Ethicking

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I remember at the end of the George W. Bush administration, some comedians said that the Obama administration would put them out of business, what with Obama’s lack of propensity for scandal or gaffes. While of course that didn’t happen (the comedy world survived Obama’s tan suits and fancy mustard just fine), I’ve been asked (once) whether I am worried I won’t have blog fodder after all of the ridiculous election and Trump-related litigation is over. I am not. First, it’s not going to be over for a long time. And second, while I’ll miss picking on Giuliani (whenever he…
This is the non-lawyer version of a question I get a lot from lawyer clients—”how long is this disciplinary proceeding going to take?” Unfortunately for lawyers facing discipline and curious lay folks alike, there’s no real answer. I know people get tired of hearing this from lawyers, but really, “it depends.” Every disciplinary authority has its own internal case processing goals, but it is often difficult to determine whether a particular case will fall within the guidelines. Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation’s annual report discusses its case processing statistics from the prior year, which can help provide a general sense…
Breaking up is hard to do. (After all, it’s cuffing season.) This axiom is as true in a professional setting as it is in a personal one. How to ditch your quarantine bae before they’re vaccinated is beyond the scope of a legal ethics blog (as is whether I should ever use the term “quarantine bae” ever again). But firing a client and withdrawing from representation is sometimes absolutely necessary, regardless of what the calendar says. Perhaps they won’t return your calls, or are refusing to pay your bill, or you can’t see eye to eye about…
This happens frequently when lawyers are in the news—social media lights up with calls to disbar them for doing whatever the posters believe was out of line. Now, as someone with an increasingly public practice, I wait with bated breath to see if and when the virtual torches and pitchforks come for my license. I’d like to say I’d see it as a badge of honor, but probably in action I would not be as amused. This post is not about whether any lawyer currently in the news deserves discipline, but about the process. So: 1) It is true, anyone…
Now that the Thanksgiving turkey or Tofurkey or frozen pizza has been consumed and the leftovers put away, attention turns to Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter gift-giving occasions. This also means that fruit baskets and bottles of wine and those giant tins of popcorn begin showing up on doorsteps and on breakroom tables, gifts from vendors, or occasionally, from clients. (Well, in normal years. I’m not sure how this will play out this year. But let’s assume it will.) There’s no ethical problem in accepting token gifts like this for a job well done, or for that matter, just because.…
All eyes are on the Middle District of Pennsylvania, which is set to hear arguments in one of the Trump Campaign’s voting lawsuits today. Enter Rudy Giuliani, who has applied for pro hac vice admission despite his last federal court appearance being before some lawyers were born. However, it looks like Rudy may have some problems right out of the gate, in addition to all of his other problems. On page 2 of his application, he represents that he is in good standing in several bars, including the District of Columbia. However, as of 10:45 a.m. Central time…
Just a quick update as I deal with election aftermath*, but I did want to announce that I have been admitted to practice law in Illinois. Apparently it takes a bit for the ARDC web site to catch up, but I can hold myself out as an Illinois lawyer and call administrative agencies there on clients’ behalf without running afoul of UPL rules. But no, friends from high school, I can’t handle your divorce or draft your will. I mean, I guess legally I can, but it would be a bad idea. *Yes, I do election law too. In…
That’s right, if you can believe it, Ethicking.com launched one year ago, on October 24, 2019. …so, what a year, huh? Like anything that was launched a year ago with certain (any) expectations, this did not go as I’d planned. Sure, I did manage to keep up with the blog generally, updating every couple of weeks or so (and sometimes more often, though not quite at the weekly frequency I’d hoped). I thought I’d be writing about ABA opinions, nerd friends, and best practices, and I did that. And, sadly, I knew at this time last…
(Note to self: I really need to find better free clip art.) Years ago, in law school, I wrote this in my “ethics journal” (which I found tedious at the time and here I am, ethics journaling for the world to see): This does make me wonder: Are attorneys bound under the Model Rules or their state equivalents if they’re not actively engaged in the practice of law but in a position where their legal knowledge and training influences their work? I would assume that if I worked as a lawyer during the day and decorated cakes by night, I…
My kid is 10 and is attending fifth graded 100% virtually. His gym teacher has assigned his class to keep a log of their daily real-life physical activity. (As an aside, a good way to sap a kid’s enjoyment of anything is to make them log it. See—reading log, writing log, gym log. Good thing my kid rides his scooter to procrastinate on schoolwork.) Anyhow, today he discovered something familiar to most lawyers—the joys of recreating his week, after the fact. Truth is, he couldn’t remember exactly what he did when, so he made some educated guesses. “Wednesday—I think I…
Almost a year ago (wow), I wrote a bit about the State Bar Car Crash Symposium Heckler, who spent some quality time during my presentation lecturing us about the fact that sometimes plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel are friendly with one another. (He also cornered me after my presentation, which dealt broadly with dealing with emotional situations, and complained that I didn’t consult with religious authorities about breaking bad news to a client. Oh well.) And it does happen—sometimes I do see my existing friends on the other side of the caption, and sometimes I become friends with people…
Every now and again, I’ll be blogging some answers to questions I get frequently. (I’ll be sorting these under the category, “FAQ,” and will leave the debate as to whether that should be pronounced “fack” or “eff-A-cue” to a later date.) One question I get frequently enough that I have the State Bar Ethics Committee opinion number* memorized, so we’ll tackle it first: “My former client has a big outstanding balance and now wants a copy of their file. Can I hold their file until they pay up?” Some states do permit so-called retention liens, so long as withholding the…
We all procrastinate. Even you—yes you, with your wall calendar and your daily planner in your briefcase and your Outlook calendar synched to your phone and Siri shouting reminders at you weeks, days, hours, and minutes before each important deadline. It’s part of the human condition, and not dependent on time management skills. Most of us know how to manage our time; we just don’t follow through. Lawyers do it for more than an hour a day. Many of us claim we work best under pressure, and what better pressure is there than a big deadline, maybe even a jurisdictional…
Typically, courts redo their Web sites and it’s not for the best. They don’t display right on a mobile device and I end up not being able to find anything regardless of where I am. But credit where it’s due. The Wisconsin Courts redesign works pretty well. Things seem to be in logical order and can be viewed on mobile and desktop pretty decently. I don’t agree with some of the font choices but we can’t have everything. Relevant to our subject matter, the Office of Lawyer Regulation site revamp looks good. Something that seems to be new (and if…
I have been derelict in updating this blog most of this summer, despite the promise to myself that I’d have fresh and exciting new content every 10-14 days and quick hits in between. Of course, when I made that promise to myself it was October 2019. And I do have a bunch of half-written entries and prompts floating around, ranging from a February piece-in progress on the illusion of work-life balance (which, to be fair is still an illusion now, except I’m not writing about those weird feet-on-the-beach pictures or Bar events anymore) to three lines in an entry titled:…