The Oath To Practice Law
Ethical matters must always concern a lawyer. Young lawyers must be more than familiar with the ethical requirements of the practice of law from the first day they begin to practice law. Lawyers have a responsibility not only to clients but also to society. They must zealously represent the client to the fullest extent permitted under the entire body of ethical rules, standards, and statutes without offending or damaging the legal system.
Intermittently, a lawyer should read the oath given upon admission to the practice of law. This will help remind the lawyer of his or her basic duties to clients and society. In California, the lawyer solemnly declares
“I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of an attorney and counselor at law to the best of my knowledge and ability. As an officer of the court, I will strive to conduct myself at all times with dignity, courtesy, and integrity.”
In substance, this means that the lawyer is swearing to obey the law, to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct, to support the state and federal constitutions, to respect the courts and judges, to neither counsel nor maintain an unjust suit, and to maintain client confidences and secrets.
The Rule 9.4 Oath required when admitted to practice law was adopted by the Supreme Court in April 2014 and was added to Title 9. Rules On Law Practice, Attorneys, And Judges of the California Rules of Court becoming effective May 23, 2014.
The adoption of the rule was consistent with the effort led by the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), to include a “civility” provision in the oaths taken by lawyers admitted to state bars.
This change in the oath is partially intended to remind lawyers of their obligations beyond that of zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients. As professionals, lawyers have an obligation to conduct themselves with dignity, courtesy, and integrity. However, many seem to have forgotten these valuable principles to which lawyers, as professionals, should always adhere.
The following are the relevant rules and statutes in California governing the conduct of attorneys:
- California Rules of Professional Conduct
- The State Bar Act – Business & Professions Code §§ 6000 et seq.
- Selected Statutes Regarding Professional Conduct, Discipline of Attorneys and Duties of the State Bar of California
- California Rules of Court
- Rules of Procedure of the State Bar and Rules of Practice of the State Bar Court (Rules of the State Bar, Title 5)
- Law Corporation Rules (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 2, Chapter 3)
- Legal Specialization Rules (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 2, Chapter 2)
- Pro Bono Rules (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 2, Chapter 6)
- Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Lawyer Referral Services (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 5, Chapter 3)
- Out-of-State Attorney Arbitration Counsel Program (OSAAC) Rules (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 3, Chapter 2)
- Mandatory Fee Arbitration Rules (Rules of the State Bar, Title 3, Division 4, Chapter 2)
- MCLE Provider and Attorney Rules
- Supreme Court Order S158605 Regarding the State Bar IOLTA Program
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