On Constitution Day, Consider Civics & Giving

Today is Constitution Day.  It marks the day in 1787 that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.

Last night, the Vermont Bar Association and the Vermont Judiciary held their 4th annual celebration of Constitution Day.  This year’s event took place at Vermont Law School and featured presentations from Justice Eaton, Justice Robinson, Judge Tomasi, Judge Pearson and Professor Teachout.  The theme was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.” You can read more about the night on the VBA Blawg.

I have no doubt that the presentations were fantastic.  But we need to do more.

More than once, I’ve blogged on disturbing statistics related to civic education.  Last May, I posted this blog in which I linked to an ABA Journal piece that reported on “gaps in Americans’ civic knowledge.”  The numbers are concerning.

Not as concerning as numbers I blogged about two years ago.  Marking Constitution Day 2017, I wrote about a study that revealed that nearly 40% of Americans cannot name even one of the protections afforded by the First Amendment.

There are 6.

We must do more to promote civic education.

Bob Carlson is the immediate past president of the American Bar Association.  He’s quoted in the ABA piece that I referenced above:

  • “Democracy is not a spectator sport, but to participate, you need to know the rules. That’s too important to leave to chance. The ABA conducted the survey to determine how well the American public understands the law, the Constitution and their rights and responsibilities. The results clearly show that we have more work to do.”

Carlson added:

  • “American democracy does not function without a fully informed citizenry. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said: ‘The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens.’”

You can help.  Many Vermont lawyers volunteer in schools and before community groups speaking about the Constitution, the separation of powers, and civics.  If you’re interested in doing the same, contact Jennifer Emens-Butler.  Jennifer is the VBA’s Director of Education & Communication.

Finally, keep an eye out for the Vermont Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Campaign. Two years ago this month, I laid down a challenge.  In my post The Constitution & Karaoke, I wrote:

“As I’ve mentioned at a few seminars, my initial exposure to the U.S. Constitution was during the Saturday morning cartoons I watched as a kid.  Courtesy of the folks at Schoolhouse Rock!, that’s when, where, and how I first learned about the origins of the Constitution and the words to The Preamble.

Of course, if people are not able to access the legal services that they need to protect their rights, the Constitution might mean little to them.  So, in honor of Constitution Day, if an attorney or firm donates $1,000 to the Vermont Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Campaign by Friday, September 29, I’ll karaoke the Schoolhouse Rock! version of The Preamble at the VBA’s upcoming annual meeting.”

It worked.  I held up my end of the bargain and, with my parents sitting front & center, sang like it’d be my last time ever on stage.

And it will be.  As my friend and fellow attorney James Valente has suggested, I’d have raised more money for the A2J Campaign by soliciting donations not to sing.

He’s right.  And I’ll be the first to say that any argument to the contrary would be frivolous and wholly without support in fact or law.

Still, my commitment to remaining a one-time wonder doesn’t change the fact that the Constitution will mean little if the people who need its protections most cannot access legal services.  If it hasn’t already, the VBF A2J campaign will start soon.  Be ready.

On Constitution Day, consider civics and giving.

Thank you.

Schoolhouse Rock Preamble

Judicial Recusal: Guidance from Mag & the ABA

In my first year as a high school varsity basketball coach, I started a sophomore guard named Chris Magistrale.  “Mag” (pronounced “madge”) was a terrific player, teammate, and person.   By the time his high school basketball career ended, he’d been named captain, earned numerous all-league & all-state honors, and scored more than 1,000 points.  He and I remained close over the years.

A few years after graduating, Mag got into reffing.  He eventually worked his way up to the varsity level, reffing in the same league in which he used to play and in which I continued to coach.  Somewhat surprisingly, one year, Mag was assigned to ref our season-opener.  He worked a great game, neither helping nor hurting his alma mater & old coach.

Still, a few opposing coaches expressed concern to the referee in charge of assigning officials.  From then until my retirement, Chris never again worked one of my games.

