Five for Friday #164

Welcome to #164!

Trigger warning: this post is long.  Before you hit “send” on the email to me complaining about how long, remember that nothing is stopping you from reading any further than here.

The Vermont City Marathon is Sunday.  I’m entered.  If I finish, it’ll be my 12th VCM and 21st overall.  To rest up, I’m about to turn this column over to a guest blogger.

Before I do . . .

. . . I haven’t always been a runner.

In 2006, a few of the friends I introduced to you in a blog about a long day in my basement asked me to run on their relay team in the marathon.  I agreed.  I had the good fortune of drawing the relay’s last leg: the adrenaline rush from running through a jam-packed Waterfront Park to the finish is addicting.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

Over the next two years, I built up to the full 26.2, completing my first full marathon in 2008.  The year in between? I ran on another relay team.  This time, with a team that included my good friend Jake Perkinson.

Jake is an attorney.  That’s not how I know him or why I like him.  Two of those same basement friends – Debbie & Little Sethie – used to have a post-marathon party every year.  In our younger days, we used the BBQ to pass the time between the marathon and nights at Esox that often devolved into disputes over whether dwindling dollars were better spent on another beer or another song from the bar’s fabled digital jukebox.  I met Jake at one of those post-marathon soirees.

Jake kept a diary of his training for our 2007 relay team. He sent it to us a few days after the race.  It is, beyond doubt both reasonable & unreasonable, my favorite work authored by a lawyer-runner.

With Jake’s consent – informed & confirmed in writing – I’m sharing it here today.  Jake’s self-effacing humor while recounting a foray into wellness is, itself, wellness.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Now, after too much ado, take it away Jake!

*************************************************************************************

(1/8) MARATHON MAN

The True and Complete Diary of Pappy Perkinson’s Preparation for the 2007 Vermont City Marathon Relay Team

PRELIMINARIES

January 4, 2007:  Received an e-mail from Michael Moore (a/k/a Chooch) notifying friends of the impending registration deadline for the Vermont City Marathon, an event that has become a tradition among a certain circle of friends.  Feeling mildly (yet somehow pleasantly) disconnected from that circle, I reply immediately agreeing to participate.  Then, even more immediately, I put the matter out of mind for the next three months believing that the end of May will never come and, if it does, I will likely be dead anyway.  My confidence in this plan of action is so high that I dedicate no time at all to concocting the inevitably necessary excuses to use when I am forced to ultimately renege on this ill-conceived and precipitous commitment.

March 31, 2007:  A message from Chooch is left on the home answering machine requesting information to permit registration.  I studiously ignore this communication.

April 3, 2007:  While drinking a long-neck MGD and using the bottle cap to scrape the last bits of ice cream from a discarded (I believe prematurely) carton, I am informed by my wife, Cate, that I am not to make a joke out of running in the marathon.  I force myself to respond with a look of surprise mingled with hurt which causes me to choke on the bottle cap.  After performing the Heimlich maneuver on myself (Cate refusing all assistance), I tell Cate not to worry which she rightfully interprets as proof that I have no intention of making any serious effort.  Of course, she is right.

April 5, 2007:  I receive a call from Chooch regarding the particulars of registration.  After providing him with the description of a distant cousin for identification purposes, I inquire who will be on our team.  Chooch lists the runners which confirms that I am, indeed, the weakest link.  I know that even the exceedingly low expectations held for me will be impossible to meet and that no matter how low the bar is set it is a standard which I cannot achieve and which I am unwilling to attempt.  This preys on me for small parts of several days.

TRAINING DAY(S)

 April 9, 2007: 8:00 p.m.  My fear of dying on the course has gotten the better of my pride in slothfulness and I decide to go to bed at 8:30 so that I am able to get up refreshed at 5:00 a.m. to run before the children wake up and the household descends into mayhem.  To that end I carefully select my running gear and place it in an orderly pile at the top of the stairs so I can alight in the morning without disturbing my beautiful wife and children.

April 9, 2007 11:30 p.m.  I am awoken by the cries of an infant.  I pretend to still be asleep until Cate can no longer bear the noise and gets up to comfort the child at which point I act as though her movements have awakened me and roll fitfully over into the warmed-up spot on her side of the bed.

April 9, 2007 11:45 p.m.  I decide that if I am not asleep now, I will be too tired at 5:00 a.m. to do anything and turn off the alarm clock.  I fall asleep immediately.

April 11, 2007: 5:15 a.m.  I am awoken by the sounds of a high-pitched train whistle as interpreted by the deceptively powerful lungs of a three-year-old named Cyrus.  I know this means he will soon trundle his footy pajamas down to our bedroom, intentionally waking the infant on his way either by hooting loudly into her room or vigorously shaking the crib if evidence of her wakefulness is not immediately apparent.  When I hear his door open at 5:30 I leap out of bed and tell Cate that I am going for a run.

I quickly dress, feeling self-satisfied (whether about actually getting out to run or avoiding the task of dealing with two crying children at dawn I will leave to the reader’s own informed speculation).  As I step outside bracing for a cold blast of late winter wind, I am pleasantly surprised by the stillness of the air and a light humidity taking the edge off 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  Without stretching (not because I am foolish or lazy, but simply because I cannot) I begin my run.

Stepping out into the street I decide to meet this challenge head on and, rejecting the easy way, direct my feet UP hill.  As I begin, I feel I am magnificent, I am indomitable, I am supreme!  I glory in the early morning air and the feeling of the ground moving freely away beneath my feet.  A crescent moon is brightly lit in the pale gray southeastern sky, shouldering silent service as a witness to the graceful beauty of my ambulation.

