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Major Changes Ahead For Alabama's 15,756 Lawyers;
State Bar Petitions Supreme Court To Overhaul Ethics Rules

Brad Carr
Alabama State Bar
Public Information Officer
(334) 517-2128 or
(334) 782-2781
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• Lawyer advertising and trial publicity among areas addressed in revisions

Montgomery, Ala., August 18, 2008 – After six years of study and review, sweeping new rules for the state's 15,756 lawyers await approval from the Alabama Supreme Court.

Talledega attorney R. Blake Lazenby (Wooten, Thornton, Carpenter, O'Brien, Lazenby & Lawrence) chaired the state bar Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Enforcement which drafted the recommendations and presented them to the Board of Bar Commissioners, the bar's decision and policymaking body.

The Board then petitioned the high court to promulgate changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct which govern the daily ethical and business practices of the state’s lawyers.
The Supreme Court has already approved some of the proposed changes as they relate to the Rules of Professional Conduct and is still considering those rules dealing with attorney advertising and the Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.

State Bar President J. Mark White of Birmingham (White, Andrews & Dowd, P.C.) said, "The amendments were needed to clarify and update existing provisions to eliminate and modify rules that no longer are consistent with the reasonable expectations of today's clients and modern society."

The significant changes are:

  • Attorney advertising and solicitation – prohibits use of paid actors or spokespersons, requires use of on-screen disclaimer language.
  • Trial publicity – would permit lawyers to make limited public statements necessary to counteract the prejudicial effect of publicity from another source.
  • Respect for the rights of third persons – this rule codifies an existing opinion that relates to attorney-client confidentiality and explains what a lawyer is required to do in the event that he inadvertently becomes the recipient of an e-mail or fax not intended for him.

The first national ethical standards for lawyers were adopted in Alabama as the Canons of Professional Ethics, written by Alabama lawyer Thomas Goode Jones. In 1908 the ABA adopted the Canons and then subsequently, so did most state lawyer regulatory bodies. In 1969, the ABA replaced the Canons with the Model Code, which was quickly adopted by all states. In 1983 the Model Code was replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

White said, "Lawyers licensed to practice in Alabama and beyond the state line now have clear and accessible ethical guidance so essential in maintaining the highest levels of ethics and professionalism."

The Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members; improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.