Five for Friday #135

Welcome to Friday!

And what a Friday it is!! Go Sox!  I’d say the lock screen is working just fine.

As long-time readers know, when it comes to sports, I’m disturbingly superstitious. I truly believe that quirks like the lock screen will help Boston to win the World Series, perhaps even more than anything the players do on the field.

As I thought about the objective foolishness of the superstitions that I associate with “helping” my favorite teams, my mind wandered, scrolling through various notions of “helping.”

Then . . .  it hit me, and my mind’s equivalent of a cursor stopped dead in its tracks on this realization:  when it comes to some of the most critical help that needs to be provided, Vermont’s lawyers are the equivalent of a team that has won the World Series many times over.

I’m talking about pro bono.

Yesterday was the Vermont Bar Association’s Pro Bono Conference.  I was fortunate enough to speak during the plenary session.  As I did, I looked out over an audience of lawyers of all ages, firm sizes and areas of the state.  Most were there to learn how to help.  Others, the panelists, were there to teach how to help.

I was humbled & full of pride to be in the presence of so many lawyers so willing to give of themselves.

I was as proud to realize how far we’ve come on another topic: lawyer wellness.

The conference’s theme was serving vulnerable Vermonters. I opened my talk by reminding lawyers that, as a profession, we are a vulnerable population.  Then, at lunch, United States Bankruptcy Judge Colleen Brown tied pro bono service to wellness.

Judge Brown stated argued that helping others lends itself to senses of purpose and satisfaction that can’t help but increase wellness.  Quoting Winston Churchill, Judge Brown urged lawyers to remember that:

  • “We make a living in what we get.  But we make a life in what we give.”

I agree with Judge Brown.  In my presentation, I used this quote from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

  • “public service marks the difference between a business and a profession. While a business can afford to focus solely on profits, a profession cannot. It must devote itself first to the community it is responsible to serve.  I can imagine no greater duty than fulfilling this obligation. And I can imagine no greater pleasure.”

Finally, after the day’s seminars ended, Vermont’s newest attorneys took the oath of admission in a ceremony in the well of the House chamber.  In remarks delivered after administering the oath, Justice Harold Eaton urged lawyers to use their talents, skills, and position to help to provide & ensure access to justice.  In addition, he stressed the critical need for lawyers to take care of their own physical and mental well-being.

Two weeks ago, I blogged about choosing to help.  One way to help: pro bono work.  When it comes to pro bono, there never has been and never will be a better time to help than now.

Indeed, next week is the ABA’s 10th Annual national celebration of pro bono.  The focus is disaster relief.  In a message marking the occasion, ABA President Bob Carlson urges lawyers to help with disaster resiliency efforts. (Many states relax their rules on unauthorized practice to allow nonresident lawyers to provide assistance in response to natural disasters.)

Closer to home, if you want to help but don’t know how, contact Mary Ashcroft.  Mary is the VBA’s Legal Access Coordinator and can direct you to pro bono opportunities, as well as to low bono opportunities.

As I said, Vermont’s lawyers are champions when it comes to helping. And Mary Ashcroft is our MVP.

But, in sports, whenever any team wins a championship, there’s always the next season.  Similarly, as much as Vermont has done for those who need but cannot afford legal services, there’s always going to be more to do.

All in all, yesterday reminded me that law is about helping, pro bono is about helping the most vulnerable among us, and, when it comes to lawyer wellness, we need to help ourselves to ensure that we are healthy enough to help others.

Choose to help.

Onto the quiz!

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Fill in the blanks.  The same phrase goes in each blank.

When providing pro bono legal services, a substantial majority of the 50 hours should be provided to persons of _____________ or certain organizations designed to serve persons of _________________.

Question 2

This is a “what am I” question:

  • In Bar Counsel Universe, I’m often referred to as “unbundled legal services;”
  • I am a way to help provide access to legal services for those who might not be able to afford a lawyer.
  • I am specifically authorized by Rules for Family Proceedings and the Rules of Civil Procedure
  • I am specifically authorized by the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct
  • Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, I am allowed only if (a) I am reasonable under the circumstances, and (b) the client gives informed consent.

What am I?

Question 3

Lawyer called me with an inquiry involving Client and  Other. I listened.  Then, I said:

“it’s ok as long as:

  1. Client gives informed consent;
  2. there’s no interference with your professional judgment or your relationship with Client; and,
  3. you don’t share any information about the representation with Other absent Client’s consent.”

What is Other’s involvement with this situation?

Question 4

Later today, I’m speaking to the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

For a criminal defense lawyer, which rule should spring to mind if a plea deal is conditioned upon the lawyer’s client waiving claims of ineffective assistance of counsel?  The rule on:

  • A.   Candor to the Tribunal
  • B.    Meritorious Claims & Contentions
  • C.    Client Confidences
  • D.   Conflicts of Interest

Question 5

Speaking of Vermont & New Hampshire . . .

In 2012, Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The nomination was for his role in Lincoln.  He played a Pennsylvania lawyer who was elected to Congress as a “Radical Republican,” chaired the Ways & Means Committee during the Civil War, and whose fierce opposition to slavery was instrumental in the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments.

My favorite quote attributed to him? As a trial lawyer, and in response to a judge who warned that he was manifesting contempt: “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.”

Oh, by the way, the Pennsylvania lawyer was born and raised in Vermont, then attended college in New Hampshire.

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