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Bar Association Ethics Committee offers advice.

Byline: Bennett Loudon

The Ethics Committee of the Monroe County Bar Association provides opinions based on about one inquiry per month.

Committee Chair Katie Hoppin, and the incoming chair, Amy Kendall, are hoping to make bar association members more aware of the committee and increase the number of questions posed to the committee.

"We want the legal community to be able to know that we are available as a resource" said Hoppin, a trusts and estates attorney at Torres Law Office P.C., in Brighton.

The ethics committee will sponsor a continuing legal education program from 12:15 to 2 p.m., May 20.

Hoppin and Kendall will be joined by Curtis Johnson, an associate at Bond, Schoeneck & King LLP to discuss the newest developments in legal ethics.

Some local bar members seeking advice on an ethics issue have options other than the ethics committee. Some larger law firms have in-house counsel, or a designated partner or associate to consult.

But most of the attorneys in the Rochester area are solo practitioners or members of a small firm that doesn't have somebody to handle those sorts of questions. In some cases, even in bigger firms, an attorney might prefer to seek advice elsewhere.

Most of the inquiries the committee now receives are from small and solo law firms, but many lawyers may not realize the committee is available to provide advice on ethics issues.

"More experienced lawyers are aware of (the committee) and solo or small firm lawyers who don't have other resources. That's who we're used by most, because they don't necessarily have somebody to go down the hall to and say, 'Hey, what do you think?' " Hoppin explained.

All inquiries to the ethics committee are handled anonymously.

"We are just giving verbal opinions as to whethersomebody's conduct violates the ethical rules," Hoppin said.

One of the most common questions the committee gets has to do with the "duty to report" section of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Under Rule 8.3, lawyers must report to the appropriate authorities another lawyer or judge who may have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct or rules of judicial conduct.

It's common for lawyers to ask the committee if they are required to report another attorney for some possibly unethical conduct.

"I think we provide a great service and it's confidential," Hoppin said. "That's one of the big benefits."

The committee chair is the only person who knows the identity of the inquiring attorney. All of the communication with the inquiring attorney is done by the chair by phone or email, not in person. And the committee never puts an opinion in writing.

The committee members take an oath of confidentiality, but they are not told the specifics of an inquiry that might identify the inquiring attorney. The committee only offers "prospective advice to try to preemptively deal with situations." They don't consider questions about past events.

The opinions are reached on a consensus basis, and that opinion is then given to the inquiring attorney by the chair.

Committee members are partly self-selected. When lawyers renew their membership in the bar, they fill out a form asking what committees they are interested in for possible appointment. The committee chair, the president of the bar and the executive director review the forms and decide the makeup of the committee.

The exact number fluctuates, but the committee usually has about 20 members.

BLoudon@BridgeTowerMedia.com (585) 232-2035

Updates in Legal Ethics for the Ethical Attorney

What: Continuing legal education program (two credits)

When: 12:15 to 2 p.m., May 20. Lunch and registration starts at 11:30 a.m.

Where: The Rubin Center for Education, fifth floor of the Telesca Center for Justice, 1 W. Main St.

Speakers: Katie Hoppin, Torres Law Office P.C.; Amy Kendall, Knauf Shaw LLP

Moderator: Lesley E. Niebel, Faraci Lange LLP

To register, visit MCBA.org.

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Publication:Daily Record (Rochester, NY)
Date:May 1, 2019
Words:661
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