Author Archives: Matthew R. Shindell

NY Continues Trend of Rebuffing Online Legal Service Providers

New York has joined a growing list of states with ethics boards limiting an attorney's ability to participate in online legal service providers like Avvo and LegalZoom. Similar to other jurisdictions, the New York ethics board authored an opinion honing in on the so called “marketing fee” charged by Avvo for attorney use of its website. Although the opinion declines to decide a list of other potential ethical issues with the company, it concludes that the “marketing fee” is actually a referral fee in violation of Rule 7.2(a) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.

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Too Reliant Upon Technology?

Recent technological advances have rapidly changed the way professionals operate. Professionals are no longer tied to their offices, have myriad resources at their fingertips to research new issues and handle new tasks, and are able to reach new clients through social media. In general, these advances allow professionals to work more efficiently, increase their output, and broaden their professional footprint. However, professionals must tread cautiously when they employ technologies that do not merely assist with professional services, but actually supplant the professional’s role.

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Attorney Uses Confidential Info to Complete Insider Trades

The concern for the public’s trust in the legal profession remains a core goal of attorney ethics committees nationwide. Especially with the ease of accessing confidential information, attorney’s protection of client data has truly come into focus in recent years. This week, the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether an attorney will be permitted to continue his career in light of allegations that he used confidential client information to complete insider trades. The Kentucky Board of Professional Conduct recommended that the attorney be suspended for two years.

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The Ethics of Professional Crowdfunding

Starting up a successful professional practice requires ingenuity, business acumen, and a passion for the profession, but it also requires cash. In order to overcome financial barriers, some entrepreneurial professionals have looked to crowdfunding as an alternative method for raising capital. By utilizing social media and dedicated crowdfunding websites, professionals are now in a stronger position than ever to pitch their brand and solicit donations from large numbers of individuals in the general public. Crowdfunding offers the promise of a quick source of revenue, but may also implicate possible ethics concerns that could prove costly to professionals in the long term.

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Court Adopts New Test in Harassment Cases

Professionals strive to maintain safe and welcoming workplaces for employees and guests. To further this goal, many firms have incorporated into their employment manuals anti-harassment policies and training. Yet, despite such precautionary steps, an employer cannot guarantee an environment free of wrongdoers. In the unfortunate event of a claim, it is up to the court to determine whether an employer that took proactive measures to protect employees is nonetheless liable in employment related harassment claims.

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Duties to Non-Clients: The Exception, Not the Rule

The standard malpractice claim pits former client against professional. In most scenarios, the client alleges that the professional’s conduct fell below the acceptable standard and/or below the expectations set forth in the engagement contract. On occasion, non-clients test the waters and sue professionals under various theories. However, the knee-jerk defense to claims from non-clients is usually lack of privity. Lack of privity is often a successful defense but there are exceptions to the general rule. Professionals must be aware of these exceptions and take into account non-clients who may have standing to assert a malpractice claim.

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Dropping the Problem Client

Professionals and their clients do not always see eye to eye. Whether there are disagreements over litigation strategy, conflicts in personality, or a client who refuses to pay, many professionals encounter a problem client at some time in their career. While professionals may be tempted to cut ties with these clients when the relationship turns sour, an ugly break-up can make matters worse and may invite a malpractice suit.

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Great Career “Moves” – Treadmills in the Office Boost Productivity

In the non-stop business world, many employees struggle to find time to exercise. Yet, some employers encourage physical fitness as a means of boosting the health and productivity of their teams. A recent study suggests that a new double-tasking combination – exercising while working – might be a good business “move”.

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Gaga’s Overtime Problem

Would you pay attention if we told you that Stefani Germanotta allegedly failed to pay her assistant over $375,000 in overtime pay? What if we told you Stefani Germanotta usually goes by "Lada Gaga"? Reportedly, the uber-famous singer reached a settlement in the 2011 FLSA lawsuit filed by her former personal assistant. The lawsuit serves as a reminder to employers of all sizes that unless their employees meet the requirements of the administrative exemption test, they must be paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Botched Weather Report Leads to Unusual Insurance Claim

A feud is developing between flower enthusiasts and the Philadelphia media arising from an "overly hyped” weather report. The possible remedy may be in the form of a lesser known insurance product. The Philadelphia Flower Show usually generates about $1 million in profits from its annual exhibit. But not this year. Reportedly, the show drew substantially fewer attendees than expected this year and organizers of the event are blaming a “botched” weather report. Now the event’s president is accusing Philadelphia media outlets of “hyping up” a major snowstorm during the week of the flower show that never materialized but led to scores of cancelled visitors. In turn, this led to about $1 million in losses. Is there insurance for this? You bet.

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