Author Archives: Richard J. Cohen

The Ethical Obligation of Technological Competence

Competence is essential to a successful practice. Competence requires that professionals develop the skill set and knowledge base to meet their clients’ needs and keep up with changes in their practice area. In the modern age, remaining competent also entails that professionals understand and incorporate new technology into their practice. Utilizing new technologies helps to expand professional capabilities, promotes efficiency, and enables professionals to remain competitive. But keeping up to date with technology is not simply good advice for professionals who want to get ahead – it may also be an ethical obligation.

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Just How Super Are You? Advertising for Super Lawyers

We work hard. We achieve results. We want to develop business as a result of those successes. That's all understandable since self-promotion is an important part of the development of professionals. By touting personal achievements, professionals are better able to position themselves to compete for new clients. Not surprisingly, many professionals include personal accolades in advertising materials. While the use of awards may be an effective advertising tool, if can also lead to ethical violations when done improperly.

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“Name Calling” Warrants Mistrial in New Jersey

Attorneys are held to a reasonably well defined standard when it comes to professional conduct. Clearly, however, not all attorneys abide by this code. What an attorney may consider zealous advocacy can easily turn into unprofessional conduct if taken too far. Take for example the following case out of New Jersey where comments from the plaintiff's counsel were found to exceed the bounds of permissible advocacy and resulted in a mistrial, vacating a nearly $2.5 million judgment.

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Choose Your Experts Carefully

Most, if not all, malpractice claims require expert testimony. Thus, those of us who defend professionals are often called upon to retain an appropriate expert to assist in the defense. The reverse is also true: claims against professionals usually require an expert within the defendant’s field who is prepared to testify that the professional breached the applicable standard of care. Whether it be karma, failure to read PL Matters, or otherwise, an attorney in Iowa recently learned this lesson the hard way when a malpractice claim he pursued on behalf of a plaintiff, turned into a malpractice claim against him for failing to secure the right expert.

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Tis the Season of Gift Giving (Policies)

Whether it’s a fruit basket from a vendor or an employee gift exchange, it’s that time of year when the approaching holidays can stir up a frenzy of gift giving in the office. Many companies find themselves struggling to define what is appropriate, fair and festive when it comes to holiday gift giving. Certainly no one wants to be a Grinch, but creating a clear gift policy ahead of time is an easy way to avoid controversy and liability. Consider the following tips when creating a company gift policy.

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Social Media Use Before and During Trial

Often, the fate of your client is in the hands of a group of strangers. These strangers, aka jurors, will determine whether your client is guilty or innocent, liable or not. Sure, jurors’ decisions are based on their evaluation of the evidence, credibility, and the law but verdicts are also reached due to juror bias, personal experience, or tendencies. Thus, the process of selecting a jury is critical and attorneys utilize various methods and strategies in picking only those strangers more likely to decide in their client's favor. Given that a large population of the juror pool utilizes social-media, it may be tempting for attorneys to tap into this wealth of information during voir dire and throughout the trial. Before checking out a would-be juror’s Facebook profile, however, consider the following.

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Managing Client Expectations – A Must for Professionals

Managing client expectations is a critical risk management skill necessary to ensure a healthy professional relationship. Every communication provides an opportunity to revisit and redefine expectations. A professional who sets and fails to deliver upon lofty expectations is in an uncomfortable and potentially litigious situation. There are several tools available to the professional to help curb expectations and limit the damage when (inevitably) the result doesn’t go as planned.

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Legal Implications of Philadelphia’s Deadly Building Collapse

On June 5 two Philadelphia buildings collapsed, killing 6 and injuring at least 13 others. Contractors were in the process of demolishing an empty building when a four-story wall unexpectedly tumbled into the neighboring Salvation Army thrift store leaving a pile of debris and a cloud of smoke. Philadelphians, and beyond, are searching for answers and debating over who is to blame.

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When Negligence is a Crime: Part II

In a prior post, we discussed When Negligence = Murder and profiled a building defect dispute which resulted in the death of a firefighter. In a similar vein, a nurse’s refusal to perform CPR on a collapsed woman dying in a California independent living complex has launched a criminal investigation and sparks new concerns about protocols at independent living facilities. State officials in California are taking a close look at the nurse’s conduct and at retirement facility policies after a lengthy 911 call was released in which an emergency dispatcher is heard pleading with a facility nurse to provide CPR on the dying resident. The nurse’s refusal to attempt resuscitation has opened the door to inquiries about the facility’s protocol and about potential civil and/or criminal liability for failing to render adequate care.

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