Monday Morning Answers #81

Nothing like a little Jay-Z to get people to enter the quiz!

Friday’s questions are HERE.  Today, the answers are below the Honor Roll.

Honor Roll


Question 1

Not all rules were created equal.  If an attorney’s duties under the rules conflict, which duty is usually viewed as trumping all others?

  • A.   Duty of zealous advocacy to clients
  • B.   Duty of fairness to opposing counsel & opposing parties
  • C.   Duty to provide competent, conflict-free representation
  • D.   Duty of candor to the courts; See generally, V.R.Pr.C. 3.4 Per the Reporter’s Notes, “if the interests of client and tribunal conflict with regard to candor, the interest of the tribunal prevail.”  Also, Comment 11 makes it clear that the duty of candor to the court prevails even in the face of causing “grave consequences” to a client by disclosing the client’s false testimony.

Question 2

Competence.  Conflicts.  Candor.  There’s another word that begins with “C” that is a serious violation of the rules.  However, the word doesn’t appear in any of the rules, notable in its absence from the trust accounting rules and the rule on safekeeping client property.

What’s the word?


Question 3

This comes up in approximately 30% of the inquiries I receive. So, about 330 times per year.

Imagine I’m speaking at CLE.  You hear me say “the idea is that we’re not going to put a client to the ‘Hobson’s Choice’ of having to disclose a confidence in order to protect it.”

What general topic am I discussing?


It is not uncommon for lawyers who encounter former client conflicts to tell me “but Mike, I don’t remember anything about the prior case.”  That may be true, but it’s not the standard under Rule 1.9(a).  As the Vermont Supreme Court has explained, if the new client’s matter is the same as or substantially related to the former client’s matter, the Court will presume that the former client shared confidential information with the attorney.  Why? 

  • “[t]he purpose of the presumption is to avoid “ ‘putting theformer client to the Hobson’s choice of either having to disclose his privileged information in order to disqualify his former attorney or having to refrain from the disqualification motion altogether.’ ” In re Crepault, 167 Vt. 209, 216-17 (citations omitted).

Question 4

Lawyer called me with an inquiry. I listened, then said,

  • “Okay.  Since you and Attorney don’t work in the same firm, it is only allowed if  you  do one of two things.  And, since it sounds like Attorney doesn’t want to do any work on Client’s matter, that means that the first option is out. So, your only option is that you each assume joint responsibility for the representation of Client. Otherwise, the rule prohibits it.“

What is “it” that Lawyer called to discuss, and that Lawyer and Attorney propose to do.

Fee Sharing.   See, this post.

Question 5

As another school year approaches, imagine an aspiring 1L heading to law school.  Law student is cruising down the highway with the tunes blaring.  All of sudden, there are blue lights in the rear view. In the ensuing encounter with police, the law student says to the officer:

  • “Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back
    And I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that.”

Problem 1:  The situation at hand for our erstwhile law student.

Problem 2:  Future issues with the Character & Fitness committee upon applying for admission?

Problem 3: If law student’s statement is based on advice from a lawyer, the lawyer didn’t exactly provide competent & ethical advice.

Your problem: Name the artist & song that was blaring just before law student was pulled over.

Jay-Z, 99 Problems.

Jay Z


Monday Morning Answers

Congrats to my mom! I had a feeling that Question 5 would draw her into the fray . . . and it did.  As a result, her first ever appearance on the Honor Roll.

You see, when I was a kid, my mom was huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds.  So much so that we’d go see Reds when they played in Montreal and would kind of stalk look for the players in the restaurant at the team hotel.  One time, my mom plopped herself down in a booth with Joe Morgan, Sparky Anderson, and Johnny Bench and asked for autographs.  It was either Anderson or Bench who replied “no.”  When my mom asked why – “I don’t give autographs to people who are sitting on my jacket.”

I’ve never seen my mom move so quickly as she did to get off that jacket.

