A Class of Ethical Considerations

As a guest speaker in class today, Professor Grenig arranged for an appearance by Mr. Howard Myers, who has appeared before Professor Grenig in labor disputes and now himself serves as a mediator.  Myers spent the class period talking about the role of a lawyer and ethical considerations that lawyers confront on a daily basis.  While I understand that in a future semester I will take a class about ethics, it was very interesting to get a big-picture overview of some different ethical issues and suggestions from Myers.

First, Myers suggested that each of us find an area of law that we fit into and enjoy. 

Myers said that he had seen people who were not in the right firm, or the right type of law and these people tend to be miserable.  Myers suggested that we give consideration to ourselves to find the area of law that we would enjoy, and be persistent in looking for jobs in that area.

Myers proceeded to go through an article that he co-authored in April 2003 in the Wisconsin Lawyer entitled, “Are We Really Raising the Bar?”  Myers explained that people don’t come to lawyers simply because they want a lawyer, but because they are in a crisis.  He explained that you must look at what the client really wants, and what they are thinking even emotionally, and Myers explained that the client’s emotions are never wrong.  These feelings “may be irrational, but they are never wrong.”

Myers stressed the importance of listening.  He stressed the importance of listening to clients about what their goals are, as well as listening to colleagues and the concerns of opposing parties.  He also stressed the importance of returning phone calls.  Myers stressed that improving these skills can do a lot for people’s views of lawyers.

Listening to Mr. Myers for almost two hours was very interesting.  In my very short time in law school, I’ve read through cases, looked at the reasoning of courts, and have attempted to discern rules.  It was interesting to take a step back and realize that there are real people on the other end of these problems, and ethical considerations that need to be taken into account.  The class period was great way to bring a lot of material that I am encountering into a big-picture framework.

As Myers was giving us advice he stated that all of our records were at this point probably untarnished, and explained that if we think through things ethically, we can keep them that way.  Ultimately, he pointed out, it is better and healthier for each of us, and for the profession.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Lee S. McCullough III

    I am an attorney from Utah practicing in estate planning, asset protection, & business organizations. These are some typical real-life ethical dilemmas:
    1. A client has a partner he is angry with. The client wants to set up a competing business without telling his partner.
    2. A client wants to give all her assets away to her children so she can qualify for Medicaid & have the government pay her medical bills.
    3. A client’s business is struggling and considering bankruptcy. The client wants to take most of the cash as a dividend so there is nothing left for the creditors of the business.
    4. A client wants to set up a Nevada corporation because he heard it can keep his earnings confidential to hide the earnings from an ex-spouse who could go after additional support payments if she knew of the additional earnings.
    A good attorney must know where to draw the line and have the courage to counsel a client to do what is right, in addition to what is legally permissible. As an asset protection attorney, I face these situations all the time. Sometimes I can convince a client to do what is right, sometimes I must refuse to help a client with behavior that is inappropriate or illegal, and sometimes we can agree on a compromise that we can both feel good about.

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