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SCCBA Launches the Center for Ethics & Professionalism

Posted By Dianne L. Sweeney, Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dianne L. Sweeney
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
2014 SCCBA President

While the Board of Trustees’ strategic planning efforts are in their nascent stage, the Trustees’ efforts so far have reaffirmed that one of the most engrained elements of our legal culture is our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism in the practice of law.  

Our county is known for lawyers with a reputation for professionalism and, for decades, the SCCBA has fostered and promoted that reputation through numerous professionalism initiatives.  As a result, the SCCBA has a national reputation for its involvement in and influence of promoting civility, professionalism and ethics in the legal community.

While the efforts have been substantial, in the past we have not had a specific platform to base our efforts.  Thanks to our latest technology upgrade, we are proud to announce the SCCBA’s Center for Ethics & Professionalism.

The Center will serve as the cornerstone of the SCCBA’s influence on the culture of professionalism in the Santa Clara County legal community and courts. The purpose of SCCBA’s Center is to encourage attorneys to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct in zealously representing their clients; provide attorneys with the tools and guidelines to achieve that goal through the SCCBA Code of Professionalism; facilitate access to ethics opinions and various online formats to promote member-to-member ethics' discussions; and to recognize those attorneys in the SCCBA who exemplify the standards set out in the Code.

I encourage each of you to go to the new website and explore what the Center has to offer.  The components of the Center include:

As part of our ongoing efforts to support professionalism, the Professionalism Committee, at my request, is organizing a Professionalism Summit.  The Summit will be a joint meeting with leaders of the bench and bar to discuss issues of professionalism and ethics in the courts and what further efforts are needed to continue ensuring that lawyers practicing in Santa Clara County courts adhere to the highest standards of professionalism and civility.

In addition, we are working with the Northern District of California to launch the first set of professionalism guidelines for federal court practitioners.  The Northern District has been impressed with the SCCBA Code of Professionalism (which we first published in 1992) and is considering the adoption of professionalism guidelines similar to our Code.  Regardless of the ultimate form of the Northern District guidelines, we are certainly pleased to see the professionalism focus.

Ultimately, professionalism serves our clients and the community at large as it disavows the waste of court and client resources on frivolous issues and advances the efficient and effective administration of justice.  For this to happen, however, attorneys must continue to embrace these standards of professionalism and civility through their conduct in dealing with clients, opposing counsel, opposing litigants, witnesses and the court.  Simply declaring our commitment to professionalism and the ethical practice of law is not enough.  The new Center for Professionalism & Ethics goal is to assist lawyers in translating words to action.

As always, please take the time this month to bring a new member to an SCCBA event.  As you explore the new SCCBA website, you will see that we have now launched a “Be A Promoter” program so the more SCCBA members you recruit, the more incentives you will receive from the SCCBA (e.g., free MCLE).  For each member you recruit, do make sure they review the Code of Professionalism and sign the Professionalism Pledge.

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