Since 1953, the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Professional Conduct has prepared opinions relating to issues of ethical conduct of Illinois lawyers. All such opinions are reviewed by the ISBA’s Board of Governor’s for final determination on the propriety of issuing those opinions. More than 1,200 ethics opinions have been issued by the ISBA.
I am a member of the ISBA’s Professional Conduct Committee so I can confidently state that those members of that committee painstakingly review the circumstances of the ethical issues on which opinions are to be issued and carefully draft opinions analyzing the application of professional conduct rules to those circumstances.
The committee is presently engaged in a complete review of ALL ethics opinions issued by the ISBA to determine their continued vitality in light of the new Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court and made effective January 1, 2010. Thus far, committee members have spent in excess of 20 hours just in meetings to review those opinions, and many more hours back at members’ offices in preparation for the meetings. At least two more full days of meetings are scheduled to complete the task.
The committee includes members with far greater experience than me on issues relating to the professional conduct rules and some of these lawyers have been on the committee for much of their professional careers; some even developed the new rules which are now in effect.
So, why am I bringing up the work of this committee?
The answer is to demonstrate that in a legal world of marketing, creating revenue streams, hustle and bustle legal work and adversarial processes, it is good to remember that “the law” is a profession with time honored ethical requirements. There will always be those who deviate from the rules, but the vast majority of lawyers are honorable hard-working professionals who not only practice in a moral and ethical manner, but they insist that others in the profession do so as well. This commitment to professional standards runs deep and even compels lawyers to give up much of their personal time to upholding the standards of the profession.
Because of the manner in which CLE credits may be earned, Professional Conduct Committee members receive just one hour of CLE credit for each daylong meeting to review the old ethics opinions and nothing for their pre-meeting preparation. Of course, there is no payment for their hard work. They do it out of devotion to the ethics of “the law.”
I am awed by the commitment shown by members of that committee who have been doing this work for so many years. They are inspirational to the rest of us who sometimes give too much attention to the “business” of our profession. It is extremely satisfying to be able to sit next to them in those committee rooms steadfastly analyzing opinions issued thirty years ago to discern their continuing strength for our profession. They have my gratitude, and I hope the gratitude of other Illinois lawyers.