And then it begins.  Twenty yards away from my house my throat dries out and after several more strides it begins to seethe as though something is trying to saw its way out of my neck using a cheese grater lubricated with battery acid.  Every breath is like swallowing a box of needles and every step is torture.  The pain induces a combination of nausea and dizziness that I have not experienced for over fifteen years absent alcoholic supplements.  In an attempt to psychologically urge myself onward I think back to my days as a youth when I reveled in the exhilaration of pushing my body to the breaking point and beyond.  And I thought to myself how stupid I was back then.

Despite the pain, I power through and, in a twist of unfathomable divine design, while my throat is a desert, my nose begins to fill with mucus.  I grimace and try to swallow to relieve the parched expanse of my throat but only choke on a bilious mixture of snot and thick saliva.  Now I am tired.  And uncomfortable.  But not defeated.  I give a stallion’s snort and hock a huge lugee with as much force as I can muster.  Unfortunately, given my physical condition, the missile barely clears my lips and plummets down the front of my sweatshirt, leaving a gray-green paisley stain.

After 200 yards I reach the top of the hill, expecting relief, only to look out from its summit at what always seemed to be a gently rising straightaway, now looming forbiddingly as a hideous and gross trick of nature.  “A hill on top of a hill!  This is bullshit,” I think to myself.  But I persevere and eventually reach the crest of this cunning confirmation of nature’s devilish duplicity.

As I approach the intersection capping this second rise I realize I have a choice to make.  I can turn now or push on for another 200 yards.  I make my decision quickly, resolving that if I go too far today, I might eliminate a goal that could otherwise motivate me tomorrow.  With a dramatic show of feigned regret, I turn my feet to the downward slope towards home.

Now my breathing is coming easier, and I concentrate on my form, keeping a four-count beat and raising my arms high.  I increase my speed and feel the wind blowing through my billowy locks.  Then, from behind, I hear the squeaking noise of rubber on asphalt and I am overtaken by a woman with graying hair outfitted in spandex pants and a knitted sweater who does not raise her hands above her hips when she runs.  As she trots past me I am given over to a surreal feeling of swimming through concrete.  I contemplate an attempt at increasing my speed, at least to keep her in sight for a minute or two, but then decide the wiser and more dignified course is to pretend I am engaged in a cool down exercise.  I consciously reduce my speed and pretend to stretch my upper body causing me to stumble and almost fall.  Realizing that any fall will crush me both mentally and physically and lead to an emotional death spiral I know I do not have the strength to recover from, I dispense with the cool-down ruse and return my full attention to running.  As I approach my house, my septuagenarian companion on this early morning run turns to climb the hill I started out on and breaks into a sprint, disappearing over the top before I reach the corner.

As I climb the steps to my house, I bend down with a monumental effort to pick up the morning paper and walk into a mudroom that on any other day sends shivers through my body with its ice-box coolness but which today feels like walking into a sauna.  I strip off my clothes, tearing at them like a madman and run a cold shower, nearly collapsing with a coughing fit before I am able to wedge myself into the stall for support.

I spend the rest of the day sweating, coughing and feeling a foreboding soreness in my lungs.  This is going to be great.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

April 12, 2007:  1:30 a.m.  I am lying in bed, awoken once again by my own little piece of heaven fallen to earth.  As I attempt to turn over to pull the pillow over my head and drown out her nocturnal siren song I am suddenly seized with simultaneous shooting pains in my forearms, thighs, back and chest.  This fills me with a mix of emotion:  pain (obviously), but also, and to a much greater degree, relief, because here is my excuse not to go running in the morning.  My guilt wrestles momentarily with the more aggressive of my venal spirits and quickly gives up as Cate comforts the baby and I am able to fall gently back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that rest and recuperation is an important part of any training program.  I send thanks to Heaven for allowing me to formulate this rationale without the slightest strain at a moment’s notice and I am at peace with the World.

April 12, 2007:   6:30 a.m. (just after I should be finishing up my morning run) it begins to snow and the knowledge that I may likely lose another opportunity to run tomorrow briefly provides a toehold for my guilty conscience.  But, like a fantasy Battle of the Bands between Kiss and New Kids on the Block my darker angels push guilt off its precarious ledge and continue to pummel it on its woeful descent, making sure it does not ever think about getting up again.

May 2, 2007: 5:15 a.m.  The baby is visiting the bed so I am awake.  I feel strangely invigorated and lean over to whisper to my wife: “I’m going to go running.”  She responds: “I thought you were going to say you were going to get a beer.”  The baby smiles, drools and then starts crying so I shuffle down the stairs and launch another assault against Ledge Road.

This time I wisely cut off the ascent of the Ledge by detouring down Iranistan Road, still uphill, but a much gentler rise.  My lungs begin to seize and my throat provides a reprise of its past agitations by simultaneously constricting and drying out.  But not as bad as last time.  I make it about 2 miles on fairly flat streets.  When I get to the bottom of my street I break into a sprint and use my last remaining strength to reach my driveway.  As I attempt this last parry, the paper boy gives me a dirty look for holding him up.

The sprint nearly kills me and it takes a while to catch my breath.  Inside again I begin to feel ill and now have a pounding headache.  I hate Chooch.

May 22, 2007:  I realize that I am beginning to panic because I have not determined whether a five-kilometer run will kill me or not.  I start off again, gasping for air as usual, but find that after two miles I am still alive.  This is proof enough and I walk the rest of the way home.

EPILOGUE

Team I Hate Running did not finish last.  I believe I averaged 11 minutes per mile – not bad for three days of training over five months (especially considering how much I drank the day before).  Four days after the race my legs still hurt.  I can’t wait until next year.

