Professional Conduct In Times of Crisis Calls for Heightened Civility
Statement by the Legal Ethics Committee of the Bar Association of San Francisco
March 27, 2020, San Francisco—The coronavirus (COVID-19) and its rapid spread to the San Francisco Bay Area continue to have a major impact on all aspects of our community, including the legal profession. As members of the legal community, we must demonstrate leadership and professionalism in our interactions with our clients, other attorneys, judges, other members of the legal profession, and the community at large. The entire State of California is under the “Shelter-in-Place” order. During this unprecedented and constantly changing time, we must avoid unnecessarily contributing to creating stress through our actions. As lawyers, we are expected to maintain civility toward each other, make the appropriate adjustments as ethically and procedurally permitted under the law, and ensure that the integrity of the legal profession continues throughout this trying time.
We therefore urge lawyers to exercise professional judgment and to extend courtesies to avoid unnecessarily exacerbating this already difficult situation. Lawyers are reminded that the Guidelines for Professional Conduct adopted by the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California provide that “Lawyers owe a duty of professionalism to their clients, opposing parties and their counsel, the courts, and the public as a whole. Those duties include, among others: civility, professional integrity, personal dignity, candor, diligence, respect, courtesy, cooperation and competence.” This is also consistent with Rule 1.2(a) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct and the San Francisco Superior Court’s Guidelines of Professional Conduct. In keeping with such guidance, lawyers should provide reasonable accommodations for extensions of time, continuances, and other reasonable requests from opposing counsel, clients, co-counsel, and court personnel. This is a time for our profession to demonstrate an even higher level of civility in the legal profession without compromising obligations to clients. We also urge lawyers to not participate in any activity, strategy, or conduct that would put anyone at unnecessary health and safety risk. We will forward any additional information that we obtain that will assist lawyers during this time.
The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF enjoys the support of more than 7,500 individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools. Through its board of directors, its committees, and its volunteer legal services programs and other community efforts, BASF has worked actively to promote and achieve equal justice for all and oppose discrimination in all its forms, including, but not limited to, discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. BASF provides a collective voice for public advocacy, advances professional growth and education, and attempts to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and respect in the practice of law.