Creation of Institute | Insititute Functions | Structure, Governance & Funding | Commission on the Profession and the Courts | Report and Recommendations | Major Reforms | Implementation of Recommendation to Establish Ethics Institute
Creation of Institute
In March 1999, the New York State Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law was officially brought into
existence by an Administrative Order of the Chief Judge.
Louis A. Craco was named Chair. The Institute on
Professionalism serves as a permanent commission dedicated to nurturing professionalism among the members of the
legal profession. It supports the organized bar, law schools and other institutions in undertaking effective programs
for the promotion of professional behavior, and stands as a permanent forum in which the various constituencies of
the profession can convene regularly to study and speak to issues pertaining to ethics and professionalism. It is
loosely modeled on existing judicial commissions in New York State that speak to issues affecting minorities, women and
children. Though formed under the umbrella of the Unified Court System, these entities have a proven record of independent
and effective operation.
The Institute on Professionalism is responsible for, among others:
- promotiong scholarship and practical attention to emerging ethics and professionalism issues;
- sponsoring Statewide public hearings and convocations on the public’s experience with lawyers and the justice system;
- promoting public understanding of matters relating to the role of law and lawyers;
- facilitating conversations among disparate views on topics of common interest, including practitioners and law school academics,
who often address the same issues from different perspectives;
- observing and commenting upon ethics-related initiatives;
- monitoring and commenting upon methods for enforcing standards of professional conduct;
- issuing reports on relevant issues; and
- maintaining communications with other states on issues of mutual concern.
The Institute avoids duplication of existing programs and services and does not offer CLE courses, operate ethics hotlines or issue
advisory ethics opinions.
Structure, Governance and Funding
Members of the Institute are appointed by the Chief Judge and Presiding Justices of the Appellate Division and consist of a Chair
and 18 members. A concerted effort was made to insure that the Institute’s membership is truly representative of the legal
profession in our State. It includes attorneys from many different practice settings, and from every major area of the state; judges
from the appellate and trial courts; legal educators and at least one member of the public.
To date, funding for the Institute’s activities has been made available from the Office of Court Administration’s appropriation.
In order to accomplish its purposes, the Institute is authorized to, among other powers:
- collect information relevant to matters within its jurisdiction;
- study issues within its jurisdiction through the use of its own members or staff or in cooperation with other entities; and
- engage staff and assign the duties of such staff, within the limits of its funding.
Commission on the Profession and the Courts
In 1993, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye appointed a blue ribbon panel of lawyers and judges from throughout New York State to explore
the scope of public dissatisfaction with the legal profession, ascertain the causes of that dissatisfaction and discuss and recommend
meaningful solutions. The Committee on the Profession and the Courts -- better known, perhaps, as the Craco Committee, after its chair,
Louis A. Craco -- went about its work in a diligent, open and inclusive manner. The Committee, which consisted of a diverse group
of judges and lawyers from urban and rural areas, reviewed voluminous published materials, met with representatives from every sector
of the legal profession, including bar leaders, law school deans and attorney disciplinary counsel, and traveled to all corners of
the state to hold public hearings and learn the views of New York's consumers of legal services.
Report and Recommendations
In November 1995, the Committee on the Profession and the Courts issued a landmark report that led to several major
reforms of New York State’s legal profession. The Committee’s single most important finding, however, deserves special
"[T]he actual level of professionalism brought to bear on clients’ affairs by thousands of lawyers across the state,
in court and office, day in and day out, is extraordinarily high."
The Committee acknowledged the deterioration of public confidence in the legal profession, noting that it was to a large
extent the result of historical, social, economic and cultural forces beyond the control and reach of the bar. Nonetheless,
because some of the discontent was well-founded and within the profession's power to correct, and because it is the urgent
duty of the bar to respond fairly to fair criticism, the Committee recommended more than 30 initiatives to improve the
profession and the courts.
In August 1996, the Administrative Board of the Courts adopted in principle all but two of the recommendations set forth by
the Committee on the Profession and the Courts. Just a few of the significant reforms that have come out of the work of the
- A continuing legal education requirement for the New York Bar, including a special Bridge-the-Gap component for
newly-admitted lawyers that focuses on ethics and professionalism, practical skills and law office management.
- Expanded court rules addressing frivolous conduct by attorneys, including replacement of the $10,000-per-case limit
on costs and sanctions with a $10,000-per-incident limit.
- Standardization of grievance committee practices around the State to promote uniformity of practices and procedures
among the Grievance Committees in the Four Departments. Additionally, development of a mediation program to address
complaints against attorneys that are legitimate but not sufficiently serious to warrant imposition of sanctions.
- Adoption of an aspirational Code of Civility that sets forth standards of behavior to which the bench, the bar and
court employees should aspire.
- A Statement of Client’s Rights posted in every New York law office to serve as a valuable educational tool for
clients concerning what they may reasonably expect from their lawyer.
- A Statewide program to resolve attorney-client fee disputes by arbitration or mediation, which is still in the works.
- Establishment of a permanent entity devoted to promoting professionalism and the bar's awareness and understanding
of ethical issues.
Implementation of Recommendation to Establish Ethics Institute The Administrative Board directed the creation of two task forces charged with developing plans to implement the Committee on
the Profession and the Courts’ recommendations. A subcommittee of one of these task forces was asked to determine whether the
establishment of an ethics institute in New York was desirable; and, if so, to suggest its functions, structure and governance.
The subcommittee found that the social, economic and technological forces contributing to the demise of confidence in the legal
profession are not short-lived and therefore cannot be adequately addressed through the legal profession’s formation of short-term
committees that reach conclusions, issue recommendations and then disband. The subcommittee strongly endorsed the formation of a
permanent institute that would provide continuous, long-term attention to the challenges facing the legal profession, as well
as provide another structure to counter the many centrifugal forces acting upon the profession.
Administrative Order of the Chief Judge
Press Release-Lawyer Ethics: The Focus of Newly Appointed Institute on
Professionalism in the Law
Committee on the Profession and the Courts
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