***********************************************************************************

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

You’re at a CLE.  You are re-reading Jake’s marathon diary because it’s so awesome. Still, your brain is vaguely aware of me saying things like:

  • it must be not be unreasonable;
  • it must be reduced to a writing that is signed by the client;
  • it must state whether expenses will be deducted before or after it’s calculated; and,
  • it must be based on the outcome of the matter.  If it’s based on an offer that the client rejects, at least one state’s Supreme Court has held that it’s unethical.

What was I discussing?

Question 2

By rule, a “prospective client” is one who, in good faith, discussed with a lawyer the possibility of retaining the lawyer.  Which is most accurate?

Per the rule, the lawyer shall not represent a client:

  • A.   with interests materially adverse to the prospective client.
  • B.   with interests materially adverse to the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter.
  • C.  with interests materially adverse to the prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to the prospective client.
  • D.  None of the above.  We’ve yet to adopt any version of the ABA Model Rule on prospective clients.

Question 3

By rule, a lawyer may not settle a claim or potential claim for malpractice with an unrepresented client or former client.

  • A.  True.
  • B.  True, unless the client gives informed consent.
  • C.  True, unless the client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
  • D.  True, unless the client or former client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonably opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel in connection with the matter.

Question 4

Having made this confession, it pains Me to say that I’m not a big fan of Taylor Swift’s new single.  Still, in her honor, one of these things is not like the other.   Which one?

The rule that requires a lawyer to:

  • A.  keep copies of advertisements for 2 years
  • B.  keep confidential information relating to the representation of client
  • C.  keep trust account records for 6 years
  • D.  keep the lawyer’s own funds separate from client funds

Question 5

He’s back!

There’s a lawyer who used to represent a woman whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.  This week, federal prosecutors alleged that the lawyer sent a “fraudulent and unauthorized letter” to Clifford’s literary agent in order to divert approximately $300,000 intended for Ms. Clifford.  Per Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman:

  • “Far from zealously representing his client, [the lawyer] as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”

You likely know the client by a name other than Stephanie Clifford.

Name the lawyer.

Bonus: tell me the client’s more well-known name.

Image result for vermont city marathon

Wellness Wednesday: Reach out, check in.

Granted, as a morning person and a creature of spring & summer, I’m biased. That being said, between the sun, the bluebird skies, and the temperature, it doesn’t get much better than this morning in Vermont.

Speaking of spring and summer . . .

. . . oh wait, before I go on: happy birthday Ben Traverse!  Ben has long contributed to others’ wellness, including mine. He was one of the earliest supporters of this blog, has a stellar record of providing pro bono services to clients unable to afford legal services, and, via his leadership role with the Young Lawyers Division, has served the past several years on the VBA’s Board of Managers.  If you know him, check in with him today to wish him well.

Speaking of checking in, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

If you’re at all like me, you associate spring and summer with an improved mood & outlook on life.  ‘specially ’round these parts, winter is long & dreary. So, as you enjoy a coffee on your porch with the only sounds being those of the birds, and as you revel in rolling the recycle bin to the curb without having to drag it thru slush, a morning like today’s lifts the spirits.  Spring, summer, and all the good that comes with each are finally here.

But not everyone feels the same.

Like Ben Traverse, Andrew Manitsky sits on the VBA Board of Managers and has long-supported this blog and the profession’s larger efforts on attorney wellness.  He’s a member of a PRB hearing panel and gets his wellness on by playing in a band.  Last weekend, Andrew sent me this opinion piece that ran in the New York Times.

Warning: it is a heavy read.

But it raises an important point: for some, spring is a time of despair.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

  • “It’s a popular and perhaps dangerous belief, reinforced by that inescapable Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” that winter is the peak season for suicide. Yet experts have known since the late 1800s that it’s not true: More people take their own lives in the spring months than in other times of the year. No definitive explanations have emerged for why this is so.”

From there, the author shares a moving personal story. Then, concludes with a tip that all of us should consider.  Referring to spring, she writes:

  • It brings new pleasures by the week — asparagus in the farmers’ market, excitable toddlers in the playgrounds — and also a reminder to try to reach out to people who have lost someone recently, or those who seem withdrawn. They may need to be given a chance to talk about how they’re doing, and if things are very bad, encouraged to get the professional support they need. I can confirm that with time, help and love, things get better.”

Back to my original thoughts.

Speaking of spring and of checking in with someone, odds are that you know or work with an attorney who, if not struggling with significant behavioral health issues, is on the path towards the full-on struggle.  An attorney who has started to withdraw.

Reach out, check in.  As the author points out, sometimes that’s all it takes to make a difference for someone.

And, as regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big believer that we can make a difference, one person at a time.

Image result for starfish story printable pdf

 

 

 

An Improper Contingent Fee

I’ve used the past few Tuesdays to post on trust accounting.  I’m going off script today to call attention to a disciplinary case that strikes me as important.

Alberto Bernabe is a professor of law at the John Marshall Law School. Regular readers will recognize Professor Bernabe as a frequent member of this blog’s #fiveforfriday Honor Roll.  His Professional Responsibility Blog is a fantastic source of information on legal ethics & professional responsibility.

Yesterday, Professor Bernabe posted Tennessee Supreme Court imposes sanctions for improper contingency fee.  The opinion issued on May 13 and is here. The issue: whether a lawyer violated the rules by attempting to collect a fee that was based on a percentage of a settlement offer that the client rejected.

Before I get into the details, let’s review the rules that would apply if the issue arose in Vermont.

  • Rule 1.2(a) requires a lawyer to “abide by a client’s decision to settle a matter.”
  • Rule 1.5(a) prohibits a lawyer from agreeing to, charging, or collecting an unreasonable fee;
  • Rule 1.5(c) allows a fee that is contingent upon the outcome of a matter; and,
  • Rule 1.8(i) prohibits a lawyer from acquiring a proprietary interest in a client’s cause of action but allows (1) liens authorized by law to secure fees & expenses; and (2) contracts for reasonable contingent fees.

