Professionalism and ethics in the legal community

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As a young family law attorney with Zisser Law, PLLC, I am extremely lucky to have the mentors (Elliot Zisser, Barry Zisser, Jonathan Zisser and Katie Johnson) that I have.

One thing my mentors continuously remind me of is to practice with professionalism, respect and proper ethics. Not just because our profession demands it, but because these reminders are indicative of good reputations. Without these tools, lawyers will be fighting an uphill battle for whichever law he or she may be practicing. 

I recently had the opportunity to defend a husband accused of domestic violence based on his wife’s belief that the husband was mentally ill. The husband is a veteran.

The husband securely locked years of his medical/military/psychiatric records in a non-marital safe that he only had access to. This alone gave the husband “an expectation of privacy.” Any lawyer will agree a party requesting health records, let alone psychiatric records, has an extreme burden to meet for a party to produce their personal medical records. In my case, the wife’s lawyer advised her to break into the husband’s safe and retrieve the records, so that they could create their case against the husband.

Lo and behold, when the husband went to his safe to retrieve his records, he found his safe broken into and his records gone. He immediately called the police and the wife stated in the police report that she was only doing what her “attorney had advised.” She also stated that the records “were at her attorney’s office,” and that her attorney “was making copies of the records for their case.” I am sure people reading this, with no legal background, know that the advice given wasn’t the correct advice.

I filed a motion to have opposing counsel disqualified for a number of reasons, and requested the court to issue a protective order for the benefit of my client. The court granted my requests when it entered its 11-page order. The majority of the order was about opposing counsel not having the professionalism, respect and proper ethics the Florida Bar demands us lawyers to have.

Not only was I proud to be on the right side of this case, but I could not help but think of my mentors as I was reading the 11-page order. Lawyers cannot undo what they have already done. As much as lawyers, including myself, want to bypass certain procedures/avenues for their cases, it is our duty as professionals to not seek a shortcut. Our legal profession demands this. It is when we seek the shortcuts, which are contrary to our professionalism, respect and ethics, that we then lose the only thing that matters most: our reputation.

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