And rightfully so.  In basketball, when it comes to the fairness of the game, appearances matter.

Last week, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 488.  The opinion provides guidance as to judges’ obligations to recuse themselves due to a social or personal relationship with a party or lawyer.  The ABA Journal and Lawyer Ethics Alert Blog reported on the opinion.

The opinion begins by citing to Rule 2.11 of ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. The rule governs disqualification.  Vermont’s equivalent is Rule 3(E) of the Vermont Code of Judicial Conduct.  For the most part, it mirrors the Model Rule by requiring recusal whenever a “judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”  Then, the VT rule lists various relationship in which it is presumed reasonable to question the judge’s impartiality.

Vermont’s rule includes another critical component.  As I read Rule 3(G), even if a judge’s initial (and perhaps internal) decision is that recusal is not required, the judge must nevertheless “disclose any fact or matter relevant to the question of impartiality that, in the judge’s view, may require disqualification under Rule 3(E)(1).”

In any event, back to the ABA Opinion.

The opinion divides judges’ social and personal relationships into three categories:

  1. Acquaintances
  2. Friendships
  3. Close Personal Relationships

The conclusion:

  • ” In summary, judges need not disqualify themselves if a lawyer or party is an acquaintance, nor must they disclose acquaintanceships to the other lawyers or parties. Whether judges must disqualify themselves when a party or lawyer is a friend or shares a close personal relationship with the judge or should instead take the lesser step of disclosing the friendship or close personal relationship to
    the other lawyers and parties, depends on the circumstances.”

Judicial ethics are not my bailiwick. Nevertheless, I find the final sentence in the block-quote a bit surprising.  It strikes me that “close and personal” should require recusal.  Indeed, my sense is that the Vermont bench errs on the side of caution and that our judges disclose and recuse themselves more often than the opinion suggests is required.

To me, that’s a good thing.  Like basketball, when it comes to the fairness of the judicial process, appearances matter.

By the way, Chris is still pretty terrific.  He is making a difference in this world.  Here’s Mag now:

 

Wellness Wednesday: It’s okay to be you.

At the end of May, I posted this blog.  In it, I suggested that, this summer, you do what works for you, not what you think others expect you to do.  In other words, be yourself.

A few weeks later, I posted Wellness Wednesday: Survival Skills.  It’s a post in which I referred to Link Christin, a lawyer who contributes to Attorney at Work.  In February, Attorney Christin started a series on survival skills for lawyers.  As of my blog, he’d posted five:

A few weeks ago, Attorney Christin posted Survival Skill No. 6 for Lawyers: Bring Your Authentic Self to Work.  In it, he writes:

  • “Lawyers must create an environment where they can deal with personal and professional behavioral issues in a timely way rather than internalizing them only to have them surface later in more dangerous and destructive ways. We shouldn’t expect everybody to embrace or even like our authentic selves. But, at the end of the day, our success as lawyers and our happiness and stability in life are premised on honoring who we truly are.”

Attorney Christin’s argument that well-being includes being your authentic self reminded me of my suggestion that you spend the summer being you.  And, the more I thought about it, the more I was reminded of my friend David Marlow.

Dave is the Activities Director at Mt. Mansfield Union High School.  In 2018, Dave was Vermont’s Division 1 Athletic Director of the Year.

Last year, Dave did a lot of work getting MMU’s student-athletes involved with mental health awareness.   An aspect of the students’ focus was de-stigmatizing mental health issues and encouraging peers who want help to seek it.  They came up with a phrase that Dave uses often on social media: “It’s okay not to be okay.”  Dave often follows it with #EndTheStigma.

Attorney Christin and Dave make great points that, really, are part of a singular message.

Again, Attorney Christin writes that “[l]awyers must create an environment where they can deal with personal and professional behavioral issues in a timely way rather than internalizing them only to have them surface later in more dangerous and destructive ways.” In other words, not only must we help lawyers deal with behavioral health issues, we must create an environment conducive to seeking help.  Which is exactly what Dave and his student-athletes mean when they say, “it’s okay not to be okay.”

