The Law for Lawyers Today

The Law for Lawyers Today

Ethics, Professional Responsibility and More

Category Archives: Law Practice Management

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Bring third-party funders out of “the shadows,” U.S. Chamber asks federal rules committee

Posted in Conflicts, Fees, Law Practice Management
Litigation funding is in the news again, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spearheading a request to amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require initial disclosure of all third-party agreements for compensation that are “contingent on, and sourced from, any proceeds of the civil action, by settlement, judgment or otherwise.” The Chamber joined… Continue Reading

Join ‘em if you can’t beat ‘em? NC considers ethics rule changes to aid Avvo-like services

Posted in Advertising and Solicitation, Fees, Law Practice Management
Avvo Legal Services has been meeting with North Carolina bar regulators, resulting in a draft proposal that would amend several legal ethics rules and make it easier for Avvo to operate in the Tar Heel State, according to Prof. Alberto Bernabe, a Chicago law professor who has seen some of the relevant documents, and blogged about them… Continue Reading

Tech innovation must shape legal practice, ABA Futures Comm’n chair says

Posted in Law Practice Management, Social Media and Internet
What is the future of legal services in the U.S.?  How should the enormous unmet need for services — to the middle class and to the poor — be met?  Judy Perry Martinez, the Chair of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, was in Cleveland last week, and discussed the Commission’s 100+ page report… Continue Reading

What if? Ohio board issues succession-planning guide for lawyers

Posted in Competence, Law Practice Management
What if you suddenly became disabled and couldn’t handle your law practice?  Or, if you were to die, who would deal with your pending matters?  Who has the password for your computer?  Who knows where you bank?  The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct last week published an ethics guide titled “Succession Planning” that addresses these issues, and it’s worthwhile reading if… Continue Reading

Corporate ethics compliance – challenges and benefits for both U.S. and global companies

Posted in In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management
* Our guest blogger is a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional (CCEP)® in Thompson Hine’s Dayton, Ohio office. A growing list of businesses are eager to promote a strong culture of ethical corporate compliance, and lawyers should be ready to get on board by developing knowledge and skills to address this need. Companies devoting resources to… Continue Reading

Client choice, communication are “paramount” when firm dissolves, says D.C. ethics opinion

Posted in Law firm break-ups
Dissolving a law firm is a process, not an event, the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee said in a new opinion released earlier this month, and some ethical obligations continue even after dissolution.  “The paramount” principle, said the committee, is to “continue to competently, zealously and diligently represent and communicate with the clients during the… Continue Reading

Digital dilemma: Who owns litigation database when partners leave a firm?

Posted in Law firm break-ups, Law Practice Management
A high-profile duel over rights to a legal database is playing out in state court in Boston. The warring parties are six former partners and the asbestos defense firm they left, allegedly taking with them high-value file management and other databases. The case, filed in November, raises the question: When partners leave, does a database that includes client information belong to the clients they take with them? Or to the old firm, which says it has invested heavily in developing the proprietary database?… Continue Reading

How should firms deal with impaired lawyers? Virginia opinion points to duties

Posted in In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management
The new year heralds a new start.  Many lawyers who struggle with an addiction — alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, sex — use the occasion to resolve to quit their harmful behavior, and there is a nationwide network of confidential bar organizations that can help.  But what are the obligations of a firm where an impaired lawyer works?  A… Continue Reading

Batting clean-up on 2016: positional conflicts, settlements and your firm letterhead

Posted in Conflicts, How Not to Practice, Law Practice Management
You may have some holiday leftovers lurking in your fridge (potato latkes, Xmas goose, black-eyed peas, New Year’s Eve caviar), and we too have some interesting ethics topics that we didn’t have room for during 2016 — so here’s a potpourri, touching on positional conflicts, coercive settlements and maybe how not to use your firm’s… Continue Reading

What can you say when the client doesn’t pay? ABA opinion gives withdrawal guidance

Posted in Communication, Confidentiality, Law Practice Management
Old-time lawyers say that it used to be easy to get the court's permission to withdraw from a case. You would just go to the judge and state, "Your Honor, we are not ready to go forward, and I am seeking leave to withdraw, because Mr. Green has not arrived." You know: "Mr. Green" aka the moolah, aka the promised fee from the client. And, so the story goes, the judge would bang the gavel and grant your motion.… Continue Reading

Warning from WA: lawyer’s post-employment interviews with former employees not privileged

Posted in In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management, Privilege
A sharply-divided Washington Supreme Court has ruled that an organization's attorney-client privilege doesn't apply to communications between the company's lawyers and its former employees. Although Newman v. Highland School District No. 23o adheres to a minority viewpoint, the implications are troubling, and the bright-line test that the state supreme court established in a case of first impression will require new cautions in cases where Washington state privilege law applies.… Continue Reading

Being a technology “dinosaur” leads to license surrender in the Great North

Posted in How Not to Practice, Law Practice Management
Technophobia isn't confined to U.S. lawyers -- no surprise, it affects Canadian members of the bar, too, with the same potentially disastrous results. Last month's cautionary tale: a lawyer who was technologically illiterate failed to supervise his wife, who ran his office and used his bar credentials to misappropriate more than $3000,000 without his knowledge. Canadian disciplinary authorities permitted him to surrender his license voluntarily, instead of revoking it.… Continue Reading

LinkedIn “endorsement” upgrade shows need to monitor what others say about you online

Posted in Advertising and Solicitation, Law Practice Management, Social Media and Internet
LinkedIn last week announced a "rethinking" of its endorsement feature, first launched in 2012. Starting with its mobile app, the service says it has "improved targeting" so people looking at your profile will see the endorsements for you that are most relevant to them. Coming on the heels of this development, a new Ohio ethics opinion reminds us that we should be monitoring endorsements and other kinds of testimonials to ensure they are within ethical bounds.… Continue Reading

Ethics opinion nixes use of verein names in TX, but firms say “Business as usual.”

