Elon Law professors moderate ethics panel at federal judicial conference

Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief and Associate Professor Eric Fink led a conversation with prominent judges and attorneys on ways for experienced lawyers to mentor their younger colleagues on balancing client advocacy with behavioral expectations of the court system.

Two Elon Law faculty members moderated a recent panel conversation on legal ethics for judges and attorneys visiting Greensboro for an annual conference hosted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief and Associate Professor Eric Fink coordinated “Balancing the Letter of the Ethical Rules with A Spirit of Professionalism” for the 81st Judicial Conference of the Fourth Circuit convened by the Hon. Roger L. Gregory, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the parent of a 2016 Elon University graduate, and Elon Law’s Commencement speaker in December 2020.

Woodlief and Fink guided panelists in a June 29 discussion on navigating the tension that exists within the professional behaviors expected of counsel, an attorney’s own decisions about those behaviors, and an attorney’s responsibility as an officer of the court in upholding the rule of law.

For instance: Why do attorneys speak of “ethical rules” and “professionalism” as two different things and why do they need balancing? How do federal rules of civil procedure and countless judicial opinions that require cooperation during the discovery phase of civil cases square with an attorney’s ethical obligation to represent the interest of a client?

Why is it important to set proper client expectations at the onset of representation? How does a new attorney develop “professional identity?” And given the hierarchical nature of the practice of law in many settings, how should an attorney navigate a situation where they are asked to do something they think is unethical?

The judicial conference took place from June 28 to July 1 at the Sheraton Greensboro Four Seasons and Joseph S. Koury Convention Center.

Panel Members

  • The Hon. L. Patrick Auld, magistrate judge, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
  • Paul Grimm, David F. Levi Professor of the Practice of Law and director of the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke University School of Law; retired judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • Michelle Kallen, partner, Jenner & Block (Washington, D.C.); former solicitor general for the State of Virginia
  • Patti Ramseur, partner, Ramseur Maultsby LLP (Greensboro, N.C.); president of the North Carolina Bar Association
  • Marcus Shields, of counsel, Ellis & Winters LLP (Greensboro, N.C.); president of the Greensboro Bar Association and former judge for the North Carolina District Court