Monday Morning Honors #261

Happy Monday! 

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

Honor Roll

  • Evan Barquist, Montroll Oettinger & Barquist
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, UIC School of Law
  • Beth DeBernardi, Administrative Law Judge, Vermont Department of Labor
  • Benjamin Gould, Paul Frank + Collins
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper and Burchard
  • John T. Leddy, McNeil, Leddy, Sheehan
  • Pam Loginsky, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County, Tacoma, WA
  • Kevin Lumpkin, Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Brad Martin, Baystate Financial
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Mental Health Law Project, Vermont Legal Aid
  • Jeffrey Messina, Messina Law
  • Hal Miller, Hawaii Agency Underwriting Counsel, First American Title Insurance
  • James Remsen, Master Planner, Parker Hannafin
  • Keith Roberts, Darby Kolter & Roberts
  • Jason Warfield, J.D.
  • The Honorable John Valente, Vermont Superior Judge
  • Thomas Wilkinson, Jr., Cozen O’Connor

Answers

Question 1

Which of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics refers specifically to funds & property?

COMMINGLING.

Tip:  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(a) requires a lawyer to keep funds & property of clients and third persons separate from the lawyer’s own.  There is an exception for funds deposited in trust “for the sole purpose of paying service charges or fees on [the] account, but only in an amount necessary for that purpose.”  The most common cause of “commingling” a lawyer’s failure to remove an earned fee from trust.  Remember: as I pointed out in Trust Accounting in a Nutshell, commingling can also result from improper handling of a fee that is paid in advance and that complies with Rule 1.5(f).

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then responded “one of the situations that requires it is when continued representation will result in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Given my response, what does “it” refer to?  Whether Lawyer must _______:

  • A.   self-report to Disciplinary Counsel.
  • B.   disclose confidential information over a client’s objection.
  • C.   withdraw from representing a client.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.16(a)(1).
  • D.   put Lawyer’s malpractice insurance carrier on notice of a potential claim.

Question 3

Attorney represents Client.  At the outset of the relationship, Client advanced a fee that Attorney billed against.  When the matter resolved, Client was so pleased that Client lauded Attorney’s virtues in a public comment posted to Attorney’s firm’s social media page.

What do the rules require Attorney to keep for 6 years?

  • A.  Client’s confidences and secrets.
  • B.  Records of funds held on behalf of Client.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(a)(1).
  • C.  A “copy’ of the social media page because it’s an “advertisement.”
  • D.  A copy of Client’s file.

Answer (A) is not correct.  Unless disclosure is permitted or required by the rules, a former client’s confidences must be kept forever.

Answer (C) is not correct. The rule requiring lawyers to keep copies of advertisements was repealed long ago. And, when it was in place, it required ads to be kept for 2 years.

Answer (D) is not correct.  There is no requirement for a lawyer to keep a “copy” of a client’s file.  Rather, Rule 1.169d) requires a lawyer to deliver “papers and property” to which the client is entitled upon the termination of the representation. 

Question 4

There are two types of cases in which a contingent fee is prohibited.  Name them.

  • V.R.Pr.C. 1.5(d)(2) prohibits a contingent fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
  • V.R.Pr.C. 1.15(d)(1) prohibits a fee “which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon or upon the amount of spousal maintenance or support, or property settlement in lieu thereof.”

NOTE: the rule ALLOWS contingent fees “in domestic relations matters which involve the collection of (i) spousal maintenance after a final judgment is entered, or (ii) child support and maintenance supplement arrearages due after final judgment, provided that the court approves the reasonableness of the fee agreement.  This can be an excellent tool to provide access to legal services.

Question 5

Earlier this week, the Academy of Arts & Television continued its embarrassing tradition of snubbing Better Call Saul.  Yet again, the show did not receive a single Primetime Emmy.  In protest, and because Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman is my favorite ethically challenged fictional lawyer, I’m devoting Question 5 to the show for the second time in three quizzes. 

Doing so is quite timely.  Tomorrow is ___________ Day.  The word that properly fills in the blank is quite relevant to the legal profession.  It’s also the answer to this question:

In both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, what’s on the wallpaper in Saul’s office? 

Here’s a hint that might help people who have never seen the show.

Today is September 16. On this day in 1830, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) wrote a poem. The poem is widely considered to have saved a US Naval vessel from being decommissioned. The vessel, which is now the oldest commissioned ship in the navy, is named after the answer to Question 5.

Saul’s wallpaper shows The Constitution of the United States.   Saturday was Constitution Day.  And Oliver Wendell Holmes’s Old Ironsides is a poem about the USS Constitution.

Five for Friday #261

Welcome to Friday and the 261st legal ethics quiz!

Rules

  •  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • 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
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Which of the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics refers specifically to funds & property?

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then responded “one of the situations that requires it is when continued representation will result in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Given my response, what does “it” refer to?  Whether Lawyer must _______:

  • A.   self-report to Disciplinary Counsel.
  • B.   disclose confidential information over a client’s objection.
  • C.   withdraw from representing a client.
  • D.   put Lawyer’s malpractice insurance carrier on notice of a potential claim.

