On Monday, February 23, 2015, the Women in Law section of the William & Mary JRCLS Chapter hosted a wonderful lunchtime event with Virginia Supreme Court Senior Justice Elizabeth Lacy, who delivered an insightful lecture on maintaining high ethical standards while practicing law. The William & Mary Women’s Law Society co-hosted, and W&M professor Jayne Barnard graciously provided faculty support.
Justice Lacy has had an extraordinary career. Amongst her many accomplishments, in 2009, she participated in the Commission on Ethics 20/20, a committee appointed by the American Bar Association with the purpose of determining what recommendations should be made to update the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in light of modern technological advances. In addition to being a successful professional, she and her husband have raised four children.
First, five students had the opportunity to enjoy a delicious lunch and talk with Justice Lacy in a smaller group setting. Immediately afterwards, she addressed approximately 40 students for a lecture on her experience in ethics. One key takeaway that she emphasized was the importance of all lawyers learning to be a fair counselor within the rules of ethics – not an overly zealous advocate who fights to the death for every client with the mindset of winning no matter what. A zealous, but ethical and courteous, advocate knows when it is appropriate to strongly advocate, but will also counsel the client on the pros and cons of settling at the mediation level. Judges will remember an attorney who crosses the line between a legal counselor who advocates respectfully for a client and one who argues overzealously and inappropriately.
Justice Lacy’s counsel on ethics is sure to prove invaluable for us students as we pursue our individual career paths in the practice of law.