Basics of Legal Ethics

Basics of Legal Ethics


Welcome to LawShelf’s video-course on the basics of legal ethics. This course looks at the responsibilities of legal professionals (mainly lawyers) to defend their clients and to preserve the integrity of the justice system. While the course is mainly based on rules applicable to attorneys, non-attorney legal professionals who work with attorneys are also indirectly bound by them, as non-attorney misfeasance can bring severe consequences for supervising attorneys and organizations.

This is a beginner-level course and no prior knowledge of law or legal ethics is required.

The course starts with a discussion of admission to practice law. Module 1 covers the requirements for becoming a lawyer, including law school and the bar exam. We’ll also cover the consequences of attorney misconduct and the agencies who are in charge of enforcing the attorney ethics rules. We will also focus heavily on the unauthorized practice of law rules, which are relevant to non-attorneys and to attorneys licensed in other states.

In Module 2, we’ll start on the attorney-client relationship. We’ll discuss the duties owed to the client, including the duties of diligence, loyalty and competence. We will look at who the “client” is in the context of a corporate representation. We’ll then focus on which decisions the client makes in a representation and which decisions the lawyer makes. Finally, we’ll cover the duty of confidentiality and the related attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrines.

Module 3 turns to the duties owed to others, including the court, opposing counsel and even to other parties. We’ll discuss the duty of candor to the court and the prohibition against ex parte communications with the judge. In discussing communications with third parties, we’ll distinguish between represented and unrepresented parties and discuss the steps that must be taken to avoid giving off the wrong impression about the attorney’s loyalty. We’ll also cover special responsibilities owed by prosecutors.

In Module 4, we’ll turn to the conflict of interest rules, which are components of the duty of loyalty. We will look at the different rules that apply to current client conflicts and former client conflicts. We’ll also cover conflicts of interest that come from other sources, such as business and family relationships.

In our final module, we’ll look at the business of lawyering. We’ll cover the rules of attorney’s fees and the limits thereon and the rules for client solicitations and advertising. We’ll also look at the problems of fee-splitting and partnerships with other lawyers and with non-lawyers.

This course should give you a solid foundation in the rules of legal ethics and we hope you’ll also take advantage of our other law-based courses.

Best of luck and we welcome your feedback.

What is a video-course?

A LawShelf video-course is an in-depth series of presentations on a discreet legal topic. LawShelf video-courses focus on practical legal information and applications and are each designed to familiarize the viewer with a legal topic quickly and efficiently.

Who should take a video-course?

Our video courses are designed for professionals such as attorneys, paralegals, corporate officers and financial professionals, as well as laypeople looking to deepen their knowledge of particular areas of law. The courses allow you to acquire the specific knowledge and skills that you need without the expense and time commitment of going “back to school” for a degree. 

How do I learn?

Video courses are divided into 5 or 6 modules.  Each module contains a video lesson (usually about 15 minutes long) and a series of self-test questions that you can use to practice and make sure that you understand the material.

How do I complete a video-course?

To complete a video-course, you must pass a 10-question multiple-choice examination by scoring 70% or higher.  The questions on the exam are randomly selected from the self-test question sets for the various modules. You can retake an exam as many times as you need to, though you will not get the same questions each time since the questions are drawn from an exam bank.

Is there limit to how many video-courses I can take or complete?

No. A LawShelf subscription enables you to access any and all LawShelf content, including all video-courses. You can take courses as quickly or slowly as your time allows.

Do I receive any recognition for completing a video-course?

Once you complete the course by passing the final exam, you will be awarded a digital badge to display as evidence of your training and accomplishment.

How will a digital badge help me? 

Modern educational trends are moving away from traditional classroom-based course completion models and towards skills-based education. Employers today care more about skills than ever before. LawShelf digital badges conform to the Open Badge standard and are verifiable records of your skills that can easily be shared online.

How long do I retain access to the course materials?

You retain access the modules and take the final exam as long as you are a subscriber to LawShelf.

Regulation of the Legal Profession - Module 1 of 5

The Attorney-Client Relationship - Module 2 of 5

Duties to Attorneys, the Court, and Other Parties - Module 3 of 5

Conflicts of Interest - Module 4 of 5

The Business of Law - Module 5 of 5

Final Exam only needs to be taken by those seeking to earn the Digital Badge credentials for this course.