Discussing changes in practicing law

Fundamental changes in approaches to serving client legal needs, and in how the legal profession deals with regulation of an increasingly global environment will be front and center as lawyers and lawyer regulators from across the nation gather June 3-5 in Seattle. 
The lawyers will convene for the 36th National Conference on Professional Responsibility and 26th National Forum on Client Protection, sponsored by the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility.
As lawyers increasingly rely on technology in their practices, and as both domestic and foreign lawyers serve clients on a global basis, their methods of doing business are changing, and approaches to regulating legal ethics are evolving too. 
One conference panel, “Cross Border Practice at the Crossroads:  Multijurisdictional Practice Revisited,” will examine one issue in that evolution — exploring how well state lawyer ethics rules align with realities of practicing law within and beyond the United States.  
Increasingly, clients and law firms addressing “large legal matters” are breaking down the work by functions, and distributing the pieces among a range of law firms and service providers, in a trend labeled “disaggregating.”
While one group of conference attendees explores ethics and risk management issues rising from disaggregating, another will catalogue developments over the past year involving client confidentiality and lawyer-client privilege.
 The conference will open with a series of three short “great debates” looking at potential ways in which ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct could be amended to respond to topics confronting the ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20. 
None of the amendments is actually proposed, as the commission is gathering comment on a host of issues raised by technology and globalization of practice, but the debates will be framed by hypothetical rule amendment proposals. 
The debate topics are:
• Removing provisions that impute to a law firm conflicts of interest involving individual practitioners who move from one employment position to another, thus barring the new law firm from representing certain clients
• Repealing a ban on lawyers agreeing to restrictions on their right to practice when leaving a law firm
• Permitting law firms to practice in firms with non-lawyer investors or owners.
The Ethics 20/20 Commission also will host a round table discussion of issues it is addressing.
Among other events will be presentation of the Michael Franck Award, recognizing significant contributions to improving and upholding adherence to professional ethics.
The award will be presented to  Marvin L. Karp, a Cleveland lawyer who has devoted many years of volunteer service on both state and national levels in entities focused on ethics rules, their enforcement and systems of regulating lawyers and judges.
The award, created in 1994, is named for a former executive director of the State Bar of Michigan and long-time champion of improvements in lawyer regulation in the public interest.
Additional panel topics will include responsibilities of criminal prosecutors to disclose evidence and information to lawyers representing criminal defendants, trends and implications of prosecutions of lawyers by the Securities and Exchange Commission, breaches and potential breaches of professional ethics when lawyers and judges participate in social websites, and lessons for the legal profession from medicine and dentistry in developing programs to anticipate and remediate professional misconduct.
 Forum programming will focus on ways that the legal profession prevents misconduct that harms clients, and how it responds when clients do experience harm, such as reimbursements of clients when lawyers resort to bankruptcy.