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{{OrgPsy} Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests.

Professional responsibility violations in general[]

The two most common types of violations are:

  • Conflicts of interest. This occurs where the same lawyer or firm is representing both sides in a lawsuit, or used to represent one side. In countries with the adversarial system of justice, a conflict of interest violates the right of each client to the undivided, zealous loyalty of his lawyer.
  • Mishandling of client money. Clients often advance money to lawyers for a variety of reasons. The money must be kept in special client trust accounts until it is actually earned by the lawyer or spent on court fees or other expenses. Unfortunately, irresponsible lawyers like to "dip" into their client trust accounts when they are having cash flow problems in their main office account.

Professional responsibility in the United States[]

Following the Watergate scandal, which involved questionable behavior by a number of lawyers, the American Bar Association ("ABA") mandated that all American law schools incorporate a required course on this topic. This is typically offered as an upper-level course, most often taken in the second year.

Every state in the United States tests prospective attorneys on their knowledge of professional responsibility. 47 states and the District of Columbia require bar applicants to pass an exam called the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam ("MPRE"). The remaining three states test professional responsibility on their local bar examinations. Furthermore, the ABA promulgated the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1983, and 44 states have adopted them, with only minor variations. Attorneys who violate professional responsibility rules may be subject to sanctions ranging from reprimands to temporary suspension to permanent disbarment.

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