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All lawyers are subject to the rules of ethics and professional conduct of their jurisdictions of practice. Regulation of lawyers is within the jurisdiction of the states, typically the supreme court of each state. Many state supreme courts have adopted customized versions of the professional rules from the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (“Model Rules”). While the Model Rules are not law in any jurisdiction, most states base their ethics codes on the Model Rules. In fact, all jurisdictions, with the exception of California, now base their ethics rules on the Model Rules. Additionally, courts have inherent power to impose sanctions on lawyers who have violated a professional obligation. To determine applicable law, lawyers should research the Model Rules for general principles but use the rules of their jurisdiction for the application of the law. Laws and regulation and the lawyer’s rules of professional responsibility all encourage legal compliance. In addition to the specific laws addressing requirements under the Endangered Species Act and the Model Rules, lawyers are subject to all the laws that bind people generally. In other words, the law governing lawyers includes statutory and common law as well as ethical rules,. Lawyers do not have a “free card” by virtue of the representational relationship with the client. Salient features of legal compliance relevant to environmental legal counsel include sanctions found under environmental laws and important federal initiatives such as the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the Dodd-Frank Act). Avoiding violations of laws and ethics regulations is possible only if lawyers have confidence in their understanding of the rules and the law. Thus, lawyers practicing in all areas of law, and particularly in endangered species law, must be aware of the rules and ethical considerations that can impact their work and their clients’ interests.

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Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation