How lawyers do their jobs -- from the type of advice they give clients to the calculation of fees -- moves to the fore in the new U.S. Supreme Court term in six cases that could dramatically alter the day-to-day practice of law.
The justices in recent terms typically have taken two or three cases -- and sometimes none -- involving the legal profession. The six cases this term have roots in the First Amendment, habeas corpus, bankruptcy law, civil procedure, privileged materials and the Sixth Amendment.
The cases raise issues about "the unique and various ways lawyers practice law and how the legal system protects lawyers, perhaps even from themselves," said Vladeck.
The unusual number thus far simply may be the result of an upsurge in petitions involving lawyering. But Renee Newman Knake, a professional responsibility scholar at Michigan State University College of Law, suggests another reason: The cases may reflect a larger movement toward greater scrutiny of the legal profession, particularly in the wake of corporate and government scandals involving lawyers.
"Is that why the justices have taken these six cases?" asked Knake, who recently published a paper on the high court's cases. "It's hard to say, but taken together, the cases reflect a significant shift in how the Court prioritizes concerns about the attorney-client relationship and issues of professional responsibility. And, individually, each case has potentially significantly consequences for lawyers and their clients."
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High Court Justices Take Up Lawyers, Ethics and Errors