Friday’s quiz is HERE.  The answers follow today’s Honor Roll.

Honor Roll


Question 1

Good to know for all lawyers, but perhaps particularly relevant to Vermont lawyers who visit Canada .  .  .  what’s at the heart of the legal ethics issue related to border crossings that recently has drawn attention from bar counsel types?

Question 2

Which is most accurate?

The duty to maintain the confidentiality of information relating to the representation of a client:

  • A.   Applies only to information acquired from the client
  • B.   Applies only to a client’s “confidences and secrets” that would prove embarrassing or detrimental if disclosed
  • C.   Does not apply to information that is in a public record
  • D.  Applies to information acquired before the representation began and after it ended.  See, Rule 1.6, Reporter’s Notes, (The rule “imposes a duty of confidentiality concerning information relating to the representation regardless of whether it is acquired before or after the relationship existed.”)

I’ve blogged often on Rule 1.6 and how it applies to “information relating to the representation,”  whatever the source.  In that sense, the is much broader than the privilege. See, Comment [3].

Further, Rule 1.6 refers to “information relating to the representation.” It does not mention “confidences and secrets.”  We dropped that language when we switched from the Code to the Rules in 1999.

Finally, as I’ve often blogged, Rule 1.6 includes several exceptions to the prohibition against the unauthorized disclosure of information relating to the representation.  “It’s public record” is NOT one of them. Indeed, when analyzing whether a lawyer violated Rule 1.9(c) by disclosing information related to the representation of a former client without the former client’s consent,  courts around the country have almost uniformly held that the fact that information is public record does not mean that it’s “generally known.”

Question 3

Which is most accurate?  In Vermont,

  • A.   All conflicts are waivable
  • B    All conflicts are waivable, but must be waived in writing
  • C.   If Lawyer currently represents A, Lawyer may not represent B in a matter adverse to A, even if the two matters are unrelated and both A & B give informed consent.
  • D.   If Lawyer currently represents A, Lawyer is not necessarily precluded from representing B in a matter where B is adverse to A.  See, Rule 1.7Rule 1.7.

Here, A&B are clearly wrong.  As Rule 1.7(b) makes clear, not all conflicts are waivable.

C is wrong because Lawyer may continue if Lawyer complies with Rule 1.7(b).

D is most accurate. It’s actually mentioned in the last sentence to Comment 6, the first sentence to Comment 24, and addressed throughout each.

That being said – THINK TWICE. While A & B might be happy up front, if things go bad later on, they’re going to look for someone to blame and Lawyer makes a convenient target. Also, Rule 1.7(b)(3) is quite clear, as is Rule 1.7(b)(1).  With respect to the latter, what seemed “reasonable” at the time, might not seem so reasonable when examined in the harsh light of a disciplinary investigation.

Question 4

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

  • “here’s the deal: you can’t unilaterally resolve the dispute.  if the dispute involves a client & you, you’re supposed to suggest means for prompt resolution.  if it’s a dispute between your client and a third person, a comment to the rule indicates that you may consider filing an action asking a court to resolve the dispute.”

In that my response referred to the Rules of Professional Conduct, what is the most likely subject of the “dispute” that Attorney called to discuss?

Disputed property, likely funds.  The dispute could be between client & third person, or client and lawyer.  See, Rule 1.15(e), Comment [4].

Question 5

Attorney John Dowd is part of President Trump’s legal team.  Nearly 30 years ago, he authored the famed “Dowd Report;” a report that led to a star pro athlete effectively being “disbarred” from the athlete’s sport.  Ever since, the athlete has sought reinstatement.

Two years ago, Dowd appeared on a radio station and said that, in the 70’s, the athlete had sex with minors.   Last year, the athlete sued Dowd for defamation.  Neither Dowd’s comments nor the lawsuit generated much media coverage until this week . . . when Dowd’s defense team introduced a sworn statement from a woman stating that she had sex with the athlete when she was 14 years old, and he was 34.

