Attorneys: Be a Watchdog for Your Accountant Clients

The standard of care governing every professional begins with the scope of the engagement. That may seem fairly obvious to those in the professional malpractice community but it is often misunderstood by laypeople. Isn't a CPA engaged to detect fraud? Isn't a lawyer engaged to win my case? One of the difficult aspects of defending a malpractice case is overcoming the lay perspective of the precise role of a professional. Often the defense of a professional can turn on whether the fact finder fully understands the distinct role of the professional in the limited context of the facts presented. Accordingly, professionals should be proactive in ensuring that the parties and others refer to the applicable professional standard that governs the case.
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Privilege for Public Relations Team?

In the wake of recent well-publicized public relations nightmares, your friends at PL Matters considered the impact of PR firms on professionals. Public relations are a critical aspect of maintaining status in the public eye, communicating a message to consumers, and helping to promote a positive image. As a result, professionals often rely on outside PR professionals, both for their own business needs and the needs of their clients. But have you considered the implications of disclosing sensitive information to an outside PR firm?
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Lawyers ≠ Partnering with Non-Lawyers

Law firm financing has become an increasingly complex and interesting aspect of the legal business. From personal injury litigation loans, to the financing of the Gawker lawsuit by a Silicon Valley billionaire, it appears many want to get a piece of a lawsuit these days. However, the Second Circuit recently affirmed a district court ruling that law firms are still forbidden fruit for third-party financiers.
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Ethics of Law Firm Dissolutions

All good things must come to an end. Professional firms are no exception. There are many reasons that a professional firm may close its doors; however, regardless of the cause, professionals must remain cognizant of their ethical duties to third-parties and clients throughout the dissolution process.
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Bankruptcy Law Preempts State Claim for Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings

The Automatic Stay under U.S. Bankruptcy law is a powerful tool in the judicial system. By filing for bankruptcy, a person or entity immediately creates a cocoon of safety that is generally impenetrable without subjecting the offending party to punitive repercussions. In fact, even parties without knowledge of the bankruptcy filing may nevertheless face consequences from the presiding bankruptcy court for violating the Automatic Stay. Of course, this does not mean that parties can use a bankruptcy petition solely to protect themselves from outside pressures. The bankruptcy rules also allow a court to impose sanctions upon a party or its attorney if it the petition is found to have been filed frivolously. However, a Pennsylvania trial court recently reaffirmed that it remains within the bankruptcy court’s sole discretion to do so, and that any similar state court claim is preempted by federal law.
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IRS Warns CPAs: Beware of Phishing

Businesses are increasingly becoming the targets of sophisticated cyber-attacks, and professionals are no exception. When cyber-criminals breach a professional service firm, they not only may gain access to the firm’s corporate data, but also confidential information from the firm’s clients. Therefore, it is incumbent on all professionals to make data security a priority.
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CPA Takes Advantage of Procedural Quirk

The idiosyncratic nature of the Louisiana legal system is one that is noted, if not explored, in many law schools around the country. Even as early as high school, many teachers will explain that Louisiana is unique insofar as its legal system is based primarily on Spanish and French civil law, rather than the British tradition used in the other 49 states. The differences between Louisiana and the rest of the country do not end there, however, and a large accounting firm was recently successful in obtaining dismissal of an action based on a Louisiana-specific accounting malpractice statute.
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Family Feud leads to Privity Lesson

A somewhat bizarre family feud presents an interesting evaluation of the general requirement of privity in order to maintain a legal malpractice claim. Consider the circumstances of when an attorney is appointed by the court to administer an estate. Who is the client? A Kansas appellate court examined this situation in Schroeder v. Brewer, 2017 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 101 (Kan. Ct. App. Feb. 17, 2017) which addresses whether an attorney may be held liable for legal malpractice while representing an Estate “against” the beneficiaries of the estate.
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Sign, Sign, Everywhere Assign

Professionals owe a duty to their clients to satisfy the standard of care commonly exhibited by others within their profession. Consequently, privity is often required to maintain a malpractice claim; i.e. it is often the client with the exclusive right to sue her professional. This narrow application of standing assumes, however, that clients have retained their exclusive right to sue. In fact, as with many torts, clients may freely assign their right to file malpractice actions to third parties, even those that are adverse to the client in the underlying litigation.
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Attorney + CEO = Coverage Denied

Attorney? Check. CEO? Check. Coverage? Unlikely. Some attorneys wear multiple hats. We have other interests, other business ventures, other opportunities to make a buck. Attorneys are often exposed to other areas of business depending on the nature of their practice. Through their role as counsel, or through other opportunities, some attorneys become more directly involved in non-legal businesses. The more traditional route is to switch to in-house counsel, but sometimes attorneys will go so far as to start a new company. While both are commonplace and not inherently problematic, issues begin to arise when an attorney is both practicing law and working for a company. The blurring of the line between lawyer and business executive not only creates potential conflicts of interest, but may have coverage consequences.
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