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    Dolores Dorsainvil
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New Year, New You

2012 is already off to a running start. If you are like most, you have probably spent a good deal of time last year and the beginning part of this year thinking about ways to be a better person but more specifically, a better lawyer. Here is a quick list of things that can help you in your quest to develop your practice and remain ethical:

1)      Read the latest Court of Appeals opinions on disciplinary matters. The best way to understand the trends of our profession (cases prosecuted as well as types of misconduct) is to look at some of the attorney disciplinary cases. These opinions are important because the Court will oftentimes send a message to the Bar that a common practice may not comport with a lawyer’s obligation under the ethical rules. Go to www. Mdcourts.gov to find the latest opinions.

2)      Keep up with professional reading. With all that a busy practitioner must do in a day, oftentimes it seems like a hurdle to do any additional reading other that what is required for a case. However, the best way to get educated about our profession as well as landmark national cases is to read a bar journal. An easy way to ensure that these don’t pile up on your desk is to take fifteen minutes at the end of your day and quickly go through articles that are relevant. An easier way to keep up with your professional reading is to subscribe to an on-line journal that can provide information in easy to read format.

3)      Read the Rules of Professional Conduct. What better way to understand what is required of you then to go to the rules themselves? Unless you are an ethics lawyer, no lawyer should memorize the rules but at the very least, you should refer to them often. If you have not already done so, subscribe to the free mobile app offered through MSBA which offers you the Rules of Professional Conduct at your fingertips.  The app is available for free on these platforms: iPhone & iPad, Android and Blackberry.

4)      Get organized! What better way to clear your head and be more productive than to clear the clutter off of your desk. If you have a habit of procrastinating or if you suffer from avoidance syndrome (not wanting to deal with a case that is more complicated than you originally thought) and have stacks of cases sitting in piles in your office, take some time to go through each file carefully and assess what needs to get done to accomplish the client’s objectives. If you find that you are in over your head and are not able to competently handle a matter, inform the client and/or obtain co-counsel (with your client’s consent).

5)      If you are faced with an ethical quandary and are not sure where to go, after referring to the Rules of Professional Conduct call the MSBA Ethics Hotline and speak to one of their volunteer attorneys for further guidance. If you would like a written opinion, you can request so from the Ethics Committee.

6)      Get involved! Join a local or specialty bar association. Increasing your network of attorneys who share the same interests can certainly help you especially if you find that you need a mentor or another attorney to share ideas with.

7)      Take a Continuing Legal Education seminar. It is always a good idea to remain proficient in your practice area and to learn about new law, trends, and technology as it relates to your practice. The MSBA and Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Inc. are offering free and discounted slots for a selection of MSBA CLE courses. For a listing of eligible courses and to register, visit http://probonomd.org/continuing-legal-education.

8)      Take care of your health. Lawyers seem to be the most depressed people in this country. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing issues with mental health, anxiety, depression, alcohol, or substance abuse, contact the MSBA’s Lawyers Assistance Program. Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is a free, confidential, non-profit counseling program that assists judges, lawyers, law students, legal staff and their families who experience personal problems that interfere with their personal lives or their ability to serve as counsel or officers of the court.

9)      Have a good reference book in your library. Some personal favorites like The ABA/BNA Lawyer’s Manual on Professional Conduct and The Law of Lawyering by Geoffrey Hazard, Jr. & William Hodes are invaluable resources for a practitioner.

10)  Live a balanced life. There is more to life than work so make sure to take the time to cultivate your outside interests and personal relationships.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, hopefully it helps you with ideas on how to be the best you.

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