2013 Award Recipient:

Paul W. Vapnek
Paul W. Vapnek

Award to be presented at the 2013 Ethics Symposium on April 20, 2013 at UCLA School of Law.


Created in 2010, this award was established to recognize a member’s outstanding long-term contribution to the advancement of attorney professional responsibility standards in California. The inaugural recipient of this award was Harry B. Sondheim. The award was conferred upon Mr. Sondheim based on his many contributions to the advancement of professional responsibility, including the following accomplishments: (1) service as the chair of the State Bar’s Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct (in both the 1980’s as the original Chair of the Commission and also during its current iteration, for a total of approximately 14 years of volunteer service); (2) service as a member of the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (“COPRAC”) for two separate non-consecutive terms (advancing to committee chair during both of his terms on COPRAC, for approximately 11 more years of volunteer service); (3) service as a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association ethics committee; (4) founder of the Professional Responsibility Unit of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (the first of its kind in the United States); and (5) service on the State Bar’s Anti-Bias Rule Committee.

Based on the foregoing, Mr. Sondheim’s individual long-term contribution to the development of California’s professional responsibility standards is exemplary and laudable. The Rules of Professional Conduct developed by the Commission and the ethics opinions issued by COPRAC have been greatly influenced by his personal commitment to lawyer competence and public protection and the designation of the new award as the “Harry B. Sondheim Award” gives due recognition of his invaluable contribution to the State Bar and to the legal profession in California.


This award is given every three years and the profile of a typical recipient would include a combination of some, but not necessarily all, of the following career achievements:

  • At least 15 years in the practice of law in California;
  • Service as a member of COPRAC, the Rules Revision Commission, or another State Bar or Supreme Court committee charged with studying a professional responsibility issue;
  • Service as a member of the Board of Governors;
  • Service as a member of a county bar or specialty bar association ethics committee, including specialty groups such as the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC) or Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL);
  • Experience teaching professional responsibility to law students, including as an adjunct;
  • Extensive writing and continuing education (MCLE) presentations on professional responsibility;
  • Service in the State Bar discipline system as a trial counsel, a respondent’s counsel or a State Bar Court Judge, or in the State Bar Professional Competence Office;
  • Service as a fee arbitrator;
  • Service as an expert witness on matters of professional responsibility;
  • Litigation experience in attorney professional liability or related subjects;
  • Experience giving risk management advice to lawyers, including activity as a member of law firm management or on behalf of legal malpractice insurance carriers;
  • Service as a member of the ABA House of Delegates on behalf of a group in the California caucus (i.e., a State Bar delegate or a local California bar association delegate);
  • Charitable financial contributions directed toward the support of professional responsibility programs or activities (i.e., sponsorship of educational events; or State Bar Foundation contributions); and
  • Noteworthy activity as a legislative or judicial proponent of advancing professional standards and the law governing lawyers in California (including, revision, interpretation, enactment or repeal of governing standards).

The above list is not intended to be exhaustive. A nominee for the award may be living or deceased.  In addition, achievement of all of the foregoing is not intended to be either necessary or sufficient for conferring the award. The objective of the award is to recognize a substantial long-term commitment to advancing the field of professional responsibility rather than any single discrete achievement. Local and specialty bar association ethics committees are encouraged to submit nominations.


  • NOMINATION APPLICATION DEADLINE: 11: 59 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, August 31, 2012
  • Self-nominations are accepted. Anonymous nominations are not accepted.
  • The following documents are required for a complete application submission:
  1. Nomination Form. (online form)
  2. At least one (1) but no more than five (5) letters in support of the nomination. Letters should be addressed to the “Harry B. Sondheim Award Selection Committee” and should be submitted together with the other application materials.
  3. Resume or a separate document describing the accomplishments, contributions and /or initiatives of the nominee in the area of professional responsibility. Depending on the accomplishments of the nominee, this may include a list of relevant published cases where the nominee served as counsel or the judicial officer; and/or a list of relevant articles or other publications authored by the nominee including, if available, URL links. If an article is not readily available online a scanned PDF of the article may be requested by the selection committee after submission of the nominator’s materials.
  • Submit the nomination form and all accompanying materials electronically by using our online form by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, August 31, 2012.
  • The total size of all documents submitted electronically should not exceed 10 MB.
  • The entire application submission should not exceed 25 pages, excluding the nomination form.
  • Submit only one nomination per nomination form.  If you wish to nominate more than one person, a separate form and submission package is required for each nominee.
  • Nominators will receive e-mail notification acknowledging receipt of each nomination within five (5) business days. Please contact Ms. Marlaud at angela.marlaud@calbar.ca.gov to confirm receipt of submission if needed.
Please carefully and thoroughly prepare a nomination submission.  If a nomination package is incomplete, the nomination may be disqualified.   Please note that all submissions are treated as public record information.


The deadline for submission of nominations for the 2013 award is August 31, 2012.  All submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee which will provide a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for final approval.  In addition to considering all timely received nominations, the selection committee may also identify and select a nominee for consideration.  It is anticipated that the Board of Trustees will take action on the selection committee recommendation for the award at the Board’s meetings on November 15-16, 2012.  The award will be announced following the Board action and a formal presentation will be made at the 2013 Annual Statewide Ethics Symposium.

Future Award Years

2016, 2019, 2022, 2025, 2028

Past Harry B. Sondheim Professional Responsibility Award Recipients

Year Recipient
2010 Harry B. Sondheim, Inaugural Recipient