The subject of professional ethics never goes off the radar in the legal profession, so much so that members of the California State Bar are required to take four hours of continuing education in the subject every three years, along with an additional hour each on the subjects of substance abuse and the recognition of bias in the profession. For the first time in her own career, Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager was on the instructional end of the ethics course last Saturday, January 19 as she joined a panel of distinguished legal professionals in an all-day seminar sponsored by WorkCompCentral, the Southern California-based media company that serves the workers’ comp industry.
Each person on the five-member panel at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys was responsible for a one-hour presentation on different facets of professional legal ethics. The panel consisted of two workers’ comp judges, one applicant’s attorney (Sager), one defense attorney, and an interpreter whose specialty is how to question Spanish-speaking witnesses. Sager was joined by defense attorney Frank Christine III, Judge David Pollak, Judge Robert Rassp, and interpreter Nestor Wagner.
Sager addressed a number of issues in her presentation, which included a slide show and lecture. She reviewed the updated California Rules of Professional Conduct, in which she discussed the ethical obligation of communicating with clients about their case, the special consideration of representing undocumented workers, settlements, and guidelines on attorney fees.
“Attorneys can lose their licenses on these matters, so it’s important that they stray abreast of ethical considerations and have that reinforced for them throughout their careers,” she said. “The profession recognizes that ethics are important enough that the continuing education requirement never goes away. And the same goes for substance abuse and mental health education. The law is a very demanding profession, so things can go downhill very quickly without ongoing education and support.”
Reflecting on the invitation organizers extended her to join the panel, Sager added: “It was an honor for me to represent Boxer & Gerson in this way. It gave me a clearer sense that our firm enjoys a statewide reputation for the highest ethics and integrity.”