Does Client Know You’re Uninsured?

Between required law school classes and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, attorneys are given considerable training on the rules of professional conduct before starting a career.  Attorneys get further refreshers on the rules when reviewing potential clients and the occasional issues that arise during representation.  But how many attorneys review the rules of professional conduct that apply to the specific jurisdictions in which they practice? Considering the heavy overlap between the different states and model rules of professional conduct, doing so may seem like a …

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Objecting to Objections

Attorneys strive to be zealous advocates for their clients.  Not surprisingly, when defending depositions, attorneys are often tempted to object to questions that they perceive to be damaging to their client’s case, even if the question itself is not improper.  Attorneys should be cautious, however, to avoid making excessive objections that are not likely to be sustained.

In a recent employment discrimination lawsuit, attorneys representing the defendant made hundreds of objections over the course of four depositions that the plaintiff characterized as frivolous and …

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Fee Shifting with Non-Lawyers

As a general matter, the Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit lawyers from sharing fees with non-attorneys.  However, there are certain exceptions to that rule.  Rule 5.4 states that “a lawyer or law firm may include non-lawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement.” A recent case out of Pennsylvania describes how a non-lawyer attempted to put this exception into action, albeit unsuccessfully.

The case originated with a complaint filed in …

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Unethical ≠ Negligent

It’s not uncommon to see allegations of ethical breaches incorporated into malpractice claims. Former clients may argue that their attorney’s failure to comply with the rules of professional conduct evidences negligence. Often, however, that’s insufficient to sustain a claim. An ethical breach may be considered by the fact-finder but, without more, is unlikely to support a claim. Consider the recent decision from the New York State Appellate Division which continued a trend of dismissing legal malpractice claims based purely on ethical violations.

In Fletcher v

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The Ethical Breakup: How to Switch Firms

It’s just business, right? Not when it comes to the ethical and professional requirements associated with the transition to a new professional practice. Many professionals are seeking to expand their practice, or move, or add partners in an effort to acquire new talent. Some firms are streamlining and shrinking their practice. Under the right circumstances, departures may lead to mutually beneficial business opportunities for the departing professional and the former firm.  In other cases, however, the actions taken by departing professionals could lead to costly …

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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 …

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Referral Fees: The Logistics of Fee Sharing

Fee sharing is not unfamiliar to most attorneys.  Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(e) permits lawyers who are not in the same firm to share or divide a fee.  A typical example is when an attorney refers a case out to “trial counsel”.  But, fee sharing has its restrictions. For example, the Model Rules permit fee sharing only when the fee is reasonable, the client agrees to the arrangement and the division of the fee is proportionate to the share of each lawyer’s services or …

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Subpoenas and Ethical Duties to Clients

Subpoenas provide a means to obtain testimony or documents from a non-party. Many lawyers routinely issue subpoenas during the discovery or trial phases of litigation. But lawyers are sometimes on the receiving end of a subpoena. This is when things get a bit tricky.

Generally a lawyer is not authorized to reveal information relating to the representation of a client.  An exception, found in Model Rule 1.6(b)(6), is when a lawyer “reasonably believes necessary to comply with other law or court order.”  Therefore, when a …

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Social Media Ethical Considerations

You love blogging. Who doesn’t? For some professionals, blogging is an important part of education, outreach and networking. But, as we’ve discussed previously, blogs may be considered advertising and, if so, ethical considerations apply. The State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility recently circulated a proposed opinion for public comment that addresses the ethical implications of blogging by attorneys.  The opinion considers when a communication subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct on attorney advertising.

The opinion sets forth several situations involving attorney …

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Partner? Associate? Of Counsel? Does it Matter for Conflict Purposes?

Pursuant to ABA Model Rule 1.10, a single attorney’s conflict of interest may be imputed to the entire law firm. The Rule provides that while lawyers are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so under the Rules.  It is not uncommon for lawyers to have different associations with a particular firm—for example the term “of counsel” is often used to designate a role different from the …

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