It’s okay to be you.  And, if you need help being you, that’s okay too.  There’s a list of resources here.

wellness

 

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Time to change our business model?

“BigLaw” refers to the nation’s largest law firms.  Contrary to popular stereotypes, BigLaw lawyers have been some of the most influential voices in the on-going discussion of attorney well-being.

Jana Cohen Barbe is a partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.  Last week, several outlets, including LawFuel and Law.Com, published an open letter in which Attorney Barbe argued that a root cause of the legal profession’s mental health crisis is, in fact, the profession’s business model.  As such, Attorney Barbe urged firms to re-think compensation systems, vacation packages, and “the almighty billable hour.”

I urge you to read Attorney Barbe’s letter.  Here’s the paragraph that resonated most with me, mainly because it reminded me of a blog I posted two weeks ago: Vacations, Devices & Vacations From Devices:

  • “What would happen if we de-emphasized the billable hour or did away with it completely, sizing our fees to projects undertaken and rewarding efficiency in performance? What would happen if we fostered a culture where vacations were mandatory and professionals were instructed not to check email while out of the office? I posit that our workforce would be happier, our clients would be happier (and also institutionalized to a far greater degree) and we could still pay the proverbial rent.”

Indeed, what would happen?  It’s time to find out.

(thank you Geoffrey Bok for the tip!)

Wellness

Safeguarding Client Data: Don’t Forget Email Safety.

Like Starship built a city on rock ‘n roll, I built this blog on tech competence.  More specifically, on a phrase that, while once my mantra, I’ve not typed in ages:

competence includes tech competence.

The story of a lawyer’s duty of tech competence includes many chapters.  Perhaps the most important is the chapter on the duty to take reasonable precautions against the unauthorized access to or inadvertent disclosure of information related to the representation of a client.  Given the feedback I’ve received here and at CLEs, lawyers seem to associate that duty most closely with cloud storage.

Yes, protecting client data this transmitted or stored electronically is important. So important that I’ve run my post The Cloud: What Are Reasonable Precautions? four different times.

But don’t forget e-mail security.  And, within the topic of e-mail security, don’t get so pre-occupied with whether there’s a duty to encrypt that you forget about some of the simple things.  For instance, whether a lawyer has a duty to disable autocomplete.

Almost two years ago, I posted Client Confidences: Disable Autocomplete?  Two “real-life” events inspired the post.

The first was a story that I repeated often on this spring’s CLE circuit.  As reported by Above The Law, it’s the story of a lawyer who meant to send a message to other lawyers in the firm, but mistakenly sent it to a Wall State Journal reporter in what appears to have been an autocomplete snafu.

The second hit closer to home.  Thanks to autocomplete, an email that a lawyer intended to send to me mistakenly went to Judge Michael Kainen.

Catherine Sanders Reach runs the North Carolina Bar Association’s Center for Practice Management.  Earlier this week, Catherine posted Make Email Less Dangerous.  It’s a fantastic piece on protecting client data when using email.  Catherine’s tips include instructions on:

  • disabling autocomplete
  • using “delay send” and “undo send”
  • Microsoft Add-Ins that protect against sending to the wrong recipient
  • keeping internal emails internal

I recommend Catherine’s blog.

After all, and to tie this back to the intro, better to spend some time with Catherine’s tips than to find yourself Knee Deep in the Hoopla that will certainly ensue if you inadvertently send confidential information to an unintended recipient.

Yes.  I’m quite aware that I posted a blog constructed around what some consider to be the worst song of all-time.

 

 

 

 

My Dad

Last year, I blogged about my Dad on Father’s Day weekend.  In his honor, I’m re-posting it today.

As soon as I post this, I’m heading to Lebanon to run the same race I ran last Father’s Day.  My brother can’t make it this year, so I’ve yet to decide how to handle the post-race tradition referenced at the end of the blog.