Identify the athlete who, now, appears unlikely ever to be reinstated from the “disbarment” that followed the Dowd Report.

Pete Rose.

big red machine

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

Monday Morning Answers – #78

Friday’s quiz is here.  Today, the answers follow the Honor Roll.

And today’s Honor Roll includes something special.  For quite some time, Laura Gorsky regularly appeared on the Honor Roll while studying & working in the 4-year Law Office Study program.  She was recently admitted to the bar and, today, makes her first Honor Roll appearance as a full-fledged attorney.  Congratulations Laura!

Honor Roll

  • Carolyn Browne Anderson, Green Mountain Power; Vermont PRB
  • Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, John Marshall School of Law
  • Lindsay Cabreros, First American
  • Beth DeBernardi, ALJ, Department of Labor
  • Laura Gorsky, Esq., Law Office of David Sunshine
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Anthony Iarrapino, Esq
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Patrick Kennedy, Dealer.Com
  • Tom Little, Esq.
  • Jeffrey Messina, Bergeron Paradis & Fitzpatrick
  • Hal Miller, First American
  • Jim Runcie, Runcie & Ouimette


Question 1

By rule, a lawyer has a conflict if there is a significant risk that the representation of a client will be limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.  Rule 1.7

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, fill in at least ONE of the blanks. (hint: each blank is more than 1 word)

Question 2

Remaining on conflicts for a moment, a Comment indicates that ” ________  ___________ requires that each affected client be aware of the relevant circumstances of the material and reasonably forseeable ways that the conflict could have adverse effects on the interests of that client.”

Which fills in the blank verbatim?

  • A.    Dual Representation
  • B.     Informed Consent; Rule 1.7, Comment [18]
  • C.    Continued Representation
  • D.   Conflict Waiver

Question 3

Which type of fee agreement is different from the others?

  • A.   Contingent fee agreement
  • B.   An agreement to a non-refundable fee, paid in advance, that a lawyer may treat as the lawyer’s property before any legal services are rendered
  • C.   An agreement by lawyers in different firms to share the fee charged to a single client
  • D.   A standard hourly fee agreement

By rule, each of the others must be in writing.  The terms of a basic fee agreement must be communicated to a client, “preferably in writing,” but there is no requirement that the agreement be reduced to writing.  To avoid misunderstandings down the road, reducing a fee agreement to writing is best practice, even absent a rule requiring you to do so.

Question 4

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  She represents Defendant in a civil case and had a question related to some of the potential witnesses for Defendant.  I listened, then responded:  “by rule, you can make the request only if (1) the witness is a relative, employee, or agent of Defendant; or (2) if you reasonably believe that the potential witness’s interests won’t be adversely affected by agreeing to your request.”

What proposed course of conduct by Attorney do “make the request” and “your request” refer to?

Requesting a person other than a client to refrain from voluntarily giving relevant information to another party.  Rule 3.4(f); See, PRB Decision 78

Question 5

Oscar “Zeta” Acosta was a real-life attorney who practiced law in California.  In 1971, he and a famous writer took two trips to Las Vegas. On the first, the two attended the Mint 400, an off-road race that Sports Illustrated had dispatched the writer to cover.  A month later, they returned to Vegas, with the writer having been assigned by Rolling Stone to cover the National District Attorneys Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

The writer’s trips to Vegas with Attorney Acosta inspired a book.  In the book, a lawyer whose character is based on Acosta engages in behavior that, at the very least, would result in a referral to the Lawyers Assistance Program, if not a disciplinary prosecution.

For 1 point each, who was the writer with whom Attorney Acosta travelled to Las Vegas? And, what was the name of the character who was based on Acosta?

The writer:  Hunter S. Thompson.  The trips inspired Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas.  Acosta served as the basis for the character Dr. Gonzo.

