Monday Morning Honors in Legal Ethics: #247

Welcome to Monday! Friday’s questions are here. The answers follow today’s Honor Roll.

Many readers reported an interest in Theranos content.  Alas, not one mentioned Killing Eve!  Still, congratulations to the Honor Rollees!

Honor Roll

  • Karen Allen, Karen Allen Law
  • Evan Barquist, Montroll Oettinger & Barquist
  • Penny Benelli, Dakin & Benelli
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Law
  • Beth DeBernardi, Administrative Law Judge, Vermont Department of Labor
  • Corinne DeeringPACE Registered Paralegal®, Paul Frank + Collins
  • Andrew Delaney, Martin Delaney & Ricci
  • Cary Dube, Bergeron, Paradis, Fitzpatrick
  • Benjamin Gould, Paul Frank + Collins
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Glenn JarrettJarrett & Luitjens
  • Deb Kirchwey, Law Office of Deborah Kirchwey
  • Jim Knapp, Esq.
  • Elizabeth Kruska,Immediate Past-President, VBA Board of Bar Managers
  • John T. Leddy, McNeil Leddy Sheahan
  • Pam Loginsky, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Tacoma (WA)
  • Kevin Lumpkin,Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Mental Health Law Project, Vermont Legal Aid
  • Hal Miller, First American Title Insurance, Hawaii Agency State Counsel
  • Herb Ogden, Esq.
  • Keith Roberts, Darby Kolter & Roberts
  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Honorable John Valente, Vermont Superior Judge
  • Jason Warfield, J.D.
  • Thomas Wilkinson, Jr., Cozen O’Connor
  • Zachary York, Paralegal, Sheehey Furlong & Behm



Question 1

 Does an e-mail qualify as a “writing” for the purposes of any of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct that require something to be in writing?

YES.  See, V.R.Pr.C. 1.0(n).

 Question 2

 Attorney represents Eve in Eve v. Villanelle.  Attorney called me with an inquiry about the matter.  After listening, I asked a question to which Attorney responded “yes.”  So, I replied “parties are always free to communicate with each other.  But there’s a rule that prohibits you from violating the rules through the act of another. So, take care not to script something for Eve to parrot to Villanelle.”

When Attorney responded “yes,” what question had I asked?

  • A.  Whether Eve is related to Villanelle.
  • B.  Whether Eve is Villanelle’s supervisor at work.
  • C.  Whether Villanelle is a former client of Attorney’s.
  • D.  Whether Villanelle is represented in the matter.

Question 3

 At a CLE, imagine I answer a question by saying:

  • “Whenever someone asks you to disclose information that’s in a current or former client’s file, absent the client’s informed consent to disclose the information, the most prudent course is to inform the person that you require a subpoena. Then, your duty is to raise all non-frivolous arguments against disclosure in a motion to quash. If the court enforces the subpoena and compels disclosure, the rule permits you to comply with the order, even over your client’s objection.”

Arguably, at least 3 of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics are implicated in this scenario.  However, which of the “C” duties were we most likely discussing when the question was asked?

CONFIDENTIALITY.  See, my blog post Subpoena to Disclose Client Information?

 Question 4

 Lawyer and Client agree that Lawyer will represent Client for a “nonrefundable fee” of $X.  The agreement is confirmed in a writing that defines the scope of the services that Client will receive in exchange for the nonrefundable fee.  The agreement does not prospectively limit the Client’s ability to challenge the reasonableness of the non-fundable fee.  Both Lawyer and Client sign the agreement.

Client advances $X to Lawyer.  By rule, Lawyer

  • A.  must deposit the fee into an IOLTA and withdraw the fee as earned.
  • B.  must not deposit the fee into an IOLTA.  That would be commingling. See, V.R.Pr.C. 1.5(f) and 1.5(g). 
  • C.  must prepare a new fee agreement that does not use the phrase “nonrefundable fee.”
  • D.  C & self-report to disciplinary counsel.

See also, Trust Account Tuesday: Nonrefundable fees.

Question 5

 Yesterday, Hulu released the first three episodes of The Dropout. It’s based on the real-life story of a person whose sensational criminal trial concluded in January.  A jury found the person guilty of multiple charges related to defrauding investors of millions.  According to NPR, the verdict “capped the downfall of one of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic and scandal-plagued young executives who promised to revolutionize blood testing with an innovative technology that required just a small sample of blood pricked from a patient’s finger.”

The saga first garnered significant publicity following investigative journalist John Carreyrou’s 2015 release of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.  The attention included discussions of legal ethics and professional responsibility.  Indeed, according to a law review article that was published last year, the “story touches on multiple areas of professional responsibility, including competence, diligence, candor, conflicts, and liability . . . [and] serves as a helpful tool to explore the limits of ethical lawyering.”

Name the company at the center of the saga.  THERANOS

Bonus: name “the dropout” who was recently convicted of the criminal charges.  ELIZABETH HOLMES