Ethics & Professional Responsibility

This is a question that comes up more often, particularly as the lines between “work” and “home” continue to blur, and as more law firms implement bring-your-own-device policies. Although this question comes up most often with cell phones, the same concerns may arise with tablets, laptops, and other technology. Can lawyers use a single cell phone (or other device) for both work and personal purposes? Should they?
I do not believe there is a bright line here. There
Continue Reading Should Lawyers Have Separate Work and Personal Devices?

Unless you’re immersed in the Wisconsin legal world (and aren’t we all?) you may not know that Wisconsin does not permanently disbar lawyers. “Revocation” is the most serious penalty our Rules allow, but no matter how egregious the conduct leading to revocation, the attorney can petition the Supreme Court for reinstatement after five years.
Nobody is guaranteed reinstatement (in fact, that’s true of anyone suspended for six months or more), and certainly some misconduct is so unforgivable that
Continue Reading Will Lifetime Disbarment Be a Thing in Wisconsin?

Representing your client can often be a delicate balance, especially when your client is difficult or unpredictable. There are circumstances under which an attorney is required to withdraw from representation.1 In other circumstances, attorneys may withdraw from representation if the withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client.2

Attorneys will inevitably encounter situations requiring or permitting withdrawal. Screening potential clients, setting client expectations, and communication are key to setting an outline
Continue Reading Withdrawal: How to Avoid Those Messy Ethics Issues

Thirteen years ago today, I graduated from law school. I became a lawyer 13 years ago tomorrow. (Thank you, diploma privilege.) Combined with the fact that I was an older student, nine years out of undergrad when I started law school, now I am firmly middle aged and mid-career. I think that means I’m neither the target audience nor, well, the target, when people write derisively (or admiringly) about millennials or Boomers. (Generation X is perpetually forgotten
Continue Reading "Are Senior Lawyers Ruining The Profession?" No, But This Isn't Helping, Either.

I was in California this week for a family funeral, and I was prepared to write this blog entry about all of the grace and understanding colleagues and adversaries have shown. Extensions, offers to cover, and forgiveness for delays were free-flowing. And that’s true, and maybe I will write about that at some point, because this profession is a whole lot less horrible when we can acknowledge each other’s humanity.
No, today I’ll write about that time (today) someone
Continue Reading Wherein The Cobbler’s Children Actually Have Shoes For Once

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Godfather. The gangster flick is consistently rated as one of the greatest movies ever made, and its popularity has only increased with age.

Although the characters in the movie care more about skirting the law than following it, there are several moments in the film that carry important legal lessons.
‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse’
When Vito Corleone says, “I’m gonna make him
Continue Reading What ‘The Godfather’ Taught Me About Practicing Law

Bloomberg Law is reporting that Vrdolyak Law Group, based in Illinois, has been sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for secretly recording employee phone calls and and meetings without permission, and then concealing their efforts.
Now, Illinois has some pretty stringent eavesdropping laws and is a two-party consent state, which means that absent particular circumstances, all parties to a conversation need to consent to recording it. So the particular course of action may
Continue Reading Play Invasion of Privacy Games, "Win" Invasion of Privacy Lawsuits

Last month, I wrote about the 65 Project and wondered out loud about attorney discipline by popular acclaim.I remain wondering/ambivalent about that particular mechanism, but the folks at the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for Legal Ethics at Hofstra University’s Deane School of Law have invited me and a fantastic panel of others—including Michael Teter, the 65 Project’s executive director—to have that conversation at a Zoom event, “Holding Trump’s Lawyers Accountable.”The panel begins at 5:10 PM Central/6:10 PM
Continue Reading Put a Question Out to the Universe and the Universe Responds

This week, we learned about a new group, the 65 Project, dedicated to seeking professional discipline for lawyers involved in President Trump’s post-election litigation. Already, complaints have been filed with several states’ regulators. The “65” refers to the number of post-election lawsuits that were filed, that, in the group’s words, were “based on lies to overturn the election and give Trump a second term.”

Here in Wisconsin, the group has filed a grievance against GOP attorneys James Troupis
Continue Reading So, What Do We All Think About the 65 Project?

Remember getting accosted at cocktail parties and weddings? Your cousin’s date found out you’re a lawyer and has a question or twelve for you about their esoteric legal issue. Before you can get a word in, you’ve learned that the date lives in Oregon, the problem arose in Florida, and involves various distinctions between importing live poultry and importing poultry that has been processed for retail grocery sale.
Or, more commonly these days, you fire up your social media
Continue Reading “So, Great Party Here, Mind If I Ask You A Few Questions About Admiralty Law?”

(Alternative Title: Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Sex With Clients But Didn’t Even Think To Ask)
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.
Model Rule 1.8(j) (Wisconsin counterpart here) is the one Rule (other than, perhaps, don’t steal from your clients) that non-lawyers seem to know. Not that this has ever been polled, but if I had to guess, it’s the Rule that attorneys other than professional responsibility lawyers can cite most often without looking up. Law students try
Continue Reading Roses are Red, Rainclouds are Gray, What You Want With Your Client Breaks 1.8(j)

Yesterday, I failed to follow my own advice and answered a “social media subpoena.” You know the social media subpoena—the tag on Facebook or the mention on Twitter or the [whatever] on [platform I don’t use], from someone who wants you to answer a legal question.I typically advise people to tread carefully before answering those questions and then maybe not answer them at all—they may not be competent to answer; they may unknowingly have or be creating a conflict;
Continue Reading Wherein the Author Tries To Explain 3.1 Using Bad Math Analogies

When I last tried to write about breaking news, it was about this crowdsourced/crypto/litigation funding/securities/whatever it is, and because blockchain is that one thing I will probably never understand well enough to write about, I gave up. That entry remains in drafts and will probably die there.
But anyway, today’s breaking news is not that.  We learned that the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attacks on the Capitol issued subpoenas for Rudy Giuliani, Jenna
Continue Reading So, Wait, *I* Can Be Subpoenaed?

State v. Daimon Von Jackson, Jr., 2019AP2383, 12/29/21, District 2 (not recommended for publication) case activity (including briefs)

Jackson admitted being involved in a planned robbery that ended in the shooting death of its target. He said–and eyewitness testimony and physical evidence corroborated–that he wasn’t the shooter; instead he said he was the lookout. The state charged him with felony murder, armed robbery and being a felon in possession of a gun. Eventually, he entered a plea to
Continue Reading Trial Court Didn’t Err in Preventing Client from Firing Lawyer for Failure to Communicate

Senior Vice President Tom Watson To Succeed KunzkeWisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company President and CEO Katja Kunzke is retiring after more than 17 years in the top spot. Kunzke took over the position in June of 2004. She will leave WILMIC as the longest-serving President and CEO in the company’s 35-year history.Kunzke piloted WILMIC through a wave of change in technology, shifts in the lawyer population in Wisconsin, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. During her tenure, WILMIC has
Continue Reading Longtime WILMIC CEO Katja Kunzke retiring

My spouse is not a lawyer, but occasionally we run in the same professional circles. He’s had this conversation more than once:
Person: “Hey! How are things?”
Spouse: “Things are well. You?”
Person: “Not bad. I’ve been meaning to tell you, Stacie really helped me out with that grievance last month, so please thank her for me.”
Spouse: “Oh? I didn’t know.”
Person: “You didn’t?! Wow.”
I would like to say that the lawyers reading this understand why I
Continue Reading On That Imagined Spousal Exception to 1.6