The facts of the Tennessee case:

Client filed a pro se complaint alleging that she’d been injured by the defendant’s negligence. Soon thereafter, Client retained Law Firm.  Client & Law Firm entered into a written fee agreement. Per the agreement, Client would pay Law Firm a contingent fee, plus expenses.  The amount: 40% if recovery were made before an appeal, 45% if recovery made after an appeal.  The fee agreement did not include any language that provided for an hourly fee.  It did, however, include this provision:

  • “Should [Client] refuse to make any settlement which my attorneys advise me is reasonable and should be taken, then I understand that I am responsible for their fee on the basis of that offer, unless they waive this provision.”

Following discovery, the defendant offered $12,500.  Attorney and another at Law Firm advised Client to accept. Client did not.

Attorney moved to withdraw.  In the motion, Attorney also requested a lien in the amount of $13,605 for fees, plus $2,4528.52 for expenses.  The motion asserted that Law Firm had put in 45.35 hours of work at $300 per hour.  The court granted the motion to withdraw but did not rule on the request for a lien.

Eventually, Client filed a disciplinary complaint.  By then, Attorney had filed two additional motions requesting a lien on any recovery.  The final request referenced the fee agreement and sought 40% of the settlement offer that Client had rejected.

At the trial level, a court concluded that Attorney violated Tennessee Rules 1.5(a), 1.5(c), 1.8(i).  The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed and publicly reprimanded Attorney.

Some key points from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s opinion:

  • the “Settlement Offer Provision” created a fee that was contingent on Attorney recommending that Client accept a settlement offer, but not, as required by the rule, on the outcome of the matter;
  • the so-called “Settlement Offer Provision” was unreasonable in that had an impermissible “chilling effect” on Client’s decision whether to settle;
  • The “Settlement Offer Provision” impermissibly provided Attorney with a proprietary interest in any settlement offer that Attorney recommended Client accept; and,
  • The “Settlement Offer Provision” was unreasonable in that it by recommending that Client accept an offer, “Attorney thereby became entitled to a fee, regardless of whether [Client] accepted the offer and regardless of whether she obtained any recovery whatsoever.”

As noted by Professor Bernabe, Faughnan on Ethics blogged on the opinion here.  Like Bernabe, Faughnan is a terrific resources on professional responsibility.  The post notes:

  • “At its core, this case explains the limits on the ability of a plaintiff’s attorney to try to guard against what happens if their client rejects the attorney’s advice on whether to accept a settlement offer. There do, in fact, have to be limits on the ability to hedge against that because the ethics rules establish explicitly that the decision whether to settle a civil case or not is the client’s decision.”

The post goes on to remind us that, generally, the rules allow lawyers who withdraw “to assert a lien as authorized by statute and pursuant to either the terms of their contract or, perhaps, depending on how things turn out for payment in the form of quantum meruit.”

Again, this is a Tennessee opinion.  It’s worth noting, however, that the rules involved are identical to Vermont’s.

//fanatics.frgimages.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productimages/_3336000/altimages/ff_3336120-a55779efe27cea7414d7alt1_full.jpg&w=325

 

 

 

 

Monday Morning Answers

Welcome to Monday!

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

Honor Roll

Answers

Question 1

When a lawyer holds funds in which two or more persons claim interests, a rule specifically requires the lawyer:

  • A.   to resolve the dispute;
  • B.   to keep the funds separate until the dispute is resolved;
  • C.   to promptly distribute all portions that are not in dispute;
  • D.   B & C.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(e)

Question 2

Speaking of Watergate, if you’re at a CLE and hear me talking about a lawyer’s duty “to go up the ladder,” I’m most likely talking about a lawyer who represents:

  • A.  an organizationSee, Rule 1.13(b)
  • B.  both the insured and an insurance company in a civil case.
  • C.  a child.
  • D.  a client whose deadline to appeal is about to run, but who has not instructed the lawyer whether to file the appeal.

Question 3

Consider the following:

  • a reasonable belief that the lawyer will be able to provide competent & diligent representation to each affected client;
  • no assertion of a claim by one client against another represented by the same lawyer;
  • informed consent, confirmed in writing.

By rule, each of the 3 is relevant to what general question?

Each of 3 appears in Rule 1.7(b) and are relevant to whether a lawyer may represent a client notwithstanding a concurrent conflict of interest. 

Question 4

Is there a rule that specifcially addresses a lawyer’s ethical duties when serving as an arbitrator, mediator, or in any other such capacity to assist two or more persons who are not clients to resolve a dispute?

  • A.   No.
  • B.   No.  The Code of Judicial Conduct applies.
  • C.   Yes.  There’s a rule that applies to so-called “third-party neutrals.”
  • D.   Yes.  There’s a rule that applies to so-called “third-party neutrals” and a comment to the rule indicates that lawyers serving as such may also be subject to other codes of ethics.

It’s Rule 2.4.  Comment [2] mentions other codes of ethics. 

Question 5

I’ve often spoken on lawyer’s duty to provide competent advice related to a client’s preservation of electronically stored information that might have potential evidentiary value.

Recently, one of the world’s most famous athletes was named as a defendant in a wrongful death suit.  The athlete owns a restaurant that is also a defendant.  Central to the case is an allegation that the restaurant over-served an employee who drank at the bar after his shift, drove, and died in a car accident after leaving.

This week, the plaintiff’s lawyers accused the restaurant of destroying video of the decedent drinking at the bar in the hours prior to the fatal crash.

Who is the athlete?

Tiger Woods.    Yahoo! Sports has the story here.

