Kindergarten Rules For Lawyer Ethics

//Kindergarten Rules For Lawyer Ethics

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

By |November 12th, 2013|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.