The Alabama State Bar is providing information to Gulf Coast residents about protecting their legal rights in light of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill. Of particular concern to the bar are complaints regarding potential unethical behavior and improper client solicitation.
State bar executive director Keith B. Norman said, "Lawyers can play a significant role in helping victims recover from a disaster. While tragic situations like this often bring out the best in our profession, there are those who may view this as an opportunity for personal enrichment, without concern for the rights of the individuals and businesses involved. The state bar wants to alert the public that they should be aware of their rights and that they should make their decisions about legal matters only after careful deliberation and reflection. We also want to be sure that our Alabama lawyers are protected from those not licensed to practice in our state who may not be properly following the Rules of Professional Conduct."
The bar has posted on its website (www.alabar.org) information on "How to protect your rights when mass disaster strikes," which provides common sense advice about how to make an informed decision. Norman said the bar takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure that individual rights are protected.
Lawyers admitted to practice in Alabama are required to adhere to the rules of professional conduct as adopted by the Alabama Supreme Court. Lawyers are prohibited from soliciting business when they have reason to believe that the emotional or mental state of a potential client will make it difficult for him/her to focus on selection of counsel.
As a regulatory agency, the Alabama State Bar is charged with the responsibility of monitoring the daily business and ethical behavior of lawyers and meting out punishment to any lawyer found to be in violation of the rules.
Residents are urged to contact the state bar's Office of General Counsel (334) 269-1515 to report cases of solicitation.
The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.