OBA Ethics Counsel Addresses 1L Students

Monday, November 01, 2010

Travis Pickens, the Ethics Counsel for the Oklahoma Bar Association, recently addressed first-year students at the TU College of Law and cautioned them about how ethical problems arise for attorneys.

Pickens noted that most attorneys do not set out to commit ethical violations but that outside stressors lead them to cross the line. Before reaching that point, he told students they should avail themselves of the advice of the OBA’s Office of Ethics Counsel. Through his office, OBA members can obtain informal advice and interpretations of the rules of attorney conduct. The ethics counsel issues oral and written advisory opinions to attorneys for their guidance involving an existing set of facts.

Pickens spoke on September 14 to members of the Dean’s Seminar on the Legal Market, and the presentation was part of a class session entitled “Ethical Obligations to the Client, Court, and Bar.” Pickens presented a general overview of the Office of Ethics Counsel, addressed frequently-asked questions of the office, covered conflicts of interest, and discussed recent trends, developments, and cases in the law of professional conduct.

Kristine Bridges, TU Law Assistant Dean and Director of Professional Development, commended Pickens for an excellent address and noted the importance of ethical professionals.

“Attorneys are so often entrusted with guiding clients in the most stressful and important aspects of their lives, situations in which their money, property, livelihoods, liberty, or even their lives are at stake,” Bridges said. “The public deserves, and the system requires, zealous but ethical advocacy and trustworthy counsel. The OBA can play an important role in helping attorneys stay on the proper path.”

Janet Levit, Dean and Dean John Rogers Endowed Chair, leads the seminar with assistance from Bridges. The seminar gives students an overview of varied aspects of legal practice and provides a foundation for students’ professional development and market readiness. The course is required for 1Ls.

The seminar is composed of six weekly classroom sessions followed by four professional development sessions. In addition to ethics, the sessions focus on the history and profession of legal practice; time management; leadership skills and professional paths for JDs; mentorships and professional networking; and duty to serve the public interest. The professional development sessions cover career planning consultation; resume and cover letter consultation; an interview exercise; and participation in the OBA Annual Convention evening presentation addressing bar membership.

Bridges says the TU College of Law is committed to the professional development of its students.

“Learning the law is obviously necessary and important, but it is just part of the students’ education,” Bridges said. “It is critical that they develop a broad understanding of the legal world into which they are entering, appreciate the ethical responsibilities they will have as lawyers, discover the career path to which they are best suited, and develop job search skills that will get them to where they want to go and can best serve. Clients and employers will expect our graduates to be prepared, and this seminar is part of the process that creates that preparation.”

Scott Been