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Kindergarten Rules For Lawyer Ethics

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


April 2, 2020

As a sponsor of the Kane County Bar Association, a few of the Smokeball crew were invited to attend a seminar put on by the KCBA Family Law committee last week. So we ventured out to the Eagle Brook Country Club in Geneva (not far from our previous home in Winfield) to learn about some interesting domestic cases and new developments in family-related law.

Little did we know that the ARDC would be out there too in the form of a special guest speaker. Best behavior everybody!

The ARDC is the Illinois Supreme Court’s admission and disciplinary body and our speaker was Melissa A. Smart Esq., their Litigation Group Manager and Senior Counsel. It’s safe to say, she is probably the most entertaining Litigation Group Manager / investigator we’ve seen up on stage.

The theme of her Ethics Update was ‘Most Of What You Really Wanted To Know About Professional Responsibility, You Already Learned In Kindergarten’. Pretty basic right?

Here are Melissa’s six golden rules for lawyers (and her children). Although she said that sometimes she avoids naming and shaming when discussing past investigations, she was confident no-one in the room would be revealed as a rule-breaker!

1. Keep your hands to yourself!

Takeaways: Do not post dodgy ads for secretarial support that involves extra-curricular activities. And do not participate in extra-curricular activities with clients or client’s ex-partners. Period.

2. Tell the truth!

Takeaways: Don’t fake your college grades to get a job and don’t lie, especially to a court.

3. Don’t tell secrets!

Takeaways: Be careful about what you blog and don’t go leaking matter information to try and sway public opinion.

4. Be nice!

Takeaways: Don’t be a potty mouth, in your letters or in court.

5. Don’t steal!

Takeaways: Be careful with your clients’ money, and don’t pay yourself with it.

6. Don’t tattle… unless you have to!

Takeaways: Don’t report another attorney on mere suspicion and don’t turn a blind eye if something bad is going on in your firm.

Some interesting facts:

  • Approximately 62,000 lawyers report Illinois as their main place of business, making it the 4th largest attorney population in the US.
  • About 4000 lawyers are subject to a grievance each year.
  • Criminal Law and Family Law attorneys have the highest number of complaints against them.
  • Neglect of a client matter and failure to communicate with a client make up over 50% of misconduct allegations.
  • Since September 1988, over 11,000 reports have been filed by lawyers and judges against lawyers.

For more information about the ARDC and professional responsibilities for attorneys, check out their website. Or if you are interested in joining the KCBA and attending their CLE seminars, visit

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