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Professional Responsibility

History, Areas Of Professional Responsibility, Enforcement Of Professional Responsibility, Cross-references

The obligation of lawyers to adhere to rules of professional conduct.

As members of a profession and as officers of the court, lawyers have the responsibility of following rules of professional conduct that are mandated either by a state legislature or by the highest court in the state. Rules of professional conduct govern both the public and the private behavior of lawyers. Because they are licensed to practice by the states, lawyers who violate rules of professional conduct are likewise disciplined by the states, not the federal government. The punishment for violating a state rule of professional responsibility ranges from private or public reprimand to suspension or disbarment (permanent disqualification from practicing law in the state). To the limited extent that they practice law, judges are subject to the state code of professional conduct in addition to a CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT.

The AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION (ABA) formulated the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1983 to provide uniformity and consistency in defining the professional responsibilities of lawyers. Though the ABA has no power to enforce the model rules, they serve as a guide for states in crafting rules of conduct.


Latto, Lawrence J. 1998. "The Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers: A View from the Trenches." Hofstra Law Review 26.

Rotunda, Ronald D. 2002. Professional Responsibility. 6th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

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