Image result for images of tiger woods

Five for Friday #163

Welcome to Five for Friday!

Impeachment.  Treason.  A flawed Electoral College.  Special prosecutors investigating lawyers. Lawyers not treating others with respect and courtesy.

I’ve got a little bit of each for you in this week’s column.  And the most recent event I’m going to reference took place 46 years ago!  The more things change . . . yada, yada, yada.

Digging for topics this morning, a few tidbits interested me. On this day in history:

  • John Jay died (1829)
  • Archibald Cox was born (1912)
  • The Watergate hearings began (1973)

Thinking about each, I was struck by how we tend to think that our moment in time is of greater import or weightier than any prior moment.

Nope.  We’ve always had our moments.  Lawyers included.

I’ve referenced Watergate, both in this blog and at CLEs. It was a seminal event in legal ethics.  That’s NOT a political statement. In my book, no party or philosophy lacks members or adherents unable to conform themselves to the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Indeed, when it comes to presidents who’ve lost their law licenses, the major parties stand tied 1-1.

Let’s hope that’s a tie that’s never broken.

Rather, Watergate’s relation to and impact on legal ethics is fact.  At least 14 lawyers tied to the Nixon administration or reelection campaign eventually had disciplinary sanctions imposed against their law licenses: 8 disbarred, 6 suspended.  As the ABA Journal wrote here, the fallout included significant changes to the law of legal ethics and the rules governing lawyers.

In short, Watergate was a Moment.

Now, speaking of ties . . .

John Jay, most of you know, was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Prior to this morning, I didn’t know much about him.  After learning that today is the anniversary of his death, I started researching him.  One link led to another and, next thing I knew, I found myself reading about a lawyer who had more than his fair share of moments: Aaron Burr.

In Jay’s day, the Electoral College was kind of a mess.  To wit: the presidential election of 1800.  Two lawyers tied.  Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes. As if a presidential tie wasn’t a “moment” in and of itself, Jefferson & Burr were running mates!  To tell the story would swallow this post.  You can read about it here.

(Aside: anyone who watches VEEP will know how we break ties for the presidency. Amazing that I learned about the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from an HBO sitcom.)

Image result for selina meyers veep

Anyhow, Aaron Burr fascinates me.

  • 1800: Burr ran as Jefferson’s vice-president, and apparently refused to concede when the two tied in the Electoral College.
  • 1801:  the tie was broken in Jefferson’s favor, with Burr’s long-time political foe, Alexander Hamilton, playing a key role in breaking it.
  • 1804: Burr shot & killed Hamilton in a duel.
  • 1805: as vice-president, Burr presided over the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase.  Chase was acquitted.
  • 1807: Burr was arrested & charged with Treason.  He was acquitted.

Those are Moments!!

Alas, this post doesn’t really have a point.  I do, however, have a thought.

There are a lot of lawyers out there winning their 3-feet of influence, saving star fish, and being nice.  Are such things little moments?  Yes.  But keep up the good work.

Because, at the moment, we need more little moments.

Onto the quiz!

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

When a lawyer holds funds in which two or more persons claim interests, a rule specifically requires the lawyer:

  • A.   to resolve the dispute;
  • B.   to keep the funds separate until the dispute is resolved;
  • C.   to promptly distribute all portions that are not in dispute;
  • D.   B & C.

Question 2

Speaking of Watergate, if you’re at a CLE and hear me talking about a lawyer’s duty “to go up the ladder,” I’m most likely talking about a lawyer who represents:

  • A.  an organization.
  • B.  both the insured and an insurance company in a civil case.
  • C.  a child.
  • D.  a client whose deadline to appeal is about to run, but who has not instructed the lawyer whether to file the appeal.

Question 3

Consider the following:

  • a reasonable belief that the lawyer will be able to provide competent & diligent representation to each affected client;
  • no assertion of a claim by one client against another represented by the same lawyer;
  • informed consent, confirmed in writing.

By rule, each of the 3 is relevant to what general question?

Question 4

Is there a rule that specifcially addresses a lawyer’s ethical duties when serving as an arbitrator, mediator, or in any other such capacity to assist two or more persons who are not clients to resolve a dispute?

  • A.   No.
  • B.   No.  The Code of Judicial Conduct applies.
  • C.   Yes.  There’s a rule that applies to so-called “third-party neutrals.”
  • D.   Yes.  There’s a rule that applies to so-called “third-party neutrals” and a comment to the rule indicates that lawyers serving as such may also be subject to other codes of ethics.

Question 5

I’ve often spoken on lawyer’s duty to provide competent advice related to a client’s preservation of electronically stored information that might have potential evidentiary value.

Recently, one of the world’s most famous athletes was named as a defendant in a wrongful death suit.  The athlete owns a restaurant that is also a defendant.  Central to the case is an allegation that the restaurant over-served an employee who drank at the bar after his shift, drove, and died in a car accident after leaving.

This week, the plaintiff’s lawyers accused the restaurant of destroying video of the decedent drinking at the bar in the hours prior to the fatal crash.

Who is the athlete?

 

Wellness Wednesday: Mentor Someone

Last week, I used this space to celebrate Joan Wing.  The post generated a ton of feedback, mostly from lawyers grateful for Joan having mentored them.  The feedback got me thinking.

Then, I read this post in the ABA Journal.  The post references a survey of Florida’s young lawyers.  Per the survey, many of Florida’s young lawyers aren’t happy with their chosen profession.  The results got me thinking even more.

In my post on Joan, I suggested that we try to be more like her.  Mentoring a younger attorney presents an opportunity to do so.

