Five for Friday #192

Happy Friday!

Today I choose to look on the bright side:  it might be cold, but the sun is out and, well, at least it’s a dry cold!

Looking for topics for today’s intro, I found an intriguing connection involving today’s date.

On February 21, 1975, John Mitchell, John Erhlichman and H.R. Haldeman were sentenced to prison after having been convicted of crimes committed during the Watergate scandal.

I was 7 years old at the time.  This morning, it struck me at how little I know.

Of course, having mentioned it at several seminars, I’m aware of the impact that Watergate had on legal ethics & professional responsibility.  As the ABA Journal notes here, the scandal resulted in both the profession’s move to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the requirement that lawyers pass the MPRE to be admitted.  Still, if you’d have told me this morning that two of Mitchell, Erhlichman and Haldeman were lawyers, I’d have gotten Mitchell, but it would’ve been a coin flip as to the other. *

Also, today is Barbara Jordan’s birthday.

Image result for barbara jordan

I didn’t know that until Google informed me this morning.  Frankly, while generally aware that Jordan served in Congress, I had no idea of her place in history. Among other notable accomplishments, Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first African-American from a southern state elected to the United States House of Representatives.

In addition, Jordan was a lawyer.  Not just any old lawyer, but a skilled orator.  According to American Rhetoric, Jordan gave two of the top 100 speeches of the 20th century.  Talk about satisfying the duty of competence!

Per American Rhetoric, Jordan’s Keynote Address to the 1976 Democratic National Convention was #5. The other?  Well, to me, it’s a speech that makes for the intriguing connection between February 21, Jordan, and Watergate.

The speech is called Statement on the Articles of Impeachment.  It was the opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee as it considered whether to impeach President Nixon.  It came in as American Rhetoric’s 13th most important speech of the last century.

I find it incredibly intriguing that an event that had such a profound impact on legal ethics & professional responsibility has not one, but two ties to February 21. As for a larger point, I don’t think I have one.  Still, I opened this post by referring to the weather and choosing to focus on the brighter side, so I’ll close by doing the same.

Yes, I will continue to reference Watergate when I speak on the history of legal ethics and professional responsibility.  I will reiterate that at least 13 lawyers were disbarred or suspended and that 11 were convicted of crimes.  However, going forward, I will now be sure to mention the brighter side: Barbara Jordan and her contributions not only to the legal profession, but to society.

Choose the bright side.

*It was Erhlichman.

Onto the quiz!

Question 1

In Vermont, if a lawyer is precluded from representing a client due to a conflict with another client or a former client, the general rule is that the conflict ___________ imputed to other lawyers in the same firm.

  • A.  is
  • B.  is not

Question 2

There’s a rule that requires lawyers to provide clients with diligent and prompt representation.  A comment to the rule suggests that a sole practitioner’s duty of diligence may include _____________:

  • A.   paying a bookkeeper to reconcile the trust account
  • B.   transitioning to a cloud-based practice management system
  • C.  adopting a succession plan
  • D.  all the above

Question 3

Attorney & Lawyer both represent Client in the same matter, but do not work in the same firm.  Client agrees that they may share in the fee.  Client’s agreement is in writing and the total fee is reasonable.

True or False:  for the fee division to comply with the rule, it must be in proportion to the services that each performed.

Question 4

This question is probably not fair. But I’m out of ideas, running out of time, and, further, it’s an issue I think we’ll soon be discussing.

Client asks whether you use “cold storage” or a “hot wallet.”  Client assumes you accept payment via:

  • A.  Venmo
  • B.  ACH Transfer
  • C.  Blockchain
  • D.  Cryptocurrency

Question 5

Legal ethics in the news again!

There’s a rule on trial publicity.  Generally, it prohibits extrajudicial statements that a lawyer knows or should know will have a substantial likelihood of materially predjucing a proceeding.  There’s also a rule that prohibits ex parte communications with jurors.

Donna Rotunno is an attorney who is currently representing a client in a high-profile criminal trial.  The case went to the jury on Tuesday, two days after Newsweek published an opinion piece authored by Rotunno. In it, she wrote:

“I implore the members of this jury to do what they know is right and was expected of them from the moment they were called upon to serve their civic duty in a court of law.”

The prosecutor called the opinion piece “completely, 100% inappropriate behavior. It borders on tampering with the jury.”  Imposing a gag order, the presiding judge said:

Defense team you are ordered to refrain from communicating with the press until there is a verdict in the case.  I would caution you about the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.

Who is Attorney Rotunno’s client in the case?