99 Problems But A Conflict Ain’t One

Conflicts must always be at the forefront of an attorney’s mind throughout the life of an attorney-client relationship. An attorney’s first duty is to her client, but what happens when a witness in a case also seeks representation? Can you represent a party as well as a witness? Such a question creates the potential risk of disqualification, as illustrated by a recent lawsuit involving hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
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Case Closed? Ethical Obligations Upon Termination of Representation

Under Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 1.16, a lawyer must safeguard a client’s property and deliver it promptly to the client upon the client’s request and upon termination of representation a lawyer shall take whatever steps are reasonably practical to protect a client’s interest. The ABA recently issued a formal opinion clarifying and updating a lawyer’s ethical obligations under these Rules and addressing practical considerations regarding the application of these Rules to practice.
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The Ethical Implications of Legal Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting on behalf of pro se litigants has sparked an interesting debate. Although unrepresented parties may be at a bit of a disadvantage when presenting their position to a represented adversary, some may take advantage of an attorney lending assistance behind the scenes. Legal ghostwriting is one form of “limited-scope representation”, or the unbundling of legal services, a practice in which a client retains an attorney for limited tasks as opposed to the traditional handling of all aspects of a matter. Rules regarding this practice vary widely by jurisdiction; many federal courts do not allow it but many state courts do.
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Professionals Don’t Kiss and Tell

Professionals love to promote their success stories. Securing major victories can help attract new clients and help establish professional reputation. This is especially true of attorneys, who are often solicited to comment on public aspects of a case once it has concluded. However, post-case commentary could lead to a violation of the attorney’s duty of confidentiality—even when the information discussed concerns issues that are widely known or publicly available.
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Perusing Privileged Papers Prohibited

What to do? When reviewing discovery provided by your adversary you stumble upon a privileged document. It happens…sometimes privileged materials fall through the cracks and into the hands of opposing counsel. Do you read it, burn it, return it? According to a recent New Jersey decision, reading an inadvertently produced privileged document may be grounds for disqualification.
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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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Moonlighting: Perils of Working on the Side

Moonlighting is the practice of working for more than one employer or working for yourself while working for an employer. Professionals who moonlight may be asking for trouble. Many employers have policies forbidding the practice, some going so far as to deem it grounds for immediate termination. A recent case provides an extreme example of moonlighting at its worst.
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Use of Ethics Investigation in Legal Malpractice Suit

Ethics violations and legal malpractice are two distinct realms that often intersect. There are often unsettled lines between professional responsibility and professional liability and, accordingly, between attorney disciplinary systems and the civil justice system. Clients expect and deserve accountability, not only for professional negligence but also for their attorneys’ conduct. So what happens when a client initiates an ethics investigation, but also initiates a legal malpractice action? Can information from the former come into play in the latter?
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NY Ethics Opinion Provides Guidance for LinkedIn Users

LinkedIn is perhaps the go to social media site for professionals seeking to promote their achievements and build their brand. LinkedIn has carved a niche within the social media landscape by integrating networking capabilities with the specific needs of professionals hoping to build relationships. Of course, the site also allows users to “endorse” a connection for certain practice areas or to write recommendations as to the user’s skillset. It is this component of the site that has generated professional ethics issues and opinions. Moreover, the distinction between permissible networking and improper advertising is not always well defined. The NY County Lawyers Association Professional Ethics Committee recently published a formal ethics opinion that provides guidance to attorneys using sites such as LinkedIn.
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