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(This blog is about ridiculousness so I am using a stately stock gavel as the accompanying image.) In my ethics nerd friend circles, we often discuss “those cases.” “Those cases” either involve attorney discipline or judges admonishing attorneys for allegedly bad behavior outside of the disciplinary cases; they’re not of great importance or precedential value by themselves. But they act as cautionary tales and generate extra publicity and discussion (at least in my ethics nerd friend circles) because they involve some combination of vulgarity, sex, “really, you have a law license and thought this was a good idea?” and/or general…
There’s been a bit of a discussion on #legalethics Twitter (yes it’s a thing) about what lawyers are allowed to call themselves, professionally. I was surprised to learn that in Texas, lawyers are not allowed to use trade names for their law firms. They can use their own names and those of active, retired, or deceased partners, and can use entity designations such as “LLC.” Married women can use their maiden names (gee thanks for expressly enumerating that, Texas). But that’s about it. Wisconsin and most other jurisdictions, on the other hand, allow lawyers to call their firms almost…
(Someday, I will get back to writing about things other than coronavirus. Today is not that day. And someday I will find better pictures to accompany these posts. Today is also not that day.) I know a couple of lawyers who have presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Happily, all of them are doing well, even if it was bumpy for awhile. None of them have posed this question to me, but I’ve seen it elsewhere as a hypothetical—what are lawyers’ duties if they have become ill with COVID-19? I haven’t seen anything too specific about this. But it is…
The State Bar of Wisconsin Professional Ethics Committee (disclosure/spoiler alert: I sit on this committee) has released new guidance for working from home/being at home while trying to work. tl;dr;added snark: Don’t scatter your paperwork all over the dining room table if you don’t live alone. Make sure your WiFI is secure and maybe don’t call it “Confidential Legal Information Hub.” Make calls in private, behind a door that closes, even if it’s the shower door. And really, you don’t need to be That Guy at all while lawyering, and especially not now.…
First, thank you everyone for your messages of condolence. Something I promised myself for perhaps irrational reasons was that I was not going to give a presentation or publish anything about “preparing for the worst” while my dear friend and colleague was ailing. It seemed invasive somehow. Well. I routinely counsel others on how to prepare for emergencies we don’t like to talk about—our ethical duties to our clients continue even if we become disabled, or die (though Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation does not routinely prosecute violations posthumously, and we can be grateful for those small favors). I’ve handled…
We met in a rather unassuming way. A few days after I started working at Halling & Cayo, I ran into him in the lunchroom. It was 2 pm, the usual lunch table crowd long dispersed. He was alone, the remnants of a Bento box in front of him. He was probably flinging Angry Birds on his phone. “Hey. So you’re Jeremy.” “And you’re the new one. Nice to meet you.” Something like that, anyway.  We made pleasantries, discussed our families. He had a six-year-old daughter, I had a four-year-old son. I had been hired primarily for insurance defense, but…
My nerd friend Chuck Lundberg has written a good article about ethics and risk management for lawyers and law firms during pandemic. It’s a good read, and contains a good reminder (courtesy of the Los Angeles bar): “In light of the unprecedented risks associated with the novel Coronavirus, we urge all lawyers to liberally exercise every professional courtesy and/or discretional authority vested in them to avoid placing parties, counsel, witnesses, judges or court personnel under undue or avoidable stresses, or health risk. . . Given the current circumstances, attorneys should be prepared to agree to reasonable extensions and continuances as…
(I would show myself out but I have nowhere to go.) Pop culture makes it seem like lawyers are constantly in court, or at the very least, catching up with our attorney friends while briskly walking down courthouse steps. It really looks more like the graphic accompanying this blog entry, but with a coffee cup balanced precariously in there (and in my case, more paper despite being promised a paperless office by the year 2000, a comfortable new office chair just sitting in the box, taunting me while waiting to be assembled, and a room in dire need of…
First, I will caveat this with, dammit Jim, I’m a lawyer, not a doctor or an economist, so I’m not going to make any predictions or grand pronouncements, except, please be safe and careful and wash your hands (you can use this handy procrastination tool to make posters for your bathroom mirror). Take this seriously. We are in exceedingly uncharted territory. But on the micro level, as a reasonably technologically competent person with good support from my firm, I’m in a more or less ideal position to work from home and so far it’s going OK, mostly. Which is…
Dealing with a suspension can be hard. I get that. You don’t just get to lay low until it passes and hope nobody notices. You have to tell your clients and courts that you’ve been suspended. You may have to pay restitution and/or costs of the disciplinary proceeding while you can’t work (at least not as a lawyer). Your firm may need to take your name off the door (even if the firm will take you back after the suspension is over) and off their letterhead. Beyond that, the profession is intertwined with many of our identities. I know when…
“Through this application, the Board of Bar Examiners makes inquiry about recent mental and physical health and chemical dependency matters. This information, along with all other information, is treated confidentially by the Board. The Board’s purpose in making such inquiries is to determine the current fitness of an applicant to practice law. The mere fact of treatment for medical conditions or impairments or chemical dependencies is never, in itself, a basis on which an applicant is ordinarily denied admission, and the Board routinely certifies for admission individuals who have demonstrated personal responsibility and maturity in dealing with these issues. The…
Still playing catch-up after Austin, but a couple of quick related points: 1) As I’ve said before, I can’t stand most “law shows,” but I really like Better Call Saul. It gets the mundanities of practice close to right, and even featured a disciplinary hearing. One of my Nerd Friends, before she became my Nerd Friend, used to blog about the ethics of Better Call Saul, but her blog, sadly, appears to be offline. We’ll have to make do with Kim Wexler’s Ethics Training, which is every bit as stilted and awful as ethics CLE can be, but…
OK I’m not closing (today, tomorrow, or otherwise) but I may or may not be posting here from the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers Mid-Year Meeting, which starts tomorrow in Austin. But I might be tweeting (@EthickingStacie) or Facebooking (just look for my name or the hashtag #ethicking, I’m probably the only one using that hashtag, somehow it hasn’t caught on) so keep an eye out! I am looking forward to hanging out with my nerd friends and getting out of the cold for a few days. (Yes, it’s February and the meeting is “mid-year,” I don’t make the…
Trust account problems can lead to discipline. That you’re not supposed to use your trust account for your strip club should be obvious, but it cost one Florida attorney his law license. Sure, there were other issues too (namely failing to cooperate with the investigation, lying to a judge, and failing to use restitution funds for that purpose), but his explanation as to why he used his trust fund to pay for the strip club he owned—that no bank would let him open an account for a strip club—just doesn’t pass the smell test. There, are, what, hundreds* of such…
I stumbled across this Above the Law story today, about a woman whose complicated pregnancy required a reduction in work hours and then sent her to bed rest. Her firm reacted by telling her to put herself and her baby first, and then welcoming her back with open arms after she took a full maternity leave. This shouldn’t be exceptional but in the law profession, it seems to be. I’ve worked in places where decency and compassion is the norm. I’ve also worked in places where issues in our personal lives, no matter how serious, were supposed to stay far…
Back in law school, I did some spring break legal aid work in post-Katrina New Orleans. Our group stayed in a former school, St. Mary of the Angels, in the hard-hit Upper Ninth Ward, which was hastily converted to volunteer housing, mostly for students coming to gut storm-damaged houses. Our “bedroom” was a classroom, shared with not just the 20 of us (men and women) but maybe 10 strangers, some of whom I am sure were sheltering rather than volunteering (but I must add—contrary to stereotype, those sheltering were polite when they were not keeping to themselves). The showers were…