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PREP Students Conduct Ethics Session for State Farm Attorneys

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Jill Martignetti, Casey Dieck and Matan Scheier, students in Miami's Law's Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program, recently conducted an interactive CLE Ethics session over the Internet for hundreds of State Farm attorneys around the country. The two-hour seminar was beamed from the offices of Julie Taylor & Associates, a Miami State Farm Insurance in-house law firm.

In addition to the attorneys present at the Miami firm, about 200 State Farm attorneys in New York, Illinois, California and Georgia took part through the web. The training was designed to raise issues that the insurance company's attorneys face on a regular basis, and included ethical issues that arise in insurance law, including conflicts, pre-texting, the unauthorized practice of law and the growing prevalence of social media as a litigation tool.

Lawrence Margolis, the chairman of the Miami office's ethics committee, praised the innovativeness of the webinar. "The webinar was a first," he said. "It was geared to something useful."

Jan L. Jacobowitz, PREP's director, received a grateful note from Lisa Wentzel, an attorney at State Farm's corporate headquarters. "Your team did a great job of summarizing significant decisions in this developing field, and presented them in a way that encouraged good discussion from the participants," the note said. "We were able to share the program live with our offices across the country. Your presentation was both thoughtful and enthusiastic, and I have received many positive comments about it."

Martignetti was especially impressed. "Last year I had a great experience presenting to the Miami office, but to be able to return as a PREP Fellow this year and expand the presentation into a national webinar was really rewarding," she said. "I think it demonstrates how well received PREP students are in the professional community."

Scheier noted that the geographic diversity of the participants added to the discussion. "It was very insightful to be able to discuss how new cases and trends have different impact in various jurisdictions with the attorneys who actually live in those jurisdictions," he said.

Dieck added, "This presentation was a fantastic practical experience for all of us and well worth the many hours of effort that went into developing it. Not only did we have the opportunity to become experts on the latest legal ethics issues in insurance law, but we also had the opportunity to present this material in the form of a national webinar for hundreds of lawyers across the country."

The Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program was established in 1996 as an in-house program within the Center for Ethics and Public Service at Miami Law. The program has dedicated many student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Florida Bench and Bar. As the students teach, they learn and quite often make a difference, prompting organizations to pause and reconsider their approaches to some of the toughest ethical dilemmas.