PREP Explores Immigration Law and Legal Ethics with AILA and Catholic Charities

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Every semester, the Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program visits with legal service organizations in Miami to present customized CLE legal ethics trainings. In October, PREP’s director, Jan L. Jacobowitz, and PREP students visited both the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Catholic Charities Legal Services to present on legal ethics, immigration law, and technology.  

PREP students with Jan Jacobowitz

PREP fellow Daniel Celaya and interns Kyle Dungca, Ludovica Gardani, and Niki Namazi  created a three-act hypothetical to explore ethical issues in immigration law such as attorney-client relationships, conflicts of interest, representation of minors and pro se litigants. Over 50 attorneys, paralegals, and members of the Catholic Charities Legal Services engaged in a lively analysis and discussion with the students on these ethical issues.

The Miami Law students enjoyed the afternoon as much as the attendees did. “The energy in the room was magnetic. It was amazing to see our hypotheticals brought to life during discussion, and the feedback we received was very rewarding,” said Namazi.

Dungca agreed. “The attorneys were great. I was born and raised through the Archdiocese of Miami Catholic system and therefore stewardship is close to my heart. It was pleasing to know that such passionate lawyers are out there giving legal assistance to the less fortunate members of our society.”

Gardani said the experience gave her insight into the real world application of the ethics rules. “The conversation with the attorneys at Catholic Charities made me realize that even though the ethics rules seem straightforward, their application is filled with nuances. It was a fulfilling and engaging learning experience.”

PREP fellows Marissa Shulman and Haley Moss focused on technology at AILA’s October breakfast meeting. The presentation included legal ethics issues relating to cybersecurity, technological competence, and the increasing role of artificial intelligence in the legal field.

The role of technology for lawyers is especially important given the Florida Bar’s emphasis last year on adding three credit hours in technology to the state’s CLE requirements. While Marissa Shulman explained best practices for attorneys using cloud computing, public Wi-Fi, and portable flash drives, Haley Moss discussed the dangers of using public storage devices and strategies for identifying and avoiding phishing emails.

The final hot topic during the presentation was the discussion about artificial intelligence in the law. “Advancements in technology that allow software to learn over time gave the attendees a chance to consider how lawyers might begin to integrate artificial intelligence technology into their practice and what ethical responsibilities they should keep in mind,” said Shulman.

Moss observed how the discussion intersected with the immigration law-minded audience. “I enjoyed the conversations we had with the attorneys about how evolving technology affects their immigration law practices,” she stated.

PREP is an award-winning program, which develops continuing legal education ethics trainings for the legal community. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic. It has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar. During CLE trainings, students are often able to make a positive impact on attendees by prompting them to consider and reconsider their approaches to challenging ethical dilemmas arising in the practice of law.

In 2012, PREP was recognized by the American Bar Association with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award—the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and development of professionalism among attorneys and judges.

In addition to presenting ethics trainings, PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions throughout the semester. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, can be found here.