Fear and Loathing

Monday Morning Answers: Declaration(s) of Independence Edition

So, I trekked to Lake Placid yesterday.  There’s a great running loop around Mirror Lake.  If you’re in LP, I recommend the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.  It’s a few steps off the main drag, so it’s a tad less crowded.  Great views of Mirror Lake and, in other direction, both Olympic rinks (1932 & 1980).

Happy 4th!

Friday’s questions are HERE. Spoiler alert – the answers follow today’s Honor Roll.




Question 1

Name the lawyer who is the only U.S. President to have been born on July 4.

I understand that you have 45 choices.  Most readers of this blog, however, should be able to narrow it down to a 50/50.

Vermont’s Own Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge.

Question 2

Did I say “ethics free?”  Oops.  It was mere puffery.

Rule 8.4(d) prohibits lawyers from engaging in “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

In July 1776, a relatively well-known document was approved.  It included a section that is often referred to as “the indictment.”  In the document, who was indicted for, among other things, “obstruct[ing] the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers?”

The Declaration of Independence Indicted King George III

Question 3

In January 1777, a group of people declared independence from the various jurisdictions laying claim to their land, forever declaring “a free and independent jurisdiction . . . hereafter to be called, known and distinguished by the name of New-Connecticut.”

What’s it called now?


Question 4

The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was on July 8, 1776.  The reading took place at what, at the time, was the Pennsylvania State House.

What was used to summon the public to the reading?

Bells, including the Liberty Bell

Question 5

Seinfeld is never far from this blog.  As Independence Day approaches, let us never forget that dark moment in time when Independent George was under threat.

In the dialogue below, what’s the word that fills in the blanks? Hint: the same word goes in each blank.

The answer is RELATIONSHIP George, and the scene is HERE.

  • George:  “You have no idea of the magnitude of this thing.  If she is allowed to infiltrate this world then George Costanza as you know him ceases to exist  You see, right now I have RELATIONSHIP George.  But there is also Independent George.  That’s the George you know, the George you grew up with…..Movie George, Coffee Shop George, Liar George, Bawdy George.”
  • Jerry: “I love that George.”
  • George: “Me too! And he’s dying.  If RELATIONSHIP George walks thru this door, he will kill Independent George.  A George divided against itself cannot stand!”




Monday Morning Answers – #77

As June’s final week dawns, we welcome two first-timers to the #fiveforfriday Honor Roll.  Congrats (and welcome) to Lindsay Cabreros and Mike Donofrio.  Bonus points to Mike for slipping in a Here Come The Warm Jets reference in his response to Question 2. And special recognition to Nicole Killoran for being the only entrant to comment on the lyrical reference to “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads.  

Friday’s questions are here.  Spoiler alert: the answers follow today’s Honor Roll.

Honor Roll

  • Karen Allen, Karen Allen Law
  • Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Penny Benelli, Dakin & Benelli
  • Lindsay Cabreros, Graduate Intern, First American
  • Beth DeBernardi, ALJ, Vermont Department of Labor
  • Andrew DelaneyMartin & Associates
  • Mike Donofrio, Stris & Maher
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Anthony Iarrapino
  • Keith KasperMcCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Patrick Kennedy, First Brother, Dealer.Com
  • Nicole Killoran, Vermont Law School, Professor, JD Externship Program
  • Ray MassuccoMassucco Law Offices
  • Hal Miller, First American, Oceanside Division
  • Herb Ogden, Law Office of Herb Ogden


Question 1

Two weeks ago, Andrew Manitsky, Tad Powers, and I presented a CLE that included a discussion of the ethics of puffing.  What was the topic of the CLE?

  • A.   Candor in Negotiations.  See, Puffing: The Ethics of Negotiations
  • B.   Candor in Opening & Closing Statements
  • C.   Lawyer Advertising & Social Media Marketing
  • D.   Advising Clients on Vermont’s (then proposed) Marijuana Laws

Question 2

In the matter of Byrne v. Eno, Attorney represents Byrne.  Lawyer represents Eno.