Originally posted on June 15, 2018 – “My Dad”

Welcome to #121!

So, 121 is a palindromic number.  You know what else is a palindrome?  The word “dad.”  So, on Father’s Day weekend, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about my dad, Mark Kennedy.

Many of my readers know my mom.  Because she’s awesome. And, lawyers being lawyers, they like to get to know awesome people.

Not as many readers know my dad.  He’s awesome too.  In 1992, he re-married and moved south.  Had he stayed, readers would’ve tried to get to know him as well.

My dad grew up in Burlington’s Old North End under the watchful eye of Aunt Kate.  His parents bounced around the neighborhood from apartment to apartment.  Every apartment that my dad lived in as a kid is within .25 miles of my office.

My dad went to Cathedral High School.  For those of you who don’t know, Cathedral is what Rice used to be called.  It was on the corner of Pearl & St. Paul, a site that is now the state garage where I park for work.

After graduating, my dad enrolled at St. Michael’s.  He walked to and from class.  My grandparents didn’t have much.  Money ran dry after my dad’s sophomore year. So, he joined the Army, served for a few years in Germany, then returned to Burlington to finish up at St. Mike’s.

My dad’s first job was as a teacher in Essex.  Eventually, he became the vice-principal at Shelburne Middle School, then the principal at Camel’s Hump Middle School.  When I was a 6th grader at South Burlington Middle School, the principal left.  So, the district hired a new guy: my dad.

Some might say that it’d stink to have your dad be your principal.  Au contraire.  It works out quite nicely when the principal understands all-too-well the perils of reporting alleged misconduct to a particular student’s mom.

Anyhow, long story short, in 1992, my dad married Jane Ramsey.  At the time, Jane lived in Yorktown, Virginia.  My dad moved down there, spent 10 years as the vice-principal at Yorktown’s Bruton High School, then retired. Now, he and Jane live in Flat Rock, North Carolina, a small town about 25 miles southwest of Asheville.

Thinking about my dad for this post, I was struck by a few things.

First, it’s hard to describe the essence of a person.  Not so much with my dad.  He might disagree, but to me, he lives his life by two rules: (1) he’s kind to everyone; and (2) he thinks before he speaks.  The world, and our profession, could use more people with the same approach.

Next, I was struck by how much of myself I can trace back to my dad & his influence.  This blog & my CLE presentations are a perfect example.  Besides legal ethics, what do I mention most?   Sports, running, and coaching basketball.

My dad introduced my brother & I to sports.  He played sports with us. He watched sports with us.  He taught us about sports.  He took us to Expos and Red Sox games.  He went to every single one of our games and was always supportive.

As for running, I was the last in my family to the sport.  I didn’t start running until I was 40.  My brother was a star runner at SBHS and helped lead his team to the state championship as a senior.  The original Kennedy to run? My dad.  He ran track at Cathedral (100, 200, and relay) and helped lead his team to the state championship as a senior.  My first coach when I finally started to run?  My dad.

By the way, my dad still runs.  Just a few years ago he dominated his age group at the Asheville Turkey Trot:

IMG_0445

Finally, coaching basketball. Not much has influenced my life more than my career as a high school basketball coach.  I honestly cannot imagine my life without my core group of friends, every single one of whom I met thru coaching.

Way back when, my dad was a basketball coach. He coached 8th grade CYO teams for Cathedral, helping to develop many players who went on to win state championships at Rice.

More importantly to me, the only reason I got into coaching was because my high school coach asked me to work as an assistant after I graduated.  It’s an opportunity that, really, was only available to me because of my dad.

You see, when I was a junior in high school, my basketball team had a scrimmage.  The same coach who would later give me my start in coaching barely played me during the scrimmage.  That night, I told my dad I was going to quit.  He didn’t get mad, or tell me that I couldn’t quit.  Rather, he paused, and then told me that another option would be to go back and try to get better.  So, I did.  I played for the remainder of my high school career.

