ABA event includes programs on 'alternative facts'

The American Bar Association will convene this week its 44th National Conference on Professional Responsibility in Louisville, Ky., with an array of programs, including panels on sanctioning lawyers for deceit, legal issues in using artificial intelligence (AI) and responding to social media performance complaints.

The conference, sponsored by the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, is the pre-eminent educational and networking opportunity in the field of legal ethics and professional responsibility.

Leading experts, scholars and practitioners from across the country will address trends and developments in legal ethics, professional discipline, professionalism and practice issues.

On Friday evening, law professor Bruce Green will receive the Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award, named in honor of Michael Franck, the late director of the State Bar of Michigan and long-time champion of improvements in lawyer regulation in the public interest.

Green, who holds the Louis Stein Chair at Fordham University School of Law, directs the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics.

A popular media expert on legal ethics, he also teaches and writes primarily in the areas of legal ethics and criminal law, and is involved in various bar association activities both with the ABA and the New York State Bar Association.
Programs at the two-day conference include:

• “Ethics in Lawyers’ Use of Artificial Intelligence” — As machine capabilities allow the profession to diminish (or even remove) human participation from some tasks traditionally involved in the practice of law, this panel will explore how will these changes will affect the delivery of future legal services.

Lawyers who work for businesses creating and expanding these machine capabilities and ethics lawyers will tackle the issues, including analysis of the ethical and legal accountability involved in AI.

• “Lies, Damned Lies and ‘Alternative Facts’” — Lawyers are not allowed to lie — to clients, courts or third parties. But beyond deliberate false statements, the scope of the obligations relating to truth and integrity become less clear, such as apparent reckless and negligent statements that are likely false or misleading statements.

Through a series of hypotheticals, this session will explore the issues of attorney candor, the parameters of what constitutes a misrepresentation and the consequences for violating one’s duty of candor.

• “When Clients Go Rogue” — ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1.2(d) prohibits lawyers from assisting clients “in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.” The occasional report of a lawyer’s involvement in money laundering and terrorist financing raises questions of whether the word “knows” is defined as “actual knowledge” or should be construed as “knowledge (that) may be inferred from the circumstances.” The panel will explore when the suspicious nature of a client’s conduct becomes so obvious that a lawyer’s lack of actual knowledge can be deemed willful ignorance and whether this constitutes misconduct.

• “What Do You Mean I Can’t Defend Myself on YELP?” — Lawyers have faced disciplinary sanctions for attempting to defend themselves by responding to former clients’ online false and sometimes defamatory negative reviews.

Should the exceptions in the confidentiality rule permit lawyers to disclose information to defend their reputations online? This session will explore that question as well as what is happening in the various states involving these client information issues.

• The CPR is the national leader in developing and interpreting standards and scholarly resources in legal and judicial ethics, professional regulation, professionalism and client protection.

Its many publications provide up-to-date information and analysis regarding lawyer and judicial ethics and regulation. Also the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issues a series of formal opinions to help guide lawyers and judges.