I intend to document my efforts to fulfill certain professional obligations about which there are proposals to establish some type of government regulation, specifically CLE, mentoring and pro bono. My firm carries malpractice coverage but I do not intend to disclose that fact to clients because lawyer malpractice insurance is not primarily for the benefit of clients and may, absent careful explanation, give some clients a false sense of security.
The origin of this idea is the prospect of government regulation. It can hardly be denied that CLE, mentoring and pro bono efforts are essential aspects of the legal profession. It is not possible to maintain one’s professional competence without continuing to study the law as it relates to one’s practice. If there is any hope of passing traditions of professional excellence, integrity and judgement from one generation to the next, mentoring is indispensable. This is especially true in firms with excellent reputations earned over many years, but it is also true of various groups of lawyers from local bar associations to specialized lawyer associations such as trial lawyers as well as the organized bar in general. Pro bono contributions of some sort – I believe in the broadest possible definition of pro bono efforts – are necessary (a) to help make our communities better and (b) to prevent ourselves from suffocating in self-centeredness and selfishness. Kindness and decency are important and valuable characteristics especially for lawyers.
Having credited the prospect of mandatory CLE, mandatory mentoring and mandatory pro bono as being the impetus for this experiment, I am glad not to be subject to government regulation in those areas. I am grateful for and excited by the freedom I presently have to fulfill those important professional obligations in ways that I think are responsible and good. My plan to document how I fulfill those obligations is intended to create evidence about whether, how and when I do fulfill them.
I intend to report my results here in abbreviated form to preserve my privacy and to abide by Rule 1.6.
I invite other lawyers to make a similar “public” promise. One way to do it would be to let lawyers in your firm (or if one is a sole practitioner other lawyers one respects and has good relationships with) know – in writing – and to invite them to make similar “public” promises.
For those reluctant to make a public promise, you may want to simply keep a private record so that you at least you remain thoughtful about important professional obligations, obligations that the billable hour and the pressure to be profitable actively discourage.