26 July 2020

New report published by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility published on July 15 a guidance that covers lawyers’ conduct related to harassment and discrimination.

ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 493 outlines how ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g) addresses actions by a lawyer beyond the courtroom and in contexts that may not be connected to representing a client. This Model Rule include several activities as operating a law office or behaviour at bar association or other business and social events.

The rule makes it professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination based on various categories, including sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report explain that evidence of sexual harassment could include “activities such as law firm dinners and other nominally social events at which lawyers are present solely because of their association with their law firm or in connection with their practice of law”.

The formal opinion notes that free speech is protected, but the rule is violated by harmful conduct, which ““will often be intentional and typically targeted at a particular individual or group of individuals, such as directing a racist or sexist epithet towards others or engaging in unwelcome, non-consensual physical conduct of a sexual nature”.


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