Had I quit, there is a 0% chance that my high school coach would’ve asked me to be an assistant.  A career that ended up meaning so much to me never would have started.  Thanks to kind, gentle, subtle nudging from my dad, it did.

Oh, and one more thing, but for my dad, I might not have gone to law school.

After I graduated from UVM, I had a job at a gas station on Shelburne Road. I loved it. I pumped gas, sold cigarettes & beer, made some money, and worked with some good high school friends.  After a few months, the boss made me “day manager,” paid me $325 per week, and let me work hours that would allow me to coach high school football & basketball.  Life was perfect.

One day, my dad stopped by.  Very calmly, he asked “you gonna change oil your whole life?”  At first, I was thrilled.  You see, the owners had let me change tires, but they knew better than to let me change oil.  So, I was ecstatic that my dad was so confident in me to see that, soon enough, I’d be entrusted to handle the “oil, lubes & filters.”

Then his point sank in.  So, I applied to law school.  And here I am.  And where I am is not only a great spot, but it’s a spot upon which I’d never have landed without my dad’s support.  So much that matters to me, so much that IS me, I owe to my dad.

Dad – on behalf of Patrick, we love you.  Happy Father’s Day!  We can’t wait to see you in D.C. in a few weeks for the Sox-Nationals games.  Until then, don’t waste your time looking in the mail for a gift or card.  The fact remains, you raised 2 Irish sons for whom planning ahead isn’t a strong suit.

That being said, on Father’s Day, Patrick & I are heading to Lebanon, NH. I’m going to run a race. It’s sponsored by an Irish bar, and Patrick & I fully intend to stop at the bar after the race.  When we do, we’ll order 3 pints: 1 for Patrick, 1 for me, and 1 for you.

We’ll each drink our own, then half of yours.

As I said, you raised two Irish sons!

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Law Day

Happy Law Day!

This year’s theme: free speech, free press, free society.

(Try saying that 3 times fast and learn why today might also be national tongue twister day.)

What’s this got to do with wellness?  Let me try to convince you that it does.

Per today’s ABA Journal, there are “gaps in Americans’ civic knowledge.”  The gaps were revealed by the 2019 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy.  Honestly, the numbers don’t look terrible to me. Especially compared to numbers I reported in this space a few years.

In this post, I referenced this poll.  37% of those surveyed couldn’t name EVEN ONE of the protections in the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Free speech, free press, and free society indeed.

As I blogged back then,

Worse, per the same poll, only 1 in 4 Americans can name all 3 branches of government!

If 3 out of 4 don’t know the branches, how are we to impress upon the executive & legislative branches the importance of an independent & fully funded judicial branch?

Here’s a simple way to help: contact the Vermont Bar Association at info@vtbar.org  Ask for a pocket constitution.  Give the pocket constitution to a kid, or to a teacher, or to a client who is a school board member.

Or, do what a number of Vermont lawyers have been doing around the state: volunteering their time to visit schools and civic organizations to talk about the Constitution and civics.  It might sound like a small step.  It is.  But small steps often lead in the right direction.

Earlier that week, I’d posted Constitution Day & KaraokeIn it, I laid down this challenge:

As I’ve mentioned at a few seminars, my initial exposure to the U.S. Constitution was during the Saturday morning cartoons I watched as a kid.  Courtesy of the folks at Schoolhouse Rock!, that’s when, where, and how I first learned about the origins of the Constitution and the words to The Preamble.

Of course, if people are not able to access the legal services that they need to protect their rights, the Constitution might mean little to them.  So, in honor of Constitution Day, if an attorney or firm donates $1,000 to the Vermont Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Campaign by Friday, September 29, I’ll karaoke the Schoolhouse Rock! version of The Preamble at the VBA’s upcoming annual meeting.

Within days, the challenged was accepted and my singing debut finalized.  At the October 2017 Annual Meeting of the Vermont Bar Association I  subjected those in attendance  to my rendition of the Schoolhouse Rock! song.  How it has not gone viral is truly the 9th wonder of the modern world.

