Professional Responsibilities of Law Firm Associates
70 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2007
Most American lawyers practice in law firms. Although firms are variously structured, the lawyers who practice in them can generally be divided between partners and associates. While associates and partners share professional duties and problems, in several key respects associates' professional responsibility concerns and problems differ significantly from partners'. This article has its genesis in those differences and the common perception that associates are increasingly pressured to act unethically. The article begins by examining law firm culture because it is culture more than ethics rules or other professional standards that influences associates' behavior. The article then discusses associates in the professional responsibility framework, focusing on Model Rule 5.2 and section 12 of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers, before examining professsional responsibility subjects of special importance to associates: the duties of competence, diligence, and confidentiality; overbilling; ethics issues associated with legal writing, including the duty of candor to the tribunal, plagiarism, and the duty to diclose directly adverse authority in the controlling jurisdiction; the duty to report serious misconduct by other lawyers, focusing on difficulties associated with reporting misconduct by partners; and associates' duty of loyalty to their firms. The article concludes with a call for further research into associates' professional responsibility problems by groups positioned to conduct empirical studies of the subject, such as the ABA or NALP.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation