Michael S. McGinniss is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota School of Law, where he joined the faculty in 2010 and teaches courses on Professional Responsibility, Evidence, Conflict of Laws, and Advanced Legal Ethics. He also served for three years as a founding co-coordinator for the UND School of Law’s team-taught first-year course, Professional Foundations. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English (summa cum laude and first in his class) at Washington College. He received his legal education at the College of William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law, where he graduated third in his class and was inducted into the Order of the Coif. Upon graduation from law school, he served as the law clerk for Honorable Randy J. Holland of the Supreme Court of Delaware. He then was associated for four years with the Delaware law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, where his practice focused on intellectual property litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
In 1998, the Supreme Court of Delaware appointed Professor McGinniss to its Office of Disciplinary Counsel. During his twelve years of service as Disciplinary Counsel, he was responsible for the evaluation, investigation, and prosecution of lawyer disciplinary matters before the Court and its Board on Professional Responsibility. He was also responsible for evaluating, investigating and prosecuting matters involving the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers, and presenting hearings before the Board of Bar Examiners involving the character and fitness of applicants to the Delaware Bar. He is a member of the bars of Delaware, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, and the United States Supreme Court.
At the UND School of Law, Professor McGinniss has been honored annually with the J. Philip Johnson Faculty Fellow Award, given to promote professional responsibility, leadership and ethics, both in the legal profession and in the community. In 2012, Chief Justice VandeWalle of the North Dakota Supreme Court appointed him to serve a three-year term as a member of the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, and in 2015 re-appointed him to serve a second three-year term. He currently serves as the President of the Randy H. Lee American Inn of Court, and is a member of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, including its Professional Responsibility, Religious Liberties, and Free Speech and Election Law practice groups. He recently authored and published A Tribute to Justice Antonin Scalia, 92 N.D. L. Rev. 1 (2016), based on his remarks originally presented at the School of Law in April 2016.
Professor McGinniss’ research and scholarship interests have focused on questions concerning the professional, ethical and moral responsibilities of lawyers. His most recent article on such topics is The Character of Codes: Preserving Spaces for Personal Integrity in Lawyer Regulation, 29 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 559 (2016), which he presented at the 2016 Symposium of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. The article considers how and why code language exhibiting the virtue of generality and allowing for the exercise of discretion most effectively preserves spaces for personal integrity in lawyer regulation. It advocates the benefits of creating voluntary, practice-specific ethical standards rather than government-imposed, specialized codes detailing specific mandates for lawyers in different practice areas. He was invited to write a chapter on Advice in the Lawyer-Client Relationship for The Oxford Handbook of Advice, which will be published by Oxford University Press. He presented the 2016 Mart Vogel Lecture on Professionalism and Legal Ethics, featuring his lead article Breaking Faith: Machiavelli and Moral Risks in Lawyer Negotiation, 91 N.R. L. Rev. 247 (2015). His 2013 article Virtue and Advice: Socratic Perspectives on Lawyer Independence and Moral Counseling of Clients was selected to be the lead article in Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Texas A&M Law Review. His essay Apprenticing for a Flourishing Life in the Law: The Virtues of Judicial Clerkship appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of the American Inns of Court’s flagship publication, The Bencher.
Shortly after joining the UND School of Law faculty, Professor McGinniss presented the 2011 Vogel Lecture, entitled Virtue Ethics, Earnestness, and the Deciding Lawyer: Human Flourishing in a Legal Community. His article based on the Lecture was subsequently published in Volume 87 of the North Dakota Law Review. In 2013, his article entitled Sending the Message: Using Technology to Support Judicial Reporting of Lawyer Misconduct to State Disciplinary Agencies was published in the Journal of the Professional Lawyer, the peer-reviewed academic journal of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility. He has also published legal scholarship addressing the regulation of multi-jurisdictional practice and the unauthorized practice of law. In 2013, he received a UND Foundation North Dakota Spirit Faculty Achievement Award, and he has been nominated for the UND Outstanding Faculty Scholar Award (2013) and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award (2014).