Watch those hypotheticals, says ABA in new opinion on blogs, tweets, “public commentary” We’ve written before about the breadth of the duty of confidentiality we owe to our clients, and how it even extends to matters that you think are safe to discuss because they are of “public record.”   (See here and here.)  Now comes the ABA’s latest on the subject of lawyer “public commentary” — Formal Opinion 480 (Mar. View Full Post
Litigation privilege didn’t shield lawyer’s demand letter; defamation suit vs. Bill Cosby revived One of Bill Cosby’s accusers can continue with her defamation suit, the California state court of appeals said in an opinion late last year, holding that the trial court erred when it used the state’s anti-SLAPP law to partially strike Janice Dickinson’s complaint against the entertainer. View Full Post
Want to limit the scope of your representation?  You’d better document it. The concept of “unbundled” legal services is laid out in Model Rule 1.2(c), which provides that lawyers may limit the scope of their representation in reasonable ways, if the client gives informed consent.  The rule opens the way to representing a client as to one phase of a matter, or as to certain issues or tasks. View Full Post
“Unbundled” legal services under Model Rule 1.2, is a promising solution to the huge unmet need for legal services in the U.S. — a problem of such magnitude that it affects access to justice.  Limited-scope representation can be a boon for moderate-income clients, who can get legal help instead of going it alone, or turning to the internet for advice. View Full Post
Apocalypse now?  Two tales of dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation In the ethics class that I teach as an adjunct law prof, I refer to Model Rule 8.4(c) as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” because of the four things the rule prohibits:  dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation. While these ethical no-no’s are certainly not equivalent to the biblical “four horsemen” (Death, Famine, War and Conquest), violating Rule 8.4(c) can have a bad (if not apocalyptic) effect on your law license, as lawyers in Rhode Island and Oklahoma recently discovered in two separate disciplinary cases — each involving false documents. View Full Post
ABA proposes changes to lawyer ad rules; but referral-fee issue as to Avvo and others remains open The ABA is proposing changes to the Model Rules on lawyer advertising, modestly streamlining them and trying to re-establish their relevance to the way lawyers and clients interact in the digital age.  The proposed amendments and their supporting memo fail to make any express adjustment for the elephant in the room — on-line referral services like Avvo, and especially whether engaging with them involves lawyers in paying impermissible referral fees, as some recent state ethics opinions have found. View Full Post
Don’t fall down on competence — the first rule in the rule book Does the new year have you thinking about taking on work in a new practice area?  Maybe business in your accustomed area is slowing, and you’re considering shifting gears.  If so, beware of dabbling in areas where you don’t have the requisite knowledge and skill to provide competent representation to your client. View Full Post
Top legal ethics trends 2018:  cyber-safety, the “Uber effect,” and more Greetings 2018!  Time for some ethics trend predictions to kick off the Year of the Dog (according to the Chinese zodiac).  Let it be a year in which you doggedly pursue ethical practice (ouch).  No more bad puns — here’s what’s hot as we begin the year: Law firm cyber-security No surprise here that the top trend is data security.  View Full Post
ABA explains when former-client info is “generally known” and can be used Holiday parties are great times to socialize and network with colleagues.  But the casual atmosphere and the sometimes-plentiful adult beverages can also tempt you to tell war stories that reveal too much about your past clients, potentially violating your continuing duty of confidentiality under Model Rule 1.9View Full Post