The legal profession is regulated through ethical codes and rules adopted by each stateâ€"in most states, by order of the state supreme court. These codes of professional conduct evolved over a long period of time. A major step toward ethical regulation was taken in 1908, when the ABA approved the Canons of Ethics, which consisted of 32 ethical principles. In the following decades, various states adopted these canons as law.
Today's state ethical codes are based, for the most part, on two later revisions of the ABA canons: the Model Code of Professional Responsibility (published in 1969) and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (first published in 1983 to replace the Model Code and revised many times since then). Although most states have adopted laws based on the Model Rules, the Model Code is still in effect in some states. New York still uses the Model Code, for example, while California and Maine have developed their own rules. Paralegals should be aware of both the Model Code and the Model Rules and become familiar with the set of rules that is in effect in their state.