I can hear you now: how’s that wellness?  The Vermonter that I am, I answer your question with my own: how’s it not?  Consider:

What if:

  • you showed a younger attorney that you cared enough to help her become a better attorney?
  • you helped a newer attorney avoid some of the mistakes you made as a younger attorney?
  • introduced an attorney who is brand new to Vermont to other attorneys who have established themselves here?
  • did nothing more than listen to a younger attorney who is frustrated, anxious and questioning whether he wants to continue in the profession?

It’d certainly help the younger attorney’s wellness, and likely would help yours as well.  Not only that, you might learn a thing or two from the younger attorney.  Umm, tech competence anyone?

And if that’s not enough, there’s CLE credit!

A few years ago, the Vermont Supreme Court adopted new Rules of Admission.  The rules did away with the “clerkship.”  Now, whether by exam or motion, new lawyers have one year to complete 15 hours of CLE in the basics of Vermont practice & procedure.  Additionally, attorneys admitted by exam have one year to complete a mentorship.  Mentors are eligible for up to 5 hours of CLE credit per reporting period.

We need mentors.  If interested, email me. I keep a list of those willing to serve.

Mentoring helps.  And, as Joan proved, helping is wellness.

Image result for mentoring

 

Monday Morning Answers #163

Welcome to Monday!

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

Honor Roll

  • Karen Allen, Esq.
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, John Marshall Law School
  • CeCe ConradCostello, Valente & Gentry
  • Erin GilmoreRyan Smith & Carbine
  • Keith KasperMcCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • John LeddyMcNeil, Leddy, & Sheahan
  • Pam Loginsky, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
  • Kevin LumpkinSheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Lon McClintockMcClintock Law Offices
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Vermont Legal Aid Mental Health Law Project
  • Hal Miller, First American
  • Herb Ogden, Esq.
  • Eric ParkerBauer Gravel & Farnham
  • Jim Runcie, Ouimette & Runcie
  • Carie TarteSenior Paralegal, Maley & Maley

Answers

Question 1

By rule, a lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer services.   Which of the following violate(s) the rule?

  • A.  Material misrepresentations of fact or law.
  • B.  Communications that omit a fact necessary to make the statement, considered as a whole, not materially misleading.
  • C.  Both A & B.   V.R.Pr.C. 7.1
  • D.  Trick question.  There is no such rule.

Question 2

You’re at a CLE.  You hear me say:

  • “The privilege is different from the rule.  The rule talks about ‘information relating to the representation.’ A comment to the rule makes it clear that this encompasses more information than is covered by the privilege.”

What was I talking about?  The rule on:

  • A. Client confidences.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.6 Comment 3
  • B.  A lawyer’s duties upon the receipt of inadvertently produced information.
  • C.  Former Clients.
  • D.  Prospective Clients.

Question 3

Consider the following:

  1. instruments drawn on banks;
  2. checks drawn on an IOLTA of a licensed Vermont lawyer or on the IORTA of a licensed Vermont real estate broker;
  3. checks issued by the United States or the State of Vermont;
  4. personal checks, not to exceed $1,000 in the aggregate per transaction; and,
  5. checks drawn on or issued by insurance companies, title insurance companies, or title insurance agencies that are listed in Vermont.

They are:

  • A. signs of a potential trust account scam.
  • B.  instruments that MUST NOT be deposited into an IOLTA
  • C.  instruments that MUST NOT be deposited into an operating account.
  • D.  instruments that a lawyer may presume to constitute “collected funds” upon deposit.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(g) and this blog post from last week

Question 4

There’s a rule that prohibits extrajudicial statements that will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.   Which is most accurate?

  • A.  It applies only to the prosecutor in a criminal case.
  • B.  It applies to “any lawyer participating in a criminal case.”
  • C.  There are no exceptions to the general prohibition.
  • D.  It applies to any “lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter,” whether criminal or not.  V.R.Pr.C. 3.6

Question 5

I’m the chair of the VBA’s Pro Bono Committee.  Also, this evening, I’m speaking at the Vermont Bar Foundation’s Justice Fest.

Cheslie Kryst is an attorney at a firm in North Carolina.  Over the past few years, she provided a significant amount of pro bono work to inmates seeking shorter sentences.  Yes!

Last week, Attorney Kryst made national news.   Why?

  • A. She was crowned Miss USA.  Stories from the ABA Journal and CNN
  • B. She appeared in an episode of Game of  Thrones.
  • C. She became engaged to one of her pro bono clients whose sentence was commuted as a result of her work.
  • D.  She defeated James Holzhauer on Jeopardy, ending his stunning reign as champion.

Image result for cheslie kryst

Five for Friday #162

Welcome to Friday!

I’m stuck.  Can’t figure out what to write about in this intro.

Normally, “162” would lead me to write about baseball.  Been there, done that about 162 times.

I’ve often used the date as inspiration.  5/10 reminds me of my grandfather.  For years, he worked at Hill’s 5 & 10 in Bradford.  But, I already blogged about Papa .

It’s Mother’s Day weekend. Alas, my mom took center stage earlier this year.

However, as kind as I was in that blog, I just realized something.  As I plan my weekend, I have serious questions about my mom and her sisters.

My mom is on the board at Lund. This weekend, Lund is hosting the 2nd Annual Pitchin’ for a Purpose cornhole tournament.  A bunch of teams are entered, including one named “So-Fa-Bu-Es.”  The team includes 3 of my mom’s sisters and a close family friend.  They played last year and decided to enter again.

One of the sisters, Martha, is injured.  Shoulder problems. She asked me to sub for her.  I agreed.  Because I’m as good a nephew as I am a son.

But what the heck?

Papa had a horseshoe pit.  I’ve been to a lot of picnics and BBQs over the years and seen scant evidence that his daughters ever used it.  How am I a “sub?” I should’ve been the first person named to this team!

More importantly, let’s talk about So-Fa-Bu-Es.  What kind of name is that?

