It is often said that lawyers are “a dime a dozen,” which can make selecting one for your case a difficult task. The Center for Professional Responsibility of the American Bar Association sets forth high standards for lawyers, which are outlined in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules). According to the Rules, a lawyer must be competent, prompt, and diligent, making sure to keep the lines of communication open with a client. In addition, a lawyer must always maintain confidentiality (except where disclosure is allowed or required). A good lawyer abides by the law in both professional and personal matters, and commits professional time to help indigent individuals receive equal access to the justice system.

A Representative of Clients, Officer of the Legal System, and Public Citizen with Special Responsibility

As a representative of clients, the Rules state that lawyers act as advisors, advocates, and negotiators for their clients. As an advisor, a lawyer educates clients of legal rights and obligations, and evaluates the implications of their legal matters. Good lawyers are not just advocates for their clients, but also negotiators and mediators. This means they seek results beneficial to their clients, but also ensure fair and honest dealings with all parties involved.

Good lawyers hold their clients in high regard, as well as judges, other lawyers, and public officials. Although it is part of the nature of the legal profession to question government action, lawyers must also respect the legal process. Upholding the ideals of the legal professions is also important, particularly when it comes to public service. Continued education and maintaining a high skillset are required of a good lawyer. In addition, every lawyer is responsible for adhering to the Rules, which includes abiding by rules regarding conflict of interests. Lawyers are deemed to have a special responsibility with respect to the quality of justice.

Importance of Awards

An award presented to a lawyer is important because it signifies the lawyer’s commitment to the profession. It also gives other lawyers a chance to recognize their colleagues. In addition, certain awards advance the ideals of the profession with regard to quality of justice and equal access to the justice system. For example, the John Marshal Award honors a person who has made a positive national impact on the justice system. Further, the Alexander Award honors individuals who have aided minority students in entering the legal profession. Such recognition can help potential clients decide if a lawyer is a good fit for their legal issues.

Why Client Reviews Matter

If you are looking for a lawyer to help with your case, the opinions of past clients may be important. Of course, there are two sides to every story—and every review—but it might be beneficial and worth your time to check for any patterns in reviews (positive or negative), particularly when it comes to a lawyer’s handling of cases in a specific area of legal practice. Nowadays, consumers can easily review a lawyer online, and a lawyer may even post a response to the review.

Importance of Lawyer Misconduct and Sanctions

Whether intentional or not, lawyers make mistakes. When they do, a number of sanctions may be imposed. These sanctions are published so that a potential client who is in the process of selecting a lawyer can make an informed decision.

A lawyer can be disbarred or suspended (for a set period of time not to exceed three years). Probation can also be imposed for a period not to exceed two years. In addition, a lawyer may be reprimanded by the court or board of counsel. In imposing sanctions due to lawyer misconduct, the court or board of counsel will look at a number of factors. The court or board will assess the violation of the duty owed to the client, public, legal system, or profession, as well as how much harm was actually caused. It will also consider whether the lawyer, in committing the misconduct, acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently. 

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