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In August 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) added new anti-discrimination guidelines for lawyers to its Model Rules of Professional Conduct through section 8.4. This section now binds lawyers to adhere to particular speech codes in the many states that have adopted it.
The provision labels engagement “in conduct that [a] lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law." The ABA has defined discrimination and harassment to include “harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice towards others. Harassment includes sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical conduct. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." The conduct guidelines extend to “the practice of law," including, “representing clients; interacting with witnesses, coworkers, court personnel, lawyers and other while engaged in the practice of law; operating or managing a law firm or law practice; and participating in bar association, business or social activities in connection with the practice of law."
Some have described this section as infringing on the rights on lawyers to speak their mind, while others have argued it is necessary to prevent discrimination within the profession. This debate will discuss the implications of Model Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4 and its impact on workplace discrimination and lawyers' rights.
This debate was presented at the 2017 National Student Symposium on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Columbia Law School in New York City, New York.
Debate: ABA Model Rule 8.4
11:15 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Jerome Greene Hall 104
- Prof. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
- Mr. Robert N. Weiner, Partner, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
- Moderator: Hon. Lavenski Smith, U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit
Columbia Law School
New York, New York