Monday Morning Answers

Last Friday’s questions are here.  The answers follow today’s Honor Roll.

Honor Roll

  • Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick Fitzpatrick Kasper & Burchard
  • Michael Kiey
  • Hal Miller, First American
  • Herb Ogden
  • Ian Sullivan, Deputy State’s Attorney, Rutland County


Question 1

How many hours of pro bono publico legal services per year do Vermont lawyers have a responsibility to provide?

Per Rule 6.1, a lawyer should render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal servicers per year.

Question 2

Last Saturday, Attorney volunteered at a free legal clinic that was offered under the auspices of a program sponsored by a non-profit.  While there, Attorney answered questions from Tenant on issues related to Tenant’s eviction.

Attorney works at Firm.  On Monday, Attorney learned that her Law Partner represents Landlord in the eviction of Tenant.

Which is most accurate under Vermont’s rules?

  • A.   Attorney violated the rules, but Law Partner may continue to represent Landlord.
  • B.   Attorney violated the rules and Law Partner must withdraw from representing Landlord.
  • C.  Attorney did not violate the rules and Law Partner may continue to represent Landlord.  See, Rule 6.5(a).  
  • D.  Attorney did not violate the rules, but Law Partner must withdraw from representing Landlord.

The key here is that the conflicts rules are relaxed at clinics/programs sponsored under the auspices of a court or nonprofit.  Essentially, no conflict checks required.  Here, Attorney would’ve been on the hook only if she knew that Tenant was adverse to Law Partner’s client.  Finally, despite Attorney providing pro bono services to Tenant, Law Partner may continue to represent Landlord.  See, Comment 4.

Question 3

Shakedown 1979, cool kids never have the time.

Justine and Billy are in the process of divorcing.   Attorney has represented Justine since the divorce was filed 1 year ago.  Billy has represented himself.

Yesterday, Billy met with Lawyer to discuss potential representation in the divorce.  Lawyer is married to Attorney.  The two do not work in the same firm.

Which is most accurate under Vermont’s Rules of Professional Conduct?

  • A.   Lawyer may represent Billy.
  • B.   Lawyer may represent Billy if Justine agrees to Lawyer’s involvement. .
  • C.   Lawyer may not represent Billy.
  • D.   Ordinarily, to continue with their respective representations, Lawyer needs informed consent from Billy, and Attorney needs informed consent from Justine.  See, Rule 1.7, Comment [11] (“a lawyer related to another lawyer, e.g., as a parent, child, sibling, spouse or civil union partner, ordinarily may not represent a client in a matter where that lawyer is representing another party, unless each gives informed consent.”)

Question 4

Firm advertises as “the premier family law firm in the county.”  New Lawyer joins Firm. New Lawyer has limited experience in family law matters, but is assigned to handle Client’s contentious divorce.

Before New Lawyer joined Firm, Client and Firm had agreed, in writing, to a $10,000 flat fee.  Client paid the entire sum in advance and Firm deposited the funds into the Firm’s operating account.

Two months into the matter, Client learned that Firm’s managing partner plays in a weekly pick-up basketball game with Client’s Spouse.  Firm has screened Managing Partner from any involvement in Client’s matter.

If Client files a complaint against any lawyer in Firm, which issue would disciplinary counsel most likely consider to be a violation?

  • A.  The so-called “screen.”  Vermont’s rules do not allow screening and impute Managing Partner’s conflict to New Lawyer.
  • B.   The fee agreement & deposit of Client’s payment into the operating account
  • C.  Firm’s advertisement.
  • D.  New Lawyer’s inexperience.

A is incorrect. If anything, Managing Partner’s basketball game creates a personal conflict that is not imputed to other lawyers in Firm. See, Rule 1.10(a).

B is incorrect. The agreement complies with Rules1.5(f) & (g) and must not go into trust.

 D is incorrect (at least on the facts).  See Rule 1.1, Comment [2] (“a newly admitted lawyer can be as competent as a practitioner with long experience]; Rule 1.1, Comment [4] (“A lawyer may accept representation where the requisite level of competence can be achieved through reasonable preparation.”)

That leaves C.  Generally, a lawyer may not advertise in such a way as to make unsubstantiated comparisons to other lawyers.  The phrase “the premier family law firm in the county” violates Rule 7.1.  See, PRB Decision 85 (lawyer admonished for advertising as county’s “premier criminal defense firm.”)

Question 5

Sydney Carton was a brilliant lawyer who struggled with alcohol & depression.  His most famous client was Darnay.

While not explicitly clear from the historical record, I’m pretty sure that Darnay filed a disciplinary complaint against Carton.   In it, he alleged that Carton failed to provide him with competent & diligent representation in a criminal trial that resulted in a death sentence for Darnay.

The complaint became moot when Carton, who bore an uncanny resemblance to his client, switched places with Darnay just before the execution.  Carton’s final words before the guillotine fell:

  • “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Name the book.

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.   

Bonus: name the lawyer who “mentored” Carton.  Barrister Stryver.

On a serious note, if you know a lawyer who, like Carton, is dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues, please read this.

Tale of Two Cities