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.

The DC Bar recently issued an ethics opinion addressing law firm dissolutions to help attorneys navigate the various rules of professional conduct that are implicated when a law firm terminates its existence as a legal entity.   The Bar began …

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Lawyers are Stressed Out

Running a professional practice can be stressful.  To be successful, professionals often must work long hours, under tight time constraints, and respond to the needs of demanding clients, while simultaneously working to manage their business and market themselves to new clients.  For many professionals, the challenge of working in a professional practice is part of the reward.  However, for others, the work can at times be overwhelming. Statistically, an alarming percentage of the legal profession is stressed and, unfortunately, many are depressed.

Earlier this …

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No Office? No Right to Practice

Many attorneys are licensed to practice in multiple states.  By extending one’s practice across several jurisdictions, lawyers can expand the scope of services offered to their clients and increase their appeal.  However, in order to provide this service, lawyers must comply with certain laws requiring that the attorney maintain a physical office within the state in order to practice there.

For attorneys practicing in large firms whose footprint extends across several states, these rules may not pose a limitation. However, attorneys in smaller practices, who …

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Is the Unfinished Business Doctrine Finished?

Many professionals do not end their careers where they started. Professionals are on the move. The vast majority of professionals are impacted by the transition of a colleague from one firm to another. In fact, with the increase in online media covering the legal industry in particular, news of partner transitions is readily available. In a recent California case, a trustee of a bankrupt law firm has taken the position that the dissolved firm should retain all ongoing legal fees from cases started at the …

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“Trust me, I’m a lawyer”

Attorneys are people too. In the midst of negotiating/litigating on behalf of clients, attorneys also manage their own day-to-day lives. Attorneys sign leases, enter into contracts, negotiate with vendors and otherwise engage in discussions that are personal in nature. It may be tempting for attorneys to seek leverage by boasting their title as “esquire” or to disclose the attorney’s affiliation with a particular law firm. But, to do so may trigger legal and ethical implications.

In a recently filed complaint in the Eastern District of …

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Guilty by Law Office Association

It’s not uncommon for small or solo attorneys to join together with others to share in operating and overhead costs of running a law firm.  Attorneys can sometimes share office space, personnel and equipment yet run completely different practices independent of each other.  However, what happens when one attorney is sued?  Can any of the other attorneys also be held liable? Of course not, right? Well, according to a decision out of Tennessee it’s not entirely out of the question.

Wildasin v. Mathes, arose …

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Lawyer Sanctioned for Employee’s Misconduct

An attorney can’t be held accountable for her client’s breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct, right? Wrong. Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 provides that a lawyer cannot commingle a client’s property (i.e. money) with the lawyer’s. Seems simple enough: don’t mix personal with business.  However, what happens when the lawyer complies with this standard but her employee doesn’t?  According to a Texas state court, the lawyer is still responsible.

A Texas attorney was recently sanctioned and then temporarily banned from practicing law because …

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Professional Liability for Employee Misconduct

Professionals are often entrusted with access to personal and financial information from their clients.  Professionals take great care to ensure that they protect this information from disclosure and that they comply with ethical guidelines regarding proper use of client funds.  However, even when professionals fully comply with the rules, there may be occasions where employees or other individuals who have access to the information through their professional employer use it for an improper purpose.  While professionals cannot always prevent employee misconduct, the actions they take …

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Initial Consult Fee ≠ A/C Relationship

We recently addressed the ethical implications of the initial, would-be client interview. As we discussed, the lawyer owes certain duties to a potential client and those duties vary from those owed to former and current clients.  Whether an attorney-client relationship is actually formed can dictate whether a lawyer has a conflict of interest down the road when representing a new client.  A recent decision out of the North Dakota Supreme court illustrates this concept.

The case centered around a child custody dispute.  The family law …

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The Ethics of Professional Crowdfunding

Starting up a successful professional practice requires ingenuity, business acumen, and a passion for the profession, but it also requires cash.  In order to overcome financial barriers, some entrepreneurial professionals have looked to crowdfunding as an alternative method for raising capital.  By utilizing social media and dedicated crowdfunding websites, professionals are now in a stronger position than ever to pitch their brand and solicit donations from large numbers of individuals in the general public.  Crowdfunding offers the promise of a quick source of revenue, but …

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