Five for Friday: Week 63

The audience has spoken.

The Five for Friday ethics quiz will continue.  In the meantime, two new ideas. One is simple: want me to write about a particular topic? Then e-mail me your suggestion and I’ll try to work it into a post.  The other: a “mailbag” column.  Readers send in (short) questions by email. Once I have enough questions, I post the questions and answers.  I will keep suggestions and questions anonymous.

To the quiz:

  • No rules.  It’s open book and open search engine.
  • Exception: Question 5
  • Team entries welcome.
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • E-mail answers to
  • As I’ve written, don’t worry about submitting wrong answers
  • I’ll post the answers and Honor Roll on Monday

Question 1

I visited a class at Vermont Law School earlier this week.  A student asked what type of conduct accounts for the bulk of the ethics complaints filed in Vermont.  I replied that Comment 3 to Rule 1.3 states that “no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination.”  But, is that the answer?

In my experience, most ethics complaints are rooted in:

  • A.  Exactly what the Comment says: procrastination by lawyers
  • B.  Poor billing practices
  • C.  An attorney’s failure to set & manage clear expectations for the client
  • D.  A failure to “be nice.” Most complaints are filed by people who view oppossing counsel as lacking basic civility and professionalism.

Question 2

Attorney called me with an inquiry. I listened, then said:

  • “ What do you mean that you ‘can’t explain it.’ You have no idea who it belongs to? Or, you know who it belongs to, but can’t find that person?”

What is the “it” in my question?

Question 3

Lawyer met with Potential Client.  Lawyer is interested in the case but wonders whether her duties to Former Client might materially limit her representation of Potential Client.

Per the applicable rule, Lawyer has a conflict:

  • A.  True. But it can be waived by Former Client.
  • B.  True.  And it cannot be waived
  • C.  If the representation of Potential Client creates an appearance of impropriety.
  • D.  If there is a significant risk that the representation of Potential Client will be materially limited by her duties to Former Client.

Question 4

Attorney is an associate at Burlington Firm.  Attorney started last week, after having spent several years as an associate at Rutland Firm.

Michael is a long-standing client of Burlington Firm.   Burlington Firm represents Michael in his dispute with Corporate.  Rutland Firm represents Corporate.

Michael v. Corporate pre-dates Attorney’s lateral move from Rutland Firm to Burlington Firm.  While at Rutland Firm, Attorney acquired protected information that is material to the matter.

In Vermont, which is most accurate?

  • A.  Attorney has a conflict and it is imputed to Burlington Firm.
  • B.  Attorney has a conflict, but it not imputed to Burlington Firm.
  • C.  Burlington Firm does not have a conflict, but must screen Attorney from participation in the matter.
  • D.  Whether Burlington Firm may screen Attorney from participation in the matter depends on whether Attorney participated personally & substantially in the matter while working at Rutland Firm.

Question 5


With NCAA Selection Sunday upon us, let’s combine basketball and ethics:

This college coach won three national championships, coached the USA to the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, and often landed in hot water with NCAA’s equivalent of the attorney discipline office.  He once skipped an NCAA-mandated ethics seminar, stating:

“I would have rather listened to Saddam Hussein speak on civil rights than to have listened to some of the (NCAA) people who have spoken on ethics to this point.”

Who is the coach?

By the way, good luck to Coach Becker and #UVMmbb tomorrow!






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