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Eminence Front

I'm a huge fan of Pete Townsend and The Who, and I love the song. "Eminence Front". I could go on about the band and it's music for a good long while, but I won't. Instead, I'll go on about mindfulness, meditation (both of which are key components of well-being), and something that all lawyers are very conscious of: Competence.

In Illinois, the notion of competence is codified in Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Ditto re: the model rules promulgated by the American Bar Association ("ABA") to guide appropriate bodies in each of the respective States, which license, regulate and discipline lawyers.

Suffice it to say, "competence" is kind of important when it comes to the practice of law-- it is literally Lawyer 101. And how it's interpreted (or, not interpreted) in what are known as the Comments to the Rule, is interesting. Certain of the Comments (in Illinois) reference "legal skill and knowledge", "thoroughness and preparation", "retaining other [more specialized] lawyers" and, more generally, "maintaining competence". Pretty standard stuff.

In January 2016, the Comments to Rule 1.1 were amended to include a new emphasis on understanding the, "benefits and risks associated with relevant technology" (emphasis added)-- hello, 21st century! Interestingly, however, there was no reference to "well-being" as something that may bear upon one's competence.

In the ensuing year, The National Task Force for Lawyer Well-Being issued its landmark report, the ABA House of Delegates formally endorsed Resolution 105 (recognizing the importance of well-being in the legal profession) and the Conference of Chief Judges passed Resolution 6 (also recognizing the importance of well-being in the legal profession).

In 2018, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs ("CoLAP") and the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, developed a Well-Being Template for legal employers, suggesting specific guidelines for responding to "impaired" employees.

All good, right? Well, kind of, sort of, maybe.

Notwithstanding the flurry of activity described above, and the passage of almost 5 years since the amendment to the Comments pertaining to Rule 1.1 in January of 2016, there has been no action (that I'm aware of) to further amend the Comments, and expand the interpretation of "competence" to include even a passing reference to well-being.

No doubt, I'm missing something, but it all seems like just another eminence front, to me!


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