Colorado Goes Live With Online Lawyer Self-Assessment

By Joan C. Rogers

Colorado lawyers have a brand-new online tool to help them avoid disciplinary grievances and reduce the stress associated with law practice.

The Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program provides a quick, easy, and voluntary way for lawyers to check whether they’re following ethics rules and best practices in 10 key areas such as conflicts, confidentiality, and fees—and get CLE credit for it.

“The self-assessment program is part of being proactive and helping lawyers with the necessary law office management tools,” James C. Coyle told Bloomberg Law. Coyle heads the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.

The response from Colorado lawyers has been very positive since the new program went live on Oct. 24, Coyle said.

The new resource is a leading facet of a larger shift toward proactive management-based regulation, which aims to help lawyers practice ethically and soundly in the first place, rather than just reactively imposing discipline after lawyers make mistakes.

Colorado started developing its lawyer self-assessment program more than two years ago, immediately after a seminal workshop on proactive, risk-based regulation at the 41st ABA National Conference of Professional Responsibility in May 2015.

Although Colorado is the first U.S. state to roll out an online self-assessment program, Illinois will go live with its own self-assessment program soon.

The four-hour Illinois self-assessment program is in beta testing now, and it will be up and running Jan. 1, 2018, James J. Grogan told Bloomberg Law. He’s deputy administrator and chief counsel for the Illinois Supreme Court’s Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

10 Areas of Self-Assessment

The self-assessment program came about through an initiative of a subcommittee of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee. Sixty-five volunteer Colorado lawyers and other professionals were involved in developing it, along with professor Susan Saab Fortney of Texas A&M University law school, Coyle said.

The group identified practice risks and carved out 10 areas in which lawyers can consider risks in the context of their own law practice.

Each topic sets out objectives along with requirements and best practices, and asks whether the lawyer doing the assessment follows those standards. If not, the self-assessment identifies resources that give guidance on these risks, such as ethics opinions and articles. The entire process doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting.

The self-assessment program will be tweaked as more lawyers use it, Coyle said. “It’s Version 1.0. We want it to evolve,” he said.

Coyle said lawyers from other jurisdictions are welcome to try out the new resource. However, he requested that people from other states not finish all 10 sections and ask for a report, because that would trigger a small fee for Colorado and those fees could add up.

A print self-assessment was launched in January 2017, and that alternative is still available.

Regulatory Objectives, Materials

The Colorado subcommittee on proactive management-based programs previously developed regulatory objectives that include helping lawyers navigate the practice of law and better serve their clients through proactive programs. The Colorado Supreme Court adopted the regulatory objectives in April 2016.

Also, the subcommittee compiled an extensive list of materials on proactive management-based programs, with assistance from Fortney and professor Laurel S. Terry of Penn State’s Dickinson Law. The list, with hotlinks, can be viewed on the Colorado Supreme Court’s website.

The subcommittee has been sharing its work on proactive management-based programs with other jurisdictions over the past two years, and it intends to share the most recent work too to help them develop similar programs easily and with low cost, Coyle said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joan C. Rogers in Washington at jrogers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: S. Ethan Bowers at sbowers@bna.com

The ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct is a joint publication of the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility and Bloomberg BNA.

 

Copyright © 2017 American Bar Association and The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.