If picturing me singing The Preamble to a ballroom full of 300 as my parents looked on in abject horror doesn’t improve your mood, then I don’t know what wellness is.

Furthermore, last week, Eileen Blackwood and I presented on professionalism at the VBA’s Basic Skills conference.  Eileen urged the new lawyers to consider pro bono work.  Among its other benefits, Eileen shared a poignant story of how a case that she handled pro bono brought her a measure of personal satisfaction that she didn’t always find in her work for “paying” clients.

Her story is relevant today.

Pro bono is a professional responibility.  The rule here.  It states that a substantial majority of a lawyer’s pro bono hours should be provided to persons of limited means or to organizations whose primary purpose is to support persons of limited means.

After that, however, Rule 6.1(b)(3) indicates that additional hours may include “participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.” Per Comment [8], this includes “taking part in Law Day activities.”

So,

  • it’s clear that we need to do more to increase civic knowledge;
  • Rule 6.1(b)(3) and Comment [8] indicate that Law Day activities count as pro bono;
  • as Eileen shared, pro bono work can improve your sense of wellness.

Thus, volunteering to raise civic wellness might include the added benefit of improving your wellness.

Get involved.  The rule of law needs lawyers, and lawyers need wellness.

Schoolhouse Rock Preamble

Don’t Fear E-Filing

This year, the Vermont Judiciary will start the rollout of its Odyssey Case Management System (“CMS”).

In January, Judge Kate Hayes, Andy Stone (the Judiciary’s CMS Project Director) and me presented a CLE on the new system.  Our CLE opened the Vermont Bar Association’s YLD Thaw.  The VBA has graciously made the material available here.  Judge Hayes & Andy addressed practical issues, while I touched on ethics issues associated with e-filing.

This will sound odd coming from a blogger who built this blog on the mantra “competence includes tech competence.”  But, with respect to the ethics issues associated with the new CMS, my message is this:

  • Don’t get too caught up in the tech aspect of it.  The fact is, your duties will be no different than in a paper-based system.  That is, the duty to provide clients with competent representation will include understanding what the rules of electronic filing require.

On that note, I have good news.

E-filing isn’t new.  It was introduced in the state courts in 2010.  In addition, many of you practice in the federal District Court and Bankruptcy Court.  E-filing is a thing in each.  In all my time here, I’ve received fewer than 3 complaints alleging that a lawyer’s lack of tech proficiency negatively impacted a client’s matter.

The Vermont Judiciary has adopted rules for electronic filing.  As I understand it, a committee is looking at prposed changes to the rules.  If and when those changes are made, they will be available on the Judiciary’s website.

The CMS rollout will progress in stages.  That is, the Judicial Bureau, the Environmental Unit, the Supreme Court, and the various units (counties) will come online over time.  As courts in which you appear transitionto CMS, you should familiarize yourself with the rules for electronic filing.

Fear not.  Remember: fewer than 3 complaints.

Also, when it comes to technology, it’s usually not “tech” that gets a lawyer in trouble. It’s using tech to do something that would’ve been unethical if done without tech.

For instance, lawsuits against stooge defendants are a problem whether filed electronically or on paper.

(The same post includes a digest of cases & opinions in which lawyers were sanctioned for disclosing client confidences in response to negative online reviews.  Remember, it’s not the fact that the confidences were disclosed online that’s the problem: it’s that they were disclosed!)

Similarly, as I blogged here, comments that would’ve been inappropriate in a telegram to a client are no less inappropriate because they were made via Messenger.

Which gets me to final point: whether by smoke signal, spoken word, typed document, or electronic submission, dishonesty is unethical.

