Legal Ethics

Disbarred Watergate Figure John Dean to Teach Ethics CLE

Former White House counsel John Dean was convicted of obstruction of justice for his role in the Watergate cover-up, and he thinks his experience is instructive.

Though he was disbarred, Dean will teach two continuing legal education courses in Chicago this month, one of them a private event for the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Later, the program will be taught in Ohio, New York, Washington and California. The New York Times and the Chicago News Cooperative have stories.

“I helped write the book of what not to do, so I’m hopeful that people can learn from that—and not make the mistakes I did,” Dean, 72, told the Times. His program will focus on a lawyer’s obligations when a client engages in crime.

In 1972 the ethics standards were vague, the Times says, and lawyer confidentiality was “close to ironclad,” according to the Chicago News Cooperative. Dean’s only option would have been to resign.

Under modern ethics rules, a lawyer for an organization should report wrongdoing up the ladder, and could report evidence of crimes to law enforcement if the highest authority refuses to act, the stories say. The program will focus on two ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.13 on the lawyer-client relationship when an organization is the client, and Rule 1.6 on lawyer confidentiality.

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