after their professional dealings with clients have ceased.
3. Reasonable Standard of Care
It is necessary for attorneys to exercise a reasonable standard of care when acting on behalf of their clients, applying their legal knowledge and skills at all times. They must exercise this care when providing advice or representation and when carrying out other duties.
If they do not follow the attorney code of ethics set by their state, the consequences can be severe. They can be subject to public or private censure, suspension or disbarment. Most important, however, failing to adhere to these rules diminishes the publics trust in the legal profession.