Not often, but once in a while you read something having such powerful resonance it indelibly leaves its mark. I reflected on this last week after speaking with a colleague about a legal ethics question he was grappling with.
Here’s what I thought of after our discussions and after offering my final recommendation that he call ethics bar counsel and run the potential problem by them. “Do more than what’s required and less than what’s allowed,” wrote ASU Carey Business School management professor and lawyer Marianne Jennings in a prescient Wall Street Journal Op-Ed about 7 years ago.
Professor Jennings was talking then about ethical lapses in corporate boardrooms but her words instead struck me with their direct and powerful application to the practice of law. They left their mark. Do more than what’s required and less than what’s allowed is an excellent ethical touchstone, especially when inevitably facing the occasional crossroads along the trail of our day-to-day practice of law. Which way should I go? Is it the right direction? Where will I end up?
Finally, some of us think that asking ethics bar counsel for advice is like calling the IRS for help with your tax return. I disagree. So long as the query is prospective not retrospective, running an ethical issue by the bar’s ethical rules cognoscenti makes a lot of sense. And while my own experiences over the years have largely been limited to Nevada’s State Bar Counsel, all my contacts have been positive and terrifically helpful and I continue to stand by the advice I gave my friend.