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Rachel Arfa Staff Attorney Equip for Equality The Ethics and Legal Requirements of Representing People with Disabilities 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Rachel Arfa Staff Attorney Equip for Equality The Ethics and Legal Requirements of Representing People with Disabilities 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rachel Arfa Staff Attorney Equip for Equality The Ethics and Legal Requirements of Representing People with Disabilities 1

2 Rule 1.1 Competence A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. 2

3 Comments on Rule 1.1 Competence Comments state a lawyer does not necessarily have to have special training or prior experience, and can provide adequate representation in a new field through study or through association of a lawyer with familiarity Also applies to lawyer who is appointed as counsel for an unrepresented person 3

4 Comments on Rule 1.1 Competence Maintaining Competence – to maintain the requisite knowledge and skill,  a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice  engage in continuing study and education  comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject 4

5 Competence Not required that only those who represent people with disabilities take disabled clients Learn what you need to do in order to represent a client with a disability; find out what kind of reasonable accommodation the client needs. Ask your client what he/she needs.  If deaf, does client need ASL/oral/cued speech interpreter, real time captioning; how to best keep in touch, via video relay calls, email, text, gmail chat, and others. 5

6 Rule 2.1 Advisor In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. In rendering advice, a lawyer may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors that may be relevant to the client’s situation. 6

7 Rule 2.1 Comments A client is entitled to straightforward advice expressing the lawyer’s honest advice, including bad facts. Technical advice is not helpful, especially to clients not familiar with legal terminology Consider moral, economic, social and political factors 7

8 2.1 Comments Consider social factors  Example- representing deaf and hard of hearing clients  Wide range of identity among deaf and hard of hearing community  Some deaf people communicate by speaking and lipreading, while others use American Sign Language – which can result in distinct life experiences and attitudes 8

9 2.1 Comments Social Factors continued Be aware of cultural differences Societal factor: many deaf persons graduate from high school reading at a fourth grade reading level Will need assistance in breaking down legal terminology Ex. - Be sure not to simply read settlement agreement – language may be too advanced. Instead, break down what it means. 9

10 Rule 1.6 Confidentiality “A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent…” Discuss with client before revealing information Frequently, clients with disabilities have information about them shared without consent, such as to a family member Hidden disabilities: clients with hidden disabilities may want to keep their disability confidential Others may want to keep disability related information confidential, even if disability is obvious 10

11 Rule 1.4 Communication: Obtaining Informed Consent “A lawyer shall promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent…is required…” Ex: Explain important provisions in legal documents If a client has minimal language, use appropriate accommodations and review the agreement to ensure that you have informed consent If client has visual impairment, provide document in accessible format, read document 11

12 Rule 5.3 Responsibilities Regarding Non Lawyer Assistants With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer: (a)A…lawyer…shall make reasonable efforts to ensure…that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (b)A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer 12

13 Rule 5.3 Comments Comments define assistants as: secretaries, investigators, law student interns, paraprofessionals Assistants, whether employees or independent contractors act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer’s professional services 13

14 How to comply with Rule 5.3 Train your support staff on:  How to communicate with people with disabilities.  Explain obligations to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act  How to accept and conduct video relay calls and TTY calls from deaf and hard of hearing clients. It is illegal to say “we don’t provide sign language interpreters.”  Provide forms in alternative format for blind and visually impaired clients, offer to assist in completing form 14

15 Obligation under ADA when representing a client with a disability Title III of the ADA provides that a public accommodation “…shall take steps to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services…” Attorneys are considered a public accommodation and must provide accommodations. 42 U.S.C.§12181(7)(F) Public accommodations “…shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities.” 28 C.F.R. §36.303 (c)(1) 15

16 DOJ Complaint filed against Attorney for not providing accommodations Attorney represented deaf woman, did not use sign language interpreter when meeting with her. Divorce case, where wife also experienced domestic violence in marriage Attorney-client meetings: Deaf client did not understand what was discussed Attorney at times used client’s sister (who was also not a qualified interpreter) to interpret 16

17 DOJ Complaint filed against Attorney for not providing accommodations To communicate, attorney also used pen and paper, fax, lipreading and the relay service when communicating by phone. These methods took longer than if a qualified sign language interpreter had been provided, which resulted in higher attorneys fees to client. DOJ investigation found that attorney failed to provide client with effective communication. Attorney was ordered to pay a fine and waive all attorneys fees owed. 17

18 Illinois Anti-Discrimination Laws Attorneys have an obligation to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws in representing clients with disabilities  Illinois Human Rights Act  Cook County Human Rights Ordinance  Chicago Human Rights Ordinance 18

19 Questions? 19

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