Eno e-mails a settlement offer directly to Attorney and does not copy Lawyer.

If Attorney calls me with an inquiry, it’s most likely that I’ll respond:

  • A.   You may reply directly to Eno on the substance of the offer.
  • B.   You may reply directly to Eno, but should limit the response to asking whether Eno is still represented by Lawyer
  • C.   Go through Lawyer.  The so-call “no-contact” rule still applies even though Eno initiated the communication.  See, Rule 4.2, Comment [3]
  • D.   “A,” but the comment suggests “B” is a better approach

Question 3

The phrase “single source” appears in the rules.  Last week, I spent several minutes discussing “single source” and its meaning at a CLE.

What was the topic of the CLE?

Trust Account Management.  See, Rule 1.15A(a)(4).  See also, PRB Decision 175, (Attorney Admonished for failing to have single source identifying all trust accounts)

Question 4

I get a lot of calls & e-mails on this topic.

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then told the Lawyer that the 50 states fall into two camps:  “end-product” states, and “work-product” states.  I added that, in my view, we’re an “end-product” state.

What did Lawyer call to discuss? Hint – the general topic is something that is required by the Rules of Professional Conduct and that 98% of you have had to deal with, no matter your practice area.

File Delivery Upon the Termination of a Representation.  For general guidance, see ABA Formal Opinion 471

Question 5

Rule 1.6(b) sets out the situations in which a lawyer must disclose a client’s intent to commit a crime.

More specifically, Rule 1.6(b)(1) requires a lawyer to reveal information related to the representation to the extent necessary to prevent the client or another person from committing a criminal act that the lawyer believes is reasonably likely to result in the death of a person other than the person committing the act.

If the rule had existed back then, it seems clear that Attorney Tom Hagen violated it as he watched Tessio driven away.

Name the movie.

Robert Duvall played Attorney Tom Hagen.  Abe Vigoda played Tessio.   Hagen failed to act to prevent Fish from sleeping with the fishes in The Godfather.

The Godfather




Monday Morning Answers: #76

Delayed post this morning.  As a Celtics fan, I got caught up reading blogs trying to figure out if this weekend’s trade makes any sense.  I’m on board with Tatum at #3.  I’m luke warm on anything involving Jimmy Butler, and not at all interested in renting Paul George for a year.

Anyhow, I digress.  Friday’s questions are here.  Spoiler alert: the answers follow the honor roll.

Honor Roll



Question 1

Attorney represents an organization in a matter.  Opposing Counsel knows that Attorney represent the organization in the matter.  Without Attorney’s permission, Opposing Counsel discusses the matter with a former employee of the organization.  Which is most accurate?

  • A.  Opposing Counsel violated the rules.
  • B.  Opposing Counsel did not violate the rules.  Rule 4.2, Comment [7], (“Consent of the organization’s lawyer is not required for communication with a former constituent.”)
  • C.  Attorney violated the rules.

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then asked:

“has the clerk certified that the term of service is complete?”

What did Lawyer ask me if it would be okay to do?

Lawyer asked if it would be permissible to communicate with a juror.  See, Rule 3.5(b) & (c).

Question 3

Lawyer has actual knowledge that Client is going to commit a fraud.  The fraud is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another.  Which most accurate states Lawyer’s duty:

A.  Lawyer must disclose Client’s intent.

B.   Lawyer may disclose Clientt’s intent.

C.  Lawyer must disclose Cient’s intent if Client used Lawyer’s services in furtherance of the fraud.  Rule 1.6(b)(3).

D.  Lawyer must not disclose Client’s intent – disclosure is required only if a client’s crime or fraud will result in the  death of, or substantial physical harm to, someone other than the client.

Question 4

By rule, in contingent fee cases:

  • A.    The fee must be calculated before expenses are deducted
  • B.    The fee must be calculated after expenses are deducted
  • C.    The rule is silent as to whether the fee is to be calculated before or after expenses are deducted
  • D    The fee agreement must specify whether the fee will be calculated before or after expenses are deducted.  Rule 1.5(c).

