Take Your Training in the New California Ethics Rules Online from the State Bar

State Bar of California Plans Free Online Training in the New Rules of Professional Conduct

The State Bar of California has recently completed a major overhaul of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which govern lawyer ethics and discipline in the state. This is the second time in the last 15 years that the rules have been updated. A special commission consisting of volunteer lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and academics worked diligently to finalize the new rules, which have been approved by the California Supreme Court through Administrative Order 2018-05-09. These rules will go into effect on November 1, 2018.

Nearly 70 rules have been either amended or created with this update. The State Bar has highlighted several significant changes that will impact lawyers’ daily practices. Some of these changes include:

  • Imposing or expanding special responsibilities for prosecutors regarding exculpatory evidence and discovery (Rule 3.8; effective from November 2017, while the other rules will take effect on November 1, 2018).
  • Prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the representation of clients and in law firm operations. The protected categories have also been expanded to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (Rule 8.4.1).
  • Prohibiting lawyers from engaging in sexual relations with clients unless a consensual sexual relationship existed before the representation began (Rule 1.8.10).
  • Prohibiting lawyers from counseling or assisting a client in violating any law, rule, or ruling of a tribunal. This rule is particularly relevant to attorneys dealing with medical and recreational marijuana representations (Rule 1.2.1).

To ensure that lawyers are competent in understanding and applying the new rules, the State Bar is developing a series of online training modules. These training resources are expected to be launched in Spring 2019 and will be accessible to all active licensees through their My State Bar Profile page on the State Bar’s website. The course will be available free of charge for one year and will particularly focus on the new or extensively amended rules. The estimated duration of the e-learning course will be approximately two hours, and it will include both audio and video content. In addition to the online training, in-person and webcast training sessions were also provided by the State Bar last fall.

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To further support attorneys in their ethical responsibilities and compliance, the State Bar maintains an ethics hotline (800-238-4427) where attorneys can seek guidance and clarity.

With the extensive revisions made to the rules, it is crucial for every attorney in California to invest time familiarizing themselves with the changes and refreshing their understanding. Links to both the current and previous rules can be found on the State Bar website: Garrity Traina.

For those interested in delving deeper into the development of each rule, the State Bar website includes detailed documentation by the volunteer drafters of the special commission. A table containing links to the drafting history and comment for each rule can be accessed at: Garrity Traina.

Additionally, a highly useful cross-reference table, comparing the rules prior to November 1, 2018, with those in effect today, is available at: Garrity Traina.

To review the California Supreme Court Administrative Order 2018-05-09, please visit: Garrity Traina.

Gregory J. Brandes, a law professor and Dean of St. Francis School of Law, is a recognized expert in legal education and admission to the bar. He holds admission to the bars of the United States Supreme Court, Colorado, and Illinois.