The New York State Bar Association in a report released this month recommended updated its guidelines for lawyer conduct to include more expansive definitions of harassment and discrimination as the legal community continues to grapple with the broader societal reckoning surrounding the issues.
The report released last week would largely align the bar association with state law when it comes to harassment and discrimination-related misconduct. The recommended changes include expanding protected classes to match the state’s anti-discrimination laws, define “harassment” as severe and pervasive and ban it, and end the requirement that administrative remedies before grievances are filed that allege discrimination.
The proposed changes won the backing of the bar association’s top leader and would cover practice-related settings beyond the courtroom, including the group’s functions, law firm events and non-work interactions between lawyers at different firms.
And the committee found that misconduct often occurs outside of a professional setting, calling it a “gray area” that is in need of addressing.
“The proposed amendments would make it clear that the legal profession can responsibly regulate itself while promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said T. Andrew Brown, the president of the New York State Bar Association. “The current New York rule applies only if an attorney’s conduct constitutes “unlawful discrimination” – it does not prohibit harassing conduct that is not a violation of discrimination law.”