Question 5

Barry Zuckerkorn is the Bluth family’s inept & incompetent lawyer on the Emmy Award winning show Arrested Development. Whatever his fee, it was probably unreasonable.

In one episode, Zuckerkorn literally jumped over a shark that was lying dead on a pier.  The scene was scripted in homage to a popular 1970’s-80’s TV show that starred the actor who plays Zuckerkorn.

  • Name the actor and the 1970’s show in which he starred.

Henry Winkler.  Happy Days.  The hint: the origin of the phrase “jumped the shark” is the episode in which Fonzie jumped a shark on water skis .


Monday Morning Answers & Honor Roll

I guess it’s summer.

Friday’s questions are HERE.  The answers follow today’s Honor Roll. And, speaking of the Honor Roll, there’s a first-time entrant this week: Professor Alberto Bernabe from John Marshall Law School. Professor Bernabe has a great blog on legal ethics.  It’s HERE.


  • Matthew Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor of Law, John Marshall Law School in Chicago
  • Beth DeBernardi, ALJ, Department of Labor
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Patrick Kennedy, First Brother, Dealer.Com
  • Deb Kirchwey, The Law Offices of Deborah Kirchwey,
  • Tom Little, VSAC
  • Hal Miller, First American, Oceanside Division
  • James Runcie, Runcie & Ouimette
  • Allison Wannop, Law Clerk, Vermont Superior Court


  • Easiest:   Question 2
  • Hardest:  Question 1

Question 1

The rules prohibit lawyers from asking clients to consent to conflicts that might arise in the future.

  • A.    True
  • B.     False.  See, Rule 1.7, Comment [22]Conflict waivers require informed consent. It can be difficult to provide informed consent to waive a conflict that has yet to arise. Thus, per the Comment, “[t]he effectiveness of such waivers is generally determined by the extent to which the client understands the material risks that the waiver entails.”
  • C.     True, but the rule only applies in criminal cases

Question 2

What do these have in common?

  • Expenses of investigation;
  • Expenses of medial examinations; and
  • Costs of obtaining and presenting evidence

Costs and expenses of litigation that can be advanced.  See, Rule 1.8(e)(1).  I’ve previously blogged that amending this rule might help to increase access to legal services.

Question 3

Which is the most accurate answer?

An attorney shall not “prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any substantial gift unless __________”

  • A.    The attorney or recipient is related to the client.  Rule 1.8(c).
  • B.     The client gives informed consent
  • C.     The client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing

Question 4

Rule 1.18 relaxes a lawyer’s duty of loyalty to prospective clients who meet with, but do not retain, the lawyer.  There is another duty that Rule 1.18 does not relax.  That is, a duty that the lawyer owes to the prospective client even though the prospective client chose not retain the lawyer.

What is the duty?

The duty to maintain confidences.  See, Rule 1.18(b). More specifically, the duty not to use or reveal information shared in the consultation except as required or permitted by rules 1.6 and 1.9.

Question 5

Following up on last week’s controversial column, I know that a few of my readers prefer a particular band to both the Beatles and the Stones.

Imagine a lawyer who is on the road, and maybe on the run.  The lawyer says:

“Sitting and staring out the hotel window

Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again

I’d like to get some sleep before I travel

But if you gotta warrant I guess you’re gonna come in”

I’m not sure a lawyer satisfies the duty of competence by basing his or her understanding of criminal law/criminal procedure/constitutional law on the teachings of  …….. who?

The Grateful Dead.   Lyrics from the song Truckin’

As I mentioned Friday, I included this question for the several readers who responded to my Beatles v. Stones column by mentioning that they’re fans of the Dead.  I’m not against the Dead, but I never got into them. In fact, my favorite “version” of Truckin’ is the snippet of the song that Tesla mixed into Comin’ Atcha Live during the sneaky good Live at the Trocadero performance that was recorded & released as Five Man Accoustical Jam.


