Ethical Issues in Supervising Others: Can Their Misconduct Become Yours?

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No matter what the size of a lawyer’s firm, and no matter in what U.S. jurisdiction the firm is located, the Rules of Professional Conduct impose obligations on the lawyer to supervise other attorneys at the firm.  Under Model Rule 5.1, the degree of supervision required depends on the lawyer’s specific managerial role in the firm – whether the lawyer is managing the firm as a whole, or a particular department, or just a single case.  But the lawyer’s failure to comply with these supervisory obligations can result in disciplinary risks as great as or even greater than the lawyer who actually commits the misconduct.

Our program will examine these issues from a variety of perspectives, including small law firms, larger firms, and government offices.  We will also look at the obligations of paralegals, bookkeepers, and other support personnel, as well as the lawyer’s obligations to supervise those personnel, calling on specific cases where lawyers faced discipline for failing to fulfill those obligations.  We will suggest steps that law firms and other law offices can take to help ensure adequate supervision of all attorneys and support staff.  Our seminar will explore these supervisory responsibilities in a number of different ways.

Educational Objectives:
• Understand that lawyers have supervisory responsibilities under the Model Rules (and the Rules of most states) even if they are not managing the firm or a department.
• Understand that subordinate lawyers often cannot absolve themselves in a disciplinary action by saying a senior lawyer told them to commit misconduct.
• Understand that lawyers have responsibilities under the Rules to supervise non-lawyer staff.

Who would benefit most from attending this program?
All lawyers will benefit, but particularly those who supervise other lawyers or support personnel.



Mr. Ronald C. Minkoff is a shareholder/director in the Litigation and Professional Responsibility at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.  He represents attorneys in professional responsibility matters, including partnership disputes, disciplinary cases, ethics opinions, disqualification motions, and malpractice actions.  Mr. Minkoff is currently co-Managing Editor of the New York Legal Ethics Reporter, a publication co-sponsored by his law firm and the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.  A past President of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, he is current Chair of the NYCLA Task Force on Professionalism and a member of the Council on Judicial Advocacy of the New York City Bar Association.  He has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Professional Responsibility at New York University School of Law, Cardozo School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, and Brooklyn Law School, and was named “New York’s Professional Responsibility Lawyer of the Year, 2011” by Best Lawyers in America.


Mr. Minkoff is admitted to the Bar of New York, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Courts of the Southern District of New York, Eastern District of New York, and the District of Connecticut.  He earned his J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law and his B.A. from Vassar College.


Ms. Beth Alston is a sole practitioner in the quaint small town of Covington, Louisiana.  Her practice is concentrated in the field of legal ethics and professional responsibility.  Ms. Alston was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court as a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association Committee on Professional Responsibility in 1988.  When that committee was transformed into the Disciplinary Board of the Louisiana State Bar Association (now, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board), she served as the vice-chair and chair of the Board in 1991 and 1992.  Since that time, she has been retained by insurance companies, law firms, lawyers, and lawyers’ clients to provide detailed ethics opinions.  She has also been retained in the role of expert witness in the field of legal ethics in lawyer professional liability and fee dispute cases.  She has represented and advised lawyers in various aspects of court sanction orders and motions to disqualify, both in federal and state court.  She also represents respondents before the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and the Louisiana Judiciary Commission.  She is a past member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline, and the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.  She is a current member of the ABA House of Delegates, the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, where she served as a Board member in the past.

Ms. Alston admitted to practice in Texas and Louisiana, and before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana.  She earned her J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law and her B.A., with highest honors, from the University of Texas.