Truer yet, all attorneys practicing before Pennsylvania's courts and judicial system are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct, which are administered and enforced by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The rules are clear that an attorney must always act with honesty and integrity and cannot engage in sexual relations with his or her client.
The American Bar Association has adopted a set of standards for lawyers that include a Code of Conduct. This code is not law but acts as a guide to what types of actions will not be tolerated by the legal community. An example of a violation of the code of conduct that would result in disciplinary action is if an attorney were to commit perjury.
In addition to the Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are also bound by statute to provide competent representation. To do so, an attorney must not only have knowledge of the law but he or she must also maintain a reasonable degree of skill and diligence required of every attorney practicing in their field.
An attorney who fails to meet this standard may be found to have committed malpractice. Malpractice can occur when an attorney fails to use the proper legal procedures to secure the client's desired outcome. For example, an attorney may fail to file the appropriate papers with the court or may seek a divorce when such action would be inappropriate.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has unique authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution to regulate attorneys and the practice of law across the Commonwealth. The court is assisted in carrying out this responsibility by a number of court-appointed boards. These include: (1) the Pennsylvania Bar Association which regulates the conduct of its members; (2) the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association which regulates the conduct of non-members; and (3) the Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Hamilton, Mercer, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Somerset, Washington, Wayne, and Wyomissing Counties as well as the city of Philadelphia. Each board has the power to investigate allegations of misconduct and can impose various sanctions on attorneys.
In addition to these constitutional bodies, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has established several other agencies with the authority to license and regulate attorneys. These include: (1) the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners which controls admission to the bar; (2) the State Ethics Commission which can discipline lawyers who violate any of the ethical rules; and (3) the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General which can prosecute cases on behalf of the public interest.
All Pennsylvania attorneys are required by law to be licensed with the exception of judges, legislators, and executive officials. Licensing requirements vary depending on the type of practice being undertaken by an attorney.
Professional Conduct Rules for Delaware Lawyers [As of July 1, 2003, and up to and including the most recent change, effective March 1, 2013] Preamble: The Roles of Lawyers Rule Terminology (version 1.0) Competence 1.1 1.2: Representation scope 1.3: Diligence Communication (1.4). There are 1.5 costs. 1.6: Information confidentiality 1.7. Fees 1.8: Conflict of interest 1.9: Professional independence.
Every lawyer is accountable for following the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer should also assist in ensuring that they are followed by other lawyers. Neglecting these obligations jeopardizes the profession's independence and the public interest it serves. The American Bar Association (ABA) is the governing body that sets standards for behavior for attorneys at all stages of their careers.
Its authority to do so comes from a combination of state law and the Judiciary Act of 1789, which granted the association its initial charter. The act provided that the Supreme Court have the power to prescribe laws for the government of the district wherein they sit and any other district where there may be a lack of a federal judge. This power has been used by the court to create rules for itself as well as for the entire federal judiciary.
The ABA's efforts at self-regulation are essential for maintaining public confidence in the legal system and preventing undue influence by special interests. Its code of conduct provides the framework for what actions constitute acceptable behavior for members of the bar. Violations of the code can result in sanctions ranging from informal admonishment to disbarment from the practice of law.
In addition to setting standards for itself, the ABA works with states to regulate attorney conduct. Currently, all but four states plus the District of Columbia have established committees or boards that set and enforce standards of professional conduct for attorneys.