Specialty Bar Associations and the Marketing of Ethics: The Example of the Academy of Adoption Attorneys
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In a world of lawyer jokes, memes of sleazy lawyers and the ubiquity of bad lawyers in television shows and movies, lawyers have reason to push back against negative public perceptions of lawyers’ ethics. This article examines the role of specialty bar associations, by using the example of the Academy of Adoption Attorneys, in marketing ethics to the public. Specialty bar associations have been seen as sites of lawyer socialization and professionalism. Though there are thousands of specialty bar associations with aspirational ethical codes, the Academy of Adoption Attorneys is unusual among such associations in having a mandatory ethics code, and a grievance procedure that leads to written decisions sanctioning members. Ethical lawyering in adoption cases is particularly important given the high stakes involved in cases implicating the best interests of the child and the constitutionally-protected rights of parents. The Academy promises enhanced ethical standards in its members, but it faces a number of barriers, common to other specialty bar associations, in fulfilling that promise. This article examines the role of specialty bar associations in ethical compliance by focusing on ethical issues common to adoption attorneys and the role that the Academy of Adoption Attorneys plays in the profession.
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