Posted in Disqualification, Law Practice Management, Multi-jurisdictional practice, Unauthorized practice
As we've predicted before, the increasing globalization of high-level legal practice continues to create questions about forms of legal practice – in particular, vereins, a structure aimed at letting firms based in different countries operate under a unified brand. Mega-firms Fulbright & Jaworski and Dentons have faced motions to disqualify centered on structural issues, and now a Texas ethics opinion issued last month questions whether lawyers in the Lone Star state can use a verein name on pleadings.… Continue Reading

Five signs that your law department could be headed for a privilege problem

Posted in Confidentiality, In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management, Privilege
Regulatory compliance, cyber-security issues, herding legal operations staff -- in-house legal practice is more complex than ever. One element that remains a continuing challenge is protecting the organization's attorney-client privilege. Slipping up can risk the loss of the privilege in litigation involving the company, and can potentially result in an order to produce otherwise confidential communications to the other side. What are some signs that your law department needs to tune up its privilege IQ?… Continue Reading

Can you copyright your legal brief? District court says “yes,” and finds infringement

Posted in How Not to Practice, In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management
Under deadline pressure to produce a brief? You've found one online in a public database that fits your case to a T? If you've always thought that you can make free use of another lawyer's brief, think again. You just might get sued for copyright infringement -- successfully. In Newegg Inc. v. Ezra Sutton, P.A., a California U.S. district court made that point earlier this month, when it granted partial summary judgment to plaintiff Newegg on its infringement claim -- but Newegg has come in for some criticism for pushing the case.… Continue Reading

ABA amends model ethics rules to prohibit discrimination, harassment

Posted in In-house Counsel, Law Practice Management
On Tuesday, the ABA House of Delegates amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to add a provision barring harassment or discrimination in all conduct related to a lawyer's practice of law. After months of debate, comment and revision, the revised Resolution 109 passed on a voice vote, without dissenting comment from the floor. The version adopted reflects an amendment introduced last month, which lowered the bar for a finding of misconduct from strict liability to a "knows or should know" standard.… Continue Reading

4th Circuit to decide whether forfeiture clause in partnership agreement violates D.C. ethics rules

Posted in Law firm break-ups, Law Practice Management
The opening brief has been filed in a Fourth Circuit appeal that’s sure to be closely watched by the 100,000 members of the D.C. bar, as well as others. A key issue in Moskowitz v. Jacobson Holman PLLC is whether a law firm partnership agreement can reduce a partner’s equity payout if the partner walks out the door with clients. The district court said that the provision violates ethics rules, and is therefore unenforceable as against public policy.… Continue Reading

Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn could spell ethics issues for lawyers

Posted in Confidentiality, Law Practice Management, Social Media and Internet
Microsoft's plans to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion was the talk of the tech world late last month. The combination of these behemoths is going to give Microsoft access to all LinkedIn's data. Microsoft's CEO has given some examples of the potential synergies that will result, like "getting a feed of potential experts from LinkedIn whenever Office notices you're working on a relevant task." But legal ethics issues loom, involving our duty of confidentiality under Rule 1.6.… Continue Reading

Panama Papers spotlight danger of failing to screen for problem clients

Posted in How Not to Practice, Law Practice Management
The leak of millions of documents apparently hacked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonesca has exposed the tax strategies of some of the world’s elite.  But the Panama Papers also shine a light on some failures of Mossack Fonesca to screen out problematic clients — failures of due diligence that the firm itself recognized. Petropars and the Iranian… Continue Reading

Unpaid legal interns’ work can be billed to clients as fees or costs, NY state bar ass’n says

Posted in Communication, Fees, Law Practice Management
In today's soft legal services market, some aspiring members of the profession feel pressure to work for free, but the fairness of such arrangements in general has come under scrutiny. In a twist, the New York State Bar Association earlier this month said that law firms could bill clients for services provided by unpaid legal interns, as long as the amount is not excessive, and the internship program complies with applicable law. … Continue Reading

Documenting who you do — and don’t — represent is key to avoiding malpractice trap

Posted in Engagement letters, Law Practice Management
We’ve blogged about this before, but if you need any more reasons to be sure that you document who your client is and is not, see the Oregon court of appeals opinion in Lahn v. Vaisbort. “I represent only your brother” In Lahn, the lawyer had represented the plaintiff, her brother and another individual as lenders in… Continue Reading

Don’t bcc your client on e-mails to opposing counsel, NY state bar advises

Posted in Communication, Competence, Law Practice Management, Privilege
What’s ethical may nonetheless not be a best practice — timely advice from the ethics committee of the New York State Bar Association, which weighed in recently with an ethics opinion on the practice of blind copying your client on e-mails you send to opposing counsel. The inquiry to the NYSBA’s Committee on Professional Ethics arose because the… Continue Reading