Each semester, law students in the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program and PREP Director Jan L. Jacobowitz visit various nonprofit organizations and local bar associations to present CLE programs on legal ethics. During the fall semester, PREP presented an ethics training to the Estate Planning Council of Greater Miami. Jacobowitz, along with PREP Fellows Elizabeth Gil and Vincent Calarco and PREP Intern Marissa Shulman, discussed ethical issues relating to conflicts of interest, communication, and consent in trust and estate law.
Vincent Calarco, Elizabeth Gil, Former President of the Estate Planning Council of Greater Miami, Charles Sachs, Marissa Shulman, and PREP Director Jan L. Jacobowitz
The law students posed hypotheticals in a three-act scenario in which an attorney-drafter assumed an additional role in his or her client’s estate plan. The first act, presented by Calarco, addressed the ethical concerns regarding attorneys as personal representatives and the tactics for attorneys to ensure they effectively represent their clients. “Presenting to the Estate Planning Council was a unique experience for me,” said Calarco. “The crowd and the discussion were lively. Not only did I learn so much from researching and presenting, but I learned from interacting with the attorneys.”
The second act was presented by Shulman, addressing two different scenarios that an attorney might face while drafting wills. The first example explored whether there were ethical implications when an attorney drafts a will for her mother in which the attorney would inherit a majority of her mother’s estate. In the second situation, Shulman discussed what ethics rules might be violated when an attorney drafts a will for a close friend in which the attorney would inherit the entire estate. “It was nice to see that everyone in the room was thoroughly engaged in the discussion," said Shulman. "I enjoyed hearing how the real-life concerns and experiences of the attorneys paralleled with the issues we were exploring in the presentation.”
Gil presented the third and final act, exploring ethical concerns when an attorney acts as his client’s trustee and includes exculpatory and veto power clauses in his client’s trust without her knowledge. Overall, the training gave the law students an opportunity to learn about and speak to attorneys about ethical concerns in a specific field of law.
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to research and discuss issues affecting the estate planning community,” said Gil. “It is truly interesting to see the ethical issues implicated by the practice of trusts and estates.”
Charles Sachs, EPC’s past president, enjoyed the presentation and invited PREP to return in February. He said that he would welcome additional members of legal community to attend.
PREP develops customized CLE ethics trainings thereby providing an opportunity for students to explore diverse areas of the law and interact with attorneys practicing in those areas regarding the ethical challenges that confront today’s legal profession. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, and has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar.
In 2012, PREP was recognized by the ABA with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award —the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and advancement of professionalism among lawyers and judges. In addition to presenting ethics trainings, PREP students publish posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions and cases on its blog, Legal Ethics in Motion.