The public has a distrust of lawyers. Stories of bad lawyers get attention and lawyer jokes are legion. Know why sharks do not attack lawyers? Professional courtesy. But law is a profession that is well regulated. Lawyers must be licensed by the state in which they practice and there are civil and criminal penalties for practicing law or taking money to practice law without a license. Lawyers have Rules of Professional Conduct and an oath of admission to guide them in practice.
Missouri lawyers take the following oath:
I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Missouri;
That I will maintain the respect due courts of justice, judicial officers and members of my profession and will at all times conduct myself with dignity becoming of an officer of the Court in which I appear;
That I will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;
That I will at all times conduct myself in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct; and,
That I will practice law to the best of my knowledge and ability and with consideration for the defenseless and oppressed.
So help me God.
Illinois Lawyers take this oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be), that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of attorney and counselor at law to the best of my ability.
Lawyers have rules about honesty, diligence and communication to their clients and zealous advocacy for them. These rules are detailed, are typically uniform across the United States. Lawyers have to study ethics rules in law school, take a test on them to be admitted to the Bar, and take yearly continuing education on them throughout their careers. The Rules of Professional conduct for Illinois lawyers can be found at http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VIII/default_NEW.asp
and Missouri’s ethics rules can be found at http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=707. Members of the public (and clients) can complain of lawyers and lawyers can be disciplined, suspended or disbarred. The Supreme Courts of a State and sometimes the state bar associations regulate lawyers. You can find whether a lawyer has been disciplined on the Supreme Court websites of most states. In Illinois you can find if a lawyer has been disciplined or disbarred at http://www.iardc.org/ or and in Missouri at http://mochiefcounsel.org/ or http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=604.