Professionals are often approached by friends and family for advice. At times, the particular issue might not fall squarely within the professional’s area of expertise or may involve a matter outside of the jurisdiction in which they are licensed to practice. Although the matter involves a seemingly trivial task, professionals cannot forego ethical standards simply because they happen to be close with the individual seeking assistance.
Many professionals are bound by a code of professional conduct. Sure, we have to play by the rules but those rules may require that we ensure others do as well. In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Professional Conduct considered the circumstances in which an attorney is required to report rule violations by others. The Board addresses two specific questions in its opinion: (a) whether a lawyer prosecuting a malpractice case is obligated to report the defendant lawyer to the disciplinary authority and (b) whether the information acquired form the client regarding their prior lawyer’s conduct is privileged, thereby eliminating any duty to report.
Many of us are perfectly comfortable publishing to an anonymous, online audience what we ate for dinner, our political views, relationship status, the argument we had with a cashier, or other personal details. This is not uncommon on various forms of social networking. But, when it comes to professional relationships, there are rules to follow. As a result, today's professionals must pause before airing dirty laundry concerning a client or former client. Doing so risks violating ethical duties to former clients of confidentiality and can impair reputations.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, are designed to chill free speech by targeting individuals who speak out on issues of public interest. SLAPP plaintiffs generally do not intend to win on the merits of the lawsuit, but instead seek to harass critics by forcing them to incur legal fees in defending frivolous claims. Consequently, many states have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes to protect petition and free speech rights. These statutes protect statements made before a government body or in a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest from legal liability. Attorneys facing lawsuits for statements made on behalf of a client in a judicial proceeding have looked to anti-SLAPP statutes to provide protection for claims arising from those statements.
Monitoring Matters: In the first portion of this series, we examined how a recent New Jersey case highlighted the benefits of the law firm structure. Next we explore the risks, and responsibilities, of a supervising attorney at a law firm. Often, a good team is the most critical component of producing excellent services. A well-trained, productive, and properly supervised staff is undoubtedly an asset, but delegating to your team can present its own challenges. With this in mind, it is important for any attorney with supervisory capacity to keep a close eye on co-workers for, under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the attorney remains liable for the ultimate work product.
Pro hac vice admission is a valuable tool for an attorney seeking to practice in a state in which she is not licensed. A Latin term meaning “for this turn,” pro hac vice is a relatively simple process, requiring only a sponsor attorney and that the out-of-state attorney seeking admission be in good standing in her home state. However, pro hac vice admission is not without risks, as illustrated by a recent New Jersey case.
Attorneys are expected to show the utmost respect when appearing before the judiciary. There is a line that differentiates zealous advocacy and disrespect. In a recent decision, a New Jersey attorney learned a valuable lesson about bad mouthing the court, even if that court sits in another jurisdiction.
It is inevitable that blame will be cast on the auditor: when an investment tanks, when embezzlement is discovered, when stocks take a plunge. It is the independent auditor that concluded that the financial statements were presented fairly and therefore the auditor should have uncovered the ______________. Many plaintiffs follow this script. As a result, the defending auditor is left to argue that he is not responsible for the intentional acts of others or unforeseen changes in the underlying client’s business. This defense requires a fact intensive debate and the involvement of CPA experts; i.e. it's expensive. A recent decision out of California, however, provides a strong argument for auditors that the plaintiff must establish actual reliance on the audit report in order to prove a claim.
Quarterback Matt Barkley was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 98th pick in the 2013 NFL draft. He was the fourth quarterback selected and was the first selection in the fourth round. History suggests that he will sign a four-year contract worth about $2.5 million. Sure, that’s a lot of dough, but not nearly what Barkley would have earned had he foregone his senior season at USC and entered the NFL draft in 2012. As a projected top-10 pick last year, Barkley would have made a minimum of $12 million guaranteed. His only guaranteed pay this year could be a signing bonus in the $500,000 range. Interesting reading, for some, but why does Professional Liability Matters care? Because Barkley could have purchased “draft insurance” last year which could have saved him millions.