The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association held its final general meeting under President Pasqualino "Pat" Russo Wednesday night, and it was a powerful one, as esteemed lawyer Pery D. Krinsky gave a speech on ethics.
“We have been fortunate to have a speaker of the caliber of Pery Krinsky, who is not only great at public speaking, but delivers substantively as well,” Russo said. “He's given lectures to us in the past in the area of ethics and we've always considered him one of the best speakers we see.”
The New York State Bar Association requires that practicing lawyers earn Continuing Legal Education credits, some of which must be on ethics.
“Ethics credits are required by the bar association and not only are they mandatory, but they are critically important,” Russo said. “Pery's speech speaks to issues that lawyers deal with every day. Being an ethical lawyer is not tough to do. It is an ongoing process, though, and something we must be vigilant of.”
Krinsky emphasized that when it comes to ethics, perception is everything. Legal ethics and moral ethics are both as important as well. If a lawyer maintains his legal ethics, but infringes on moral ethics and the client perceives him as corrupt, the lawyer's reputation could be jeopardized even though he or she acted within the bounds of the law.
"My entire career has been focused on providing guidance to lawyers concerning the day-to-day practice of law both inside and outside the courtroom,” Krinsky said. “More often than not, lawyers get into trouble not because they are bad people, but because they make bad decisions for one of several reasons.
“It can be anything from failing to see the big picture, unrealistic and unmanageable deadlines, fear of failure or inability to ask for help, lack of information or attention to detail, failure to appreciate that our choices have consequences and just plain ego or selfishness.”
Krinsky explained that even bad lawyers start out with good intentions. Problems can often arise when lawyers are struggling, especially early on, in their careers.
“Younger attorneys, without significant legal experience, are being compelled to start their own practice as a result of the poor legal job market,” Krinsky explained. “As a result, they often lack the experienced mentors or resources to help navigate the ethical pitfalls created by the 'practice of law' versus the 'business of law.'"
Krinsky utilized slideshows and television and movie clips to illustrate his points. He also used examples from recent court cases in which lawyers have gotten into trouble. “When [Krinsky] discussed the recent cases that have demonstrated what the concerns are - and how we can trip over the line - I thought it was a good reminder of what those rules are,” Russo said.
“As lawyers, first and foremost, we have to act as good people,” Krinsky concluded. “Do the right thing and live your life as a good lawyer. Know that you acted decently and were a good person.”
The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association hosts its 59th annual dinner dance next month to honor Pat Russo. They will also be electing a new president and new officers. The dinner will he held on Thursday, June 13 at the Dyker Beach Golf Course in Brooklyn.