Protecting Your Legal Practice

CSG’s Blog on Best Practices for Lawyers

State v. Martinez, just approved for publication,  offers some interesting lessons for criminal defense attorneys who seek to interview cooperating witnesses. It offers even more interesting lessons for the prosecutors who seek to surreptitiously record those interviews. Defense counsel are entitled to ask for an interview with any state’s witness. This witness advised prosecutors that the defense attorney would probably offer him money, presumably to change his story. Based on that allegation alone, prosecutors surreptitiously…
There are ethics issues playing out in the courtroom and legal media about the alleged  conduct of a Pennsylvania trial court judge and defense counsel in a case in which a jury awarded $8 billion (yes, billion) in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson in a Risperdal trial. J&J attorneys filed a recusal motion, among other post-judgment motions, which has already been denied. The alleged conduct will undoubtedly become part of J&J’s appellate strategy. Following…
A California Court ruled that depending on the terms and language of a Settlement Agreement – and whether the attorney signs it for any reason (where the attorney signed as approving to form and content) – an attorney may be bound to the confidentiality provisions contained therein.  In Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter, et al., California Sp. Ct., Case No. S251392, aff’d Fourth Appellate District, Division Two (E066267), the State Court held that the attorney’s…
The Appellate Division recently ruled that a retainer agreement which contained a mandatory arbitration clause, for both fee disputes and legal malpractice claims, is unenforceable against the firm’s former client,  under the circumstances. Delaney v. Trent S. Dickey and Sills Cummis & Gross, PC, Docket No. A-1726-17T4, decided August 23, 2019. Appellant Delaney sought the services of Sills in a business dispute with limited liability company partners. He was apparently dissatisfied with his original attorney and…
As the Model Rules of Professional Conduct demonstrate, a lawyer may serve many functions for a client: advisor, advocate, negotiator, or evaluator, to name a few.  Under any role, however, a lawyer is obligated to act with the best interests of his or her client in mind, even when the client is not paying for legal services.  In this regard, attorneys must be mindful that they owe the same professional duties to both paying and…
On June 25, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion Number 735, deciding that Lawyer A can ethically purchase a Google AdwordSM or keyword that is competitor Lawyer B’s name (e.g., Pat Smith Law Firm purchases a keyword for Alex Doe Law Firm, so that when users search “Alex Doe Law Firm,” Pat Smith Law Firm will also appear in the search results, generally as an “ad.”  Lawyer A,…
There are three basic components to an attorney’s eligibility to practice in the State of New Jersey: (1) annual registration, including making the required annual payments to the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection (N.J. Ct. R. 1:28); (2) fulfilling the bi-annual CLE reporting requirements; and (3) maintaining an IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) fund (N.J. Ct. R. 1:28A).  Noncompliance with any of these requirements may render an attorney ineligible to practice. Practicing law…
The ABCNY has issued Formal Opinion 2019-5, requiring a lawyer receiving payment in cryptocurrency to comply with RPC 1.8(a) (business transactions with client), concluding it is different than an ordinary fee agreement.  It is thus advisable for attorneys to become familiar with RPC 1.8(a) and not assume that a typical engagement letter will be sufficient. RPC 1.8(a) provides that: A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client if they have differing…
On June 25, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion Number 736, deciding that a lawyer is not per se prohibited from concurrently serving as a municipal prosecutor and planning board attorney in the same borough.  This Opinion represents the latest in an ongoing series over the years that have responded to RPC changes on the delicate and often complicated conflicts of interest analysis that accompanies the representation of…
A recent Appellate Division case exposes the pitfalls of “judge-shopping” by a former law clerk with the cooperation of the judge. In Goldfarb v. Solimine, Docket No.  A-3740-16T2, (June 26, 2019) the panel ruled that a plaintiff alleging promissory estoppel in an employment context was entitled to a new trial on damages after an unusual practice was exposed, and after the now-retired trial judge refused to recuse herself. Just prior to trial, the judge’s former…