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December 16, 2008

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION APPLAUDS APPELLATE DIVISIONS' DECISION TO ADOPT ATTORNEY RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

New York State Bar Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP) today praised the Appellate Divisions of the State Supreme Court for adopting new Rules of Professional Conduct, which replace New York's Code of Professional Responsibility with the model rule format that is used throughout the nation.  The new rules, which contain substantive changes, are designed to assist attorneys with understanding their ethical responsibilities to clients, courts and the legal profession. The rules go into effect on April 1, 2009.

"I would like to commend the Appellate Divisions for their diligence and sound judgment in moving New York to a model rule jurisdiction by adopting the Rules of Professional Conduct and the rest of the Administrative Board for their invaluable support.  While the Appellate Divisions did not adopt every substantive provision the State Bar proposed, the new rules closely track our proposal to the Court.  The approval of model rules, which are followed in virtually every other state, will make it easier for all New York attorneys to understand their ethical obligations, especially given the fact that the work that lawyers do involves our State and the ethics rules in other States" said President Leber.  "This extraordinarily positive result is due to the expertise, hard work and dedication of members of the New York State Bar Association and, specifically, the Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct, chaired by Steven C. Krane (Proskauer Rose LLP), who collaborated collegially with bar associations across the State for more than 5 years to produce a comprehensive set of rules that will provide increased clarity and consistency for lawyers across New York." 

After the Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct exhaustively reviewed all of the rules of the Code and issued its report in 2005, the draft rules were distributed to State Bar sections and committees as well as all county and local bar associations for review and comment.  The State Bar's House of Delegates then reviewed, debated and discussed the draft rules over several meetings, culminating in November 2007, with the unanimous adoption of changes from the outdated Code of Professional Responsibility to the format of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, thereby bringing New York in line with the rest of the nation regarding the framework for lawyer ethics rules.  The rules can be viewed on the New York State Unified Court System's Web site at http://www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew.

 "Because voluntary compliance with ethics rules is critical to maintaining the integrity of the Bar, it is essential that when lawyers have ethics questions they are able to locate easily and understand readily the rules governing them," said Krane.  "The structure of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct provides a more readily accessible source of ethical guidance for New York lawyers than does the current Code of Professional Responsibility.  We are therefore very pleased that the courts have decided to adopt the format of the Model Rules for the lawyers in New York."

The Appellate Divisions of the State Supreme Court have historically given significant weight to the recommendations of the State Bar in determining the rules for attorney conduct in New York.  The new Rules of Professional Conduct will enable lawyers to have the clear and accessible ethical guidance that is essential in maintaining the highest levels of ethics and professionalism.   Leber stated that "traditionally, since 1970, or for almost 40 years, the State Bar also has drafted and supplied the Ethical Considerations, or commentary, which accompany the rules in the Code of Professional Conduct.  The State Bar looks forward to continuing this great tradition, providing Commentary to the Model Rules." Leber has tapped the Committee on Standards for Attorney Conduct to revise the Commentary it previously drafted to comport with the rules today adopted by the Appellate Divisions. 

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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