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Discrimination and the Practice of Law (Program)

Alberto Bernabe, The John Marshall Law School (US) (Moderator); Jessie Allen, University of Pittsburgh School of Law (US); Michal Ofer Tsfoni, Netanya Academic College (Israel); Lillian Corbin, University of New England (Australia); and Paula Baron, La Trobe University (Australia) 

Discrimination and the Practice of Law

The leadership of the American Bar Association is currently debating whether to adopt an amendment to its Model Rules of Professional Responsibility to address bias and discrimination within the practice of law.  Manifestations of prejudice, implicit bias and discrimination are always a cause for concern.  However, although well intentioned, the new rule could be viewed as an attempt to impose a particular value on all lawyers. For this reason, some have expressed concern over whether such a rule could be interpreted to interfere with the right, protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to express personal views. In addition, it can be argued that under certain circumstances lawyers should have the right to discriminate when it comes to choosing whether to represent a client, and that it might actually be better for clients if they do.  

This panel will look at issues related to discrimination within the practice of the profession.  Among other questions, the panel will discuss whether bias, discrimination and civility are forms of conduct that can, or should, be the subject of possible professional regulation, whether lawyers have the right to discriminate when choosing clients, whether expression of bias and prejudice are relevant in determining who can be admitted to the profession and whether it is valid for the state to determine which values to impose on its members. 

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