Preparing for the Montreal seminar, I asked attorney regulators in states that have moved exclusively to e-filing to share with me any cases in which lawyers were disciplined for conduct involving “e-filing.”  Here are some of the responses:

  1.  “The worst ethical dilemma/violation I have experienced with e-filing involved a recently terminated associate from a Regional Workers Comp Firm.  He called me to tell me that once his firm terminated him a managing partner ordered a surviving associate to ‘pull all his files and draft and e-file Motions to Withdraw stating [the terminated lawyer] is no longer with the Firm…’  The Partner then directed the associate/assistant to e-file the Motions under terminated attorney’s name and file with [the terminated lawyer’s] e-file credentials!!!!  Terminated attorney received email notifications on several Motions and Orders granting the Motions before he was able to call the Clerk’s office and state that someone was filing under his name without his permission.”

Yes, believe it or not, impermissibly using another lawyer’s e-filing credentials, and forging that lawyer’s e-signature, is a problem.  And it’s a problem that has little to do with “tech.”

2.  “We have had a couple of instances of one lawyer allegedly e-signing opponents                   counsel to an unagreed to stipulation.”

Yes, believe it or not, fraudulently “signing” opposing counsel’s name is a problem.  And it’s a problem that has nothing to do with “tech.”

3.  “Mike, here’s one for you … a lawyer ‘e-filed’ a declaration with the expert signing            electronically (“/s/”) … but the lawyer knew the expert refused to sign … our court              suspended the lawyer for 90 days.”

Yes, believe it or not, fraudulently “signing” an expert’s name to a declaration that you know the expert had refused to sign herself is a problem.  And it’s a problem that has nothing to do with “tech.”

Finally, I became aware of a case in which a United States Bankruptcy Court (not Vermont’s) raised concerns over a lawyer’s lack of proficiency at filing electronically.  So, the court assigned the lawyer “homework.”  The “homework” was to re-file 9 documents, without any mistakes, and without assistance from another lawyer.

The lawyer paid another attorney to file the documents.

As a result, the bankruptcy court suspended the lawyer from practicing before it. Again, intentionally disobeying a court order has little to do with “tech” or “e-filing.”

Will e-filing be new to some of you? Yes.

Will you have to learn things along the way?  Yes.

Will some of you need help figuring out how to e-file?  Yes.

Is mandatory e-filing likely to put your license at risk?  No.

As I’ve indicated, it’s not e-filing itself that trips up attorneys.  Rather, it’s engaging in conduct that would’ve been unethical at every moment in the entire history of a regulated practice of law.

Don’t fear tech.  Don’t fear e-filing.

Image result for images of e-filing

 

 

Thursday Tidbits

I used to love Tid-Bits!

See the source image

I didn’t blog much this week.  So, I thought I’d take a few minutes to pass on some tidbits from the world of professional responsibility.

  • If you inform a court that you missed a hearing because your car was in the shop, don’t forget this: the court might follow-up by asking for your mechanic’s name and a receipt for the work done.  An inability to provide either might lead to your (law) license being suspended.   The ABA Journal has the story here.
  • Also from the ABA Journal, JurisBytes was one of the winners at the ABA Tech show.  The startup designed an app that assists lawyers to track the time spent texting clients.
  • In this blog post, Jonathan Turley welcomes the news that New York disbarred Michael Cohen.  I took Professor Turley’s property law class at GW.
  • Professor Alberto Bernabe, a frequent member of this blog’s #fiveforfriday Honor Roll in legal ethics, breaks down the Ohio Bar’s recent advisory ethics opinion on conflicts of interest.
  • My job often includes guiding lawyers through the ethics issues that arise when they leave a firm.  Until today, I’d never run across this one.  As reported by Above The Law, a law firm sued an associate who quit 1 year into a 3-year “employment commitment.”  Per the report, the firm alleges breach of contract and is seeking damages for the time spent training & mentoring the departed associate, time that more seniors lawyers will now have to spend working with someone new instead of billing clients.
  • Finally, and a tip of the electronic hat to Professor Bernabe for calling this to my attention, the Legal Profession Blog posted Sunlight in Vermont, noting that Vermont’s Professional Responsibility Board has a “first-rate transparent web page.”

Who says we’ve had no sunshine lately?????