Monday Morning Answers: Beatles v. Stones

Mystery solved.

  • Mystery:  what can I blog about that will cause lawyers to respond?
  • Solution:  Assert that the Stones are better than the Beatles.

The responses were fantastic!  My non-scientific analysis:

  • 1/3 flat out disagreed with me
  • 1/3 disagreed, but argued that there’s room to like both bands
  • 1/3 agreed

Even within the final group, the responses revealed an affinity for Their Satanic Majesties Request that took me by surprise. Also, within my readership, there’s a healthy undercurrent of support for the The Kinks as being as important to the British Invasion as both the Beatles and Stones.

In any event, I love when lawyers argue passionately about an issue that has nothing to dow with the law. Indeed, one of the goals behind this blog is to demonstrate that we’re much more than the stereotype of our profession.  Readers:  you responses to Friday’s blog proved beyond a reasonable doubt that we are.  Thank you!

Stay tuned – I’m toying with the idea of a turning Friday’s debate into a moot court argument that I’ll use as a fundraiser.  And I already have an excellent idea of who will represent each side!

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

Honor Roll


  • Easiest:  Question 1
  • Most difficult: Question 5
  • Most difficult in ethics:  Question 2

There’s a rule that imposes “special responsibilities” upon:

  • A.  Prosecutors; Rule 3.8
  • B.  Judges
  • C.  Juvenile defenders
  • D.  Real estate lawyers who also sell title insurance

Question 2

The “self-defense” exception to Rule 1.6 is often discussed with respect to:

  • A.  Disclosing a client’s intent to commit a crime
  • B.  Disclosing a client’s past commission of a crime
  • C.  Responding to a client’s negative online review; See this blog post.
  • D.  Withdrawing from a matter to keep from violating the ethics rules

Question 3

Which is most accurate?

  • A.  A fee violates the prohibition on unreasonable fees only if it is collected
  • B.  Vermont’s rules require lawyers to self-report violations of the rules
  • C.  A comment to the rule on conflicts of interest with a former client suggests that the rule does not apply if 10 years have passed since the prior representation.
  • D.  A lawyer must deliver the file upon the termination of the representation.  Rule 1.16(d).

Question 4

Attorney called with an inquiry. I listened, then replied:

“If you reasonably believe Client is telling you the truth, you can disclose it to the police or his family or someone who can help.  You don’t have to disclose, but you aren’t prohibited from disclosing.”

What did Attorney learn from or about Client that prompted Attorney to call me?

Attorney learned that Client intended to commit an act that is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm to Client.  See, Rule 1.6(c)(1); Comment [10].

Question 5

With a hidden shout out to regular reader, here’s this week’s question 5:

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with two fantastic groups of lawyers: the state’s prosecutors and the state’s public defenders.  You can’t swing a dead cat in Vermont’s criminal courts without hitting a dedicated, competent public service attorney.  To each group, thank you for all that you do.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys often ask me about Rule 3.8 and a prosecutor’s Brady obligations.  As most of you know, Brady v. Maryland involved a prosecutor’s decision to withhold potentially exculpatory information.

What specific item of evidentiary value to the defense did the Brady prosecutor fail to disclose?

A co-defendant’s written statement that the co-defendant acted alone.



Monday Morning Answers: Memorial Day

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

Honor Roll

  • Matthew Anderson, Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin & White
  • Penny Benelli, Dakin & Benelli
  • Jennifer Blomback, VATC
  • Beth DeBernardi, ALJ, Department of Labor
  • Robert Grundstein, Esq.
  • Anthony Iarrapino, Esq.
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Patrick Kennedy, First Brother, Dealer.Com
  • Aileen Lachs, Mickenberg, Dunn, Lachs, Smith
  • Kevin Lumpkin, Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Hal Miller, Esq.
  • Lon McClintock, Esq.
  • Herb Ogden, Esq.
  • Jim Runcie, Esq.


