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Law Professor Completes ABA Ethics Appointment

Rick Underwood

Professor Richard Underwood, William L. Matthews, Jr. Professor of Law, recently completed a three-year appointment on the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Prior to this committee, Professor Underwood served as the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) Ethics Chair for fourteen years, KBA Unauthorized Practice Chair for twelve years, and KBA Model Rules Chair when the Model Rules were first adopted. He has written several books and numerous articles on professional responsibility issues. 

“Membership on the ABA Ethics Committee is a sought-after professional plum,” said Professor Underwood. “Service on the ABA Committee was something of a career capstone for me.” 

For more than one hundred years, the Association’s Ethics Committee has focused on developing model national ethics standards for lawyers and the judiciary. They also drafted the ABA Formal Ethics Opinions interpreting and applying those standards. Then, in 1984, the committee undertook an effort to encourage nationwide adoption of a new set of ethics rules, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It was during this time that Underwood was the KBA Model Rules Chair. 

The Committee also provides consultation to other American Bar Association entities, state and local bars, law school communities, the legal news media and the public on matters of emerging interest in the area of legal and judicial ethics. 

Professor Underwood said the committee worked on numerous policy recommendations and they produced several “interesting” ethics opinions. “I was impressed by the knowledge of the members, all of whom have served in various capacities in their state bar associations, some as state disciplinary counsel and others as private practitioners serving as law firm ethics counsel or as lawyers representing other lawyers in disciplinary or malpractice matters.” 

Underwood says the practical work from being involved with the ABA and KBA is beneficial to UK College of Law because it makes the faculty better teachers and also helps reinforce the school’s solid reputation and standing in the legal community.