Ethics 20/20: Straining to Keep Up

Legal Ethics Forum has some useful links to the American Bar Association’s 20/20 ethics proposals.  Just the subject matter areas are a revealing snapshot of what legal ethics is largely about right now:  technology and confidentiality, technology and client development, outsourcing and mobility issues.  By and large the changes are modest and some of them don’t seem very helpful.  For example, the changes in  the comments to Model Rule 5.5 that caution’s that a virtual law office may, at some point, become as “systematic and continuous” so that licensure in the jurisdiction is required.  This not only begs the critical question of when that point is reached but seems an attempt to impose a outdated concept of physical geography that just has little meaning in cyber space.   National licensing would seem to make sense (it did to me twenty years ago) but we apparently can’t change the patchwork of parochial licensing institutions without intruding on some “core value” that eludes me.   Economic and technology issues are moving the profession faster than the ability of rule makers to keep up;  even as 20/20 seems a little quaint, California is moving toward adopting the last century’s state of the ethics art, a version of the Model Rules, at a pace well described as glacial.

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