  • Hardest:  Question 5. Of the ethics, Question 1.
  • Easiest:  Question 4
  • Hidden Pop Culture Reference: Question 3.  Emmit & Ray Stussy are the twin brothers played by Ewan McGregor in this season of Fargo.  I highly recommend it. V.M. Varga has quickly become one of my favorite characters in TV history.


Question 1

Firm represents Client.  The matter settles and Firm receives an insurance check for $50,000.  Firm notifies Cient and deposits the check into trust.

Firm presents client with an accounting that indicates that Client owes Firm $15,000. Firm is prepared to disburse the remaining $35,000 to Client.

Client contends that she only owes Firm $10,000.

Assume that nobody other than Firm & Client have interests in the settlement.  Which is most accurate?

  • A.   Firm must keep the entire $50,000 in trust until the dispute is resolved.
  • B.   Firm must disburse $40,000 to Client and keep $10,000 separate until the dispute is resolved.
  • C.   Firm must disburse $35,000 to Client and keep $15,000 separate until the dispute is resolved.
  • D.  Firm must disburse $35,000 to Client, disburse $10,000 to Firm, and keep $5,000 separate until the dispute is resolved.  See, Rule 1.15.  

Section (e) requires a lawyer to disburse funds that are not in dispute.  Section (a) prohibits commingling.  So, there is $45,000 that isn’t in dispute: Client’s $35,000 and the $10,000 Client agrees is owed to Firm.  Those portions must be disbursed, with the disputed $5000 remaining separate until the dispute is resolved.

Question 2

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

  • “The first thing the rule requires is that you not state or imply that you’re disinterested.”

Given my statement, it’s most likely that Attorney called to discuss:

  • A.  A subpoena to testify about a former client’s matter
  • B.  A prospective client who met with, but did not retain Attorney
  • C.  A request from an unrepresented person to meet with Attorney to provide information related to a client’s matter.   See, Rule 4.3.
  • D.  Serving on a jury

Question 3

Lawyer represents Emmit in a dispute with a government agency.  Lawyer learns that the agency interprets a regulation in a particular way.

Lawyer also represents Ray.  Ray is involved in a dispute with the same government agency, one that involves the same regulation.

Which is most accurate?

  • A.   Absent Emmit’s consent, Lawyer may not use the agency’s interpretation to help Ray and, therefore, must withdraw from Ray’s matter.
  • B.   Unless the agency’s interpretation is a matter of public record, Lawyer may not use the interpretation to assist Ray and, therefore, must withdraw from Ray’s matter.
  • C.  If the two matters are the same or substantially related, Lawyer may use anything that he learns while representing Emmit to help Ray.
  • D.  If it would not disadvantage Emmit to do so, Lawyer may use the agency’s interpretation of the regulation to help Ray.  See, Rule 1.8, Comment [5].

Question 4

Of the following, one has not traditionally been treated as a rules violation, viewed instead as a mistake that does not rise to the level of an ethics violation.  In my opinion, that should soon change, and the conduct should be considered a violation of the rules.

  • A.   Withdrawing because a client calls or e-mails too often
  • B.    An associate acting at the express direction of a supervising partner
  • C.   Falling for a common trust account scam.  See, this post.
  • D.   Representing a client who is adverse to a former client on the theory that “I don’t remember anything about the former client’s case.”

Question 5

Somewhat of a dichotomy given the weekend . . .

This lawyer collapsed and died of a heart attack near his Washington, D.C. home in 1988.  He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery – in part because of his service in the U.S. Navy World War II, and in part because he once held a cabinet position.  The cabinet position: Attorney General of the United States.

In 1976, the lawyer was disbarred by the State of New York as a result of having been convicted of crimes that took place while he served as U.S. Attorney General.

Name the lawyer.

John Mitchell. Mitchell was Attorney General during Watergate.