Letter From The Presidents Of The New York County Lawyers' Association And The NYCLA Foundation

2005-11-01 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

We must never forget that the law is a profession and not simply a business. Thus, in the wake of the fallout from such high-profile corporate scandals as Enron and WorldCom, NYCLA formed a Task Force on Professionalism, chaired by James B. Kobak Jr. For almost 100 years, NYCLA has been in the forefront of issues involving professional ethics. In January 1912, NYCLA became the first bar association in the country to publish an ethics opinion. This month I have invited Jim to share his thoughts about the role of professionalism and the work of the Task Force

- Norman L. Reimer, President, NYCLA

The NYCLA Task Force on Professionalism, which operates under the auspices of the Association's Justice Center and in collaboration with its Professional Ethics Committee, is conducting a survey to identify lawyers' concerns about professionalism. The survey has already been distributed to law school deans, judges and disciplinary committee members.

Many at NYCLA and elsewhere are concerned that the practice of law is increasingly being perceived solely as a business. This misperception runs counter to the professional values that contribute to an attorney's sense of self-worth and that are intrinsic to the roles that lawyers play in our society and system of government. A definition of Professionalism, adapted from the thoughts of Dean Roscoe Pound, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and others, says, in part: "By professionalism we mean a group pursuing a learned art as a higher calling in a spirit that it is performing a public service, a service that is indispensable in a democratic nation founded on the rule of lawÉ.Pursuit of a learned art in the spirit of a public service is the essence of being a lawyer. It implies obligation of dignity, integrity, self-respect and respect for others."

The role of the profession and the work of the Task Force should have special resonance as New York State considers replacing its Disciplinary Rules with a new code modeled on the ABA Model Rules.

In addition to surveying NYCLA members, the Task Force has distributed a questionnaire on the teaching of ethics and professional values in which all the area law schools are participating. In conjunction with State Bar, it is developing a survey for distribution to members of grievance committees and the judiciary and will also partner with other bar organizations. Beginning in 2006, the Task Force plans to hold a series of open fora at NYCLA at which interested persons will be invited to submit materials, give testimony and speak on designated issues.

The Task Force will ultimately produce a summary of its work and a set of findings, conclusions and recommendations that will undoubtedly spark debate, as well as serve as vital sources of information and guidance for our profession.

- James B. Kobak, President,NYCLA Foundation