Witty team names are awesome.  They’re one of my favorite aspects of pub trivia nights.  In 2006, I played on a team in the Vermont Pub Trivia Championship.  Team members:

  • Deb Emerson
  • Seth Emerson
  • Scott Bliss
  • Richard “Dickie Mac” McAvenia
  • Patrick Kennedy
  • Michael Kennedy

1 gal and 5 guys in a pop-culturish event?  Mulva & The Low Talkers.

THAT is a team name!

(Aside: umm, we won.  State champs baby!  We edged out another cleverly named team: Shadoe Stevens for the Win.)

A few months ago, the intro to the quiz was about Shakespeare. Elizabeth KruskaWesley Lawrence submitted answers under the team name As You Like It.  Stephanie Romeo & Charles Romeo have entered under the name Mr. & Mrs. Hadley v. Baxendale.

Anyhow, So-Fa-Bu-Es. 

The theory behind the team name is:

  • it sounds like “so fabulous!”
  • the sisters live in South Burlington, Fairfield, and Essex.

Umm, ok.

I know which of Papa’s daughters picked it.  I’ll leave it at this: it wasn’t either of the 4 aunts he gave me.

On that note, I suppose I should stop writing and prepare for the fallout.  Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  As part of my preparation, I’ll end with this.

On Mother’s Day weekend, I’ll be with my mom, my godmother, and the moms who raised my fantastic cousins.  I love each of them very much and I’m looking forward to doing something together for a good cause.  Even if we don’t score a single point, it’s going to be sooooooo fabulous.

But we better score some damn points.

PS: my mom and her sisters can sing! Combine their vocal talent with my pinpoint accuracy – and my (secret) affinity for a particular movie – our team name next year:

Pitch Perfect.

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

By rule, a lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer services.   Which of the following violate(s) the rule?

  • A.  Material misrepresentations of fact or law.
  • B.  Communications that omit a fact necessary to make the statement, considered as a whole, not materially misleading.
  • C.  Both A & B.
  • D.  Trick question.  There is no such rule.

Question 2

You’re at a CLE.  You hear me say:

  • “The privilege is different from the rule.  The rule talks about ‘information relating to the representation.’ A comment to the rule makes it clear that this encompasses more information than is covered by the privilege.”

What was I talking about?  The rule on:

  • A. Client confidences.
  • B.  A lawyer’s duties upon the receipt of inadvertently produced information.
  • C.  Former Clients.
  • D.  Prospective Clients.

Question 3

Consider the following:

  1. instruments drawn on banks;
  2. checks drawn on an IOLTA of a licensed Vermont lawyer or on the IORTA of a licensed Vermont real estate broker;
  3. checks issued by the United States or the State of Vermont;
  4. personal checks, not to exceed $1,000 in the aggregate per transaction; and,
  5. checks drawn on or issued by insurance companies, title insurance companies, or title insurance agencies that are listed in Vermont.

They are:

  • A. signs of a potential trust account scam.
  • B.  instruments that MUST NOT be deposited into an IOLTA
  • C.  instruments that MUST NOT be deposited into an operating account.
  • D.  instruments that a lawyer may presume to constitute “collected funds” upon deposit.

Question 4

There’s a rule that prohibits extrajudicial statements that will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.   Which is most accurate?

  • A.  It applies only to the prosecutor in a criminal case.
  • B.  It applies to “any lawyer participating in a criminal case.”
  • C.  There are no exceptions to the general prohibition.
  • D.  It applies to any “lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter,” whether criminal or not.

Question 5

I’m the chair of the VBA’s Pro Bono Committee.  Also, this evening, I’m speaking at the Vermont Bar Foundation’s Justice Fest.

Cheslie Kryst is an attorney at a firm in North Carolina.  Over the past few years, she provided a significant amount of pro bono work to inmates seeking shorter sentences.  Yes!

Last week, Attorney Kryst made national news.   Why?

  • A. She was crowned Miss USA.
  • B. She appeared in an episode of Game of  Thrones.
  • C. She became engaged to one of her pro bono clients whose sentence was commuted as a result of her work.
  • D.  She defeated James Holzhauer on Jeopardy, ending his stunning reign as champion.

 

the-quiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take reasonable precautions to protect client data. The End.

My job includes educating lawyers as to the duties imposed by the Rules of Professional Conduct.  With respect to client information, the duty is to take reasonable precautions to protect against inadvertent disclosure or unauthorized access.

Lawyers often push back.  I’m asked:

  • if I encrypt email and data, I’m good, right?
  • if I use ABC Cloud Storage company, I’m good, right?
  • XYZ Cloud Storage company is risky, right?

I will not answer “yes” or “no.”

For instance, what encryption tool do you use?   Does your cloud storage vendor encrypt data in transmission, at rest, or both?

Further, I will not bless, endorse, or disapprove of companies, vendors, or products. Maybe when I leave this job and go work for one of the legal tech companies.  For now, however, that is not my role.

I understand your frustration.  But, I explained myself in this post when I wrote:

So, people often ask “what are reasonable precautions?”

It depends.

Nobody likes that answer.  But it’s correct.

For instance, do you mean “what are reasonable precautions when it comes to cloud storage?”  Or, are you asking whether a lawyer has a duty to encrypt e-mail? Wait, maybe you’re talking about your duties when crossing the border? No, no, I get it now:  you’re asking if a lawyer has a duty to disable auto-complete. Oh my gosh, no – you’re referring to the hallmarks of trust account scams.

No matter the mode of communication, no matter the place that information is stored, a lawyer must safeguard client information. And, as I explained here, it makes perfect sense not to get into the habit of re-evaluating a lawyer’s duty with every new technology.  Whatever the next new thing is, a lawyer’s duty will remain the same: to take reasonable precautions against the inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to client information.

A lawyer’s duty to take reasonable precautions to protect client information does not change with technology.  Today’s duty is the same that would exist if we lived in Westeros and communicated with clients by raven.  As I blogged here:

No, the question should not be “is this new way of storing information ethical?”  Nor should it be “is it okay to use smoke signals to communicate with my client?”  Rather, whenever the next big thing comes along, the question should be “does this means of transmitting and storing client information provide reasonable precautions and safeguards against unauthorized access and disclosure.”

It’s not just me.  As the ABA indicated in Formal Opinion 477:

“What constitutes reasonable efforts is not susceptible to a hard and fast rule, but rather is contingent upon a set of factors. In turn, those factors depend on the multitude of possible types of information being communicated (ranging along a spectrum from highly sensitive information to insignificant), the methods of electronic communications employed, and the types of available security measures for each method.”

The ABA went on:

“Therefore, in an environment of increasing cyber threats, the Committee concludes
that, adopting the language in the ABA Cybersecurity Handbook, the reasonable efforts
standard:

. . . rejects requirements for specific security measures (such as firewalls,
passwords, and the like) and instead adopts a fact-specific approach to business
security obligations that requires a ‘process’ to assess risks, identify and implement
appropriate security measures responsive to those risks, verify that they are
effectively implemented, and ensure that they are continually updated in response
to new developments.”

Again, when transmitting, communicating, and storing client information and data, a lawyer has a duty to take reasonable precautions against inadvertent disclosure or unauthorized access.

Which gets us back to the beginning of this post.

I’ve not avoided the question “what are reasonable precautions?”  Indeed, 2.5 years ago, I posted: The Could: What are Reasonable Precautions?  Last November, I re-posted it.  I’m going to paste it in again at the end of this post.

For now, I’ll leave you with this: a lawyer’s duty is to take to reasonable precautions to protect against the inadvertent disclosure of and authorized access to client information.

Image result for images of "the end"

Related posts:

And, the full text of the post The Cloud: What are Reasonable Precautions?

**************************

Last Friday, I presented a CLE for the Rutland County Bar Association. My assigned topic: the ethics of storing client information in the cloud.  I started by saying that I hoped it was my final seminar on the topic.  I was serious.

Let’s walk through this.

In general, a lawyer has a duty not to disclose information relating to the representation of a client absent client consent.  See, Rule 1.6.  A lawyer also has a duty to keep client property safe.  See, Rule 1.15.

I view the cloud as the latest in a long line of different places to store information.  In that sense, the cloud is not different than manila folders, boxes, offices, attics, basements, barns, file cabinets, file cabinets with locks, storage facilities, hard drives, floppy disks, CDs, and thumb drives.

No matter where a lawyer stores client information, a lawyer must act competently to protect the information against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure. See, Rule 1.6, Comment [16].  When transmitting client information, a lawyer must take reasonable precautions to prevent the information from coming into the hands of unintended recipients.  Rule 1.6, Comment [17].

So, think about cloud storage like this:  client information is electronically transmitted to a place where it will be kept.  Thus, a lawyer must take reasonable precautions to protect client information both while it is in transit and while it is at rest.

In fact, that’s almost exactly what the VBA’s Professional Responsibility Committee said – SIX YEARS AGO when it issued Advisory Ethics Opinion 2010-06.  Here’s the digest of the opinion:

  • “Vermont attorneys can utilize Software as a Service in connection with confidential client information, property, and communications, including for storage, processing, transmission, and calendaring of such materials, as long as they take reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of and to ensure access to these materials.”

(Aside: for anyone wondering why I included an advisory opinion about “Software as a Service” in a post on cloud computing, I remind you that Rule 1.0’s duty of competence includes tech competence.)

The question I hear most often is this: “what are reasonable precautions?”  In Rutland, I suggested to the audience that they already know the answer, if only by treating the cloud as if it were a storage facility out on Old County Road. Some questions you might ask when considering that facility:

  • who do you let into this facility?
  • do you require a passcode or badge for the gate?
  • are there locks on the individual units?
  • who besides me has a key or knows the combination?
  • can i get into my unit whenever i want to?
  • what happens to my files if I don’t pay or if you go out of business?

Indeed, take a look at page 6 of the VBA Opinion.  The Committee suggested some of those exact questions when considering a cloud vendor.

Or, take a look at this post from Robert Ambrogi.  He writes that “[s]ome basic questions to ask of a cloud vendor, distilled from various ethics opinions, include:

  • Is it a solid company with a good reputation and record?
  • Can you get access to your data whenever you want, without restrictions?
  • If your service is terminated – by you or by the company – can you retrieve your data?
  • Does it allow use of advanced password protocols and two-step verification?
  • What are its internal policies regarding employee and third-party access to your data?
  • Is your data encrypted both while in transit and while at rest on the company’s servers?
  • How is your data backed up?
  • What security protections are in place at the data centers the company uses?”

Finally, remember that asking the questions isn’t enough.  You need to understand the answers or find someone who does.  For example, imagine this:

  • You:   Will my data be encrypted in transmission and at rest?
  • Vendor:  Yes.  In transmission, we use a BTTF Flux Capacitor.  At rest, we use the latest cloaking technology from Romii.
  • You.  Sounds awesome. Sign me up.

Umm, no.  You just signed up to star in the next entry in Was That Wrong.

In conclusion, you may store client information in the cloud so long as you take reasonable precautions.  This entry includes links that will help you determine what “reasonable precautions” are.  Don’t fear the cloud but know what you don’t know.

Speaking of which, info on the BTTF Flux Capacitor is HERE. And, for more on Romii cloaking technology, go HERE.