Question 3

Attorney represented Client.  At the outset of the relationship, Client advanced a fee that Attorney deposited into trust and billed against.  When the matter resolved, Client was so pleased that Client lauded Attorney’s virtues in a public comment posted to Attorney’s firm’s social media platforms.

What do the rules require Attorney to keep for 6 years?

  • A.  Client’s confidences and secrets.
  • B.  Records of funds held on behalf of Client.
  • C.  A “copy” of the comment on the social media platforms because it is an “advertisement.”
  • D.  A copy of Client’s file.

Question 4

There are two types of cases in which a contingent fee is prohibited.  Name them.

Question 5

Shout out to my friend Brad Martin!

Earlier this week, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences continued its embarrassing tradition of snubbing Better Call Saul.  Yet again, the show did not receive a single Primetime Emmy.  In protest, and because Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman and Kim Wexler are my favorite ethically challenged fictional lawyers, I’m devoting Question 5 to the show for the second time in three quizzes. 

Doing so is quite timely.  Tomorrow is ___________ Day.  The word that properly fills in the blank is very much a part of the legal profession.  It’s also the answer to this question:

In both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, what’s on the wallpaper in Saul’s office? 

Here’s a hint that might help people who have never seen the show.

Today is September 16. On this day in 1830, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) wrote a poem. The poem is widely considered to have saved a US Naval vessel from being decommissioned. The vessel, which is now the oldest commissioned ship in the navy, is named after the answer to Question 5.

Monday Morning Honors #259

Happy Monday!  Only one more before Labor Day.  Make sure to enjoy the last few weeks of the unofficial end of summer!

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

Many thanks to all who informed me that it’s perfectly okay, and perhaps desirable, to clip the flowers growing on my basil. 

Honor Roll

  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, UIC School of Law
  • Martha Bonneau, Blogger’s Aunt
  • Beth DeBernardi, Administrative Law Judge, Vermont Department of Labor
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Glenn Jarrett, Jarrett/Hoyt
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper and Burchard
  • Jeanne Kennedy, JB Kennedy Associates, Mother (of the) Blogger
  • Mark Kennedy, Retired, Father of the Blogger
  • Patrick Kennedy, Amazon Web Services, First Brother
  • John T. Leddy, McNeil, Leddy, Sheehan
  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Sheehey Furlong & Behm
  • Jason Warfield, J.D.

Answers

Question 1

I often discuss the 7 Cs of Legal Ethics. At a recent seminar, I used a quote from George Bernard Shaw to discuss one of the 7 Cs.  In my view, Shaw’s quote accurately captures a dynamic that, in my experience, leads clients to file disciplinary complaints.  Fill in the blank with the correct C.

“The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

I agree.  Many disciplinary complaints aren’t caused so much by a lack of communication as they are by miscommunication: the lawyer thinking the matter was explained to the client when it wasn’t.

Question 2

While I haven’t blogged much lately, one of my recent posts highlighted a real-life example of how reconciliation helped a Vermont firm to stop trust account fraud.  It was the third such example I’d blogged about this year. 

What’s the rule on reconciling pooled interest-bearing trust accounts?  It must occur:

  • A.           “regularly.”
  • B.           “quarterly.”
  • C.           “in a manner consistent with generally accepted accounting principles.”
  • D.           “timely.”  The rule goes on to state that “timely reconciliation means, at a minimum, monthly reconciliation of such accounts.” 

My posts on reconciliation as a tool to prevent trust account fraud are here, here, and here.

Question 3

Saul represents Client.  Kim represents Opposing Party.  Unbeknownst to Lawyer, Client contacts Attorney to discuss the subject of the representation.  Does the rule allow Kim to discuss the matter with Client?

  • A.           No.  See, V.R.Pr.C. 4.2, Comment [3] (“The rule applies even though the represented person initiates or consents to the communication.)
  • B.           Yes, because a party is always free to contact opposing counsel.
  • C.           Yes.  The comments make clear that, in this situation, Client has consented to the communication. 
  • D.           Wait.  Kim & Saul are still licensed to practice.

Question 4

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then replied.  “You’re definitely out.  Whether your conflict is imputed to all depends on whether it presents a significant risk of materially limiting the representation of the client by the other lawyers in your firm.”

Given my response, Lawyer’s conflict involved:

  • A.           A personal interest.   The question refers to Vermont’s rule on imputed conflicts of interest.  My response, and answer A, reflect the standard set out in V.R.Pr.C. 1.10(a).  By contrast, situations B and C are always imputed.
  • B.           A former client.
  • C.           A current client.
  • D.           Lawyer’s paralegal.

Question 5

Questions 3 and 4 don’t do it justice.  So, while this one might only interest me, I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t use this week’s Question 5 to reference Monday’s series finale of my favorite “law” show of all-time.

Here is a license plate that hangs in my garage.

I’d love to add signs from “Palm Coast Sprinklers,” “Ice Station Zebra Associates,” or this one:

In real-life, audiences first saw the license plate on a different show.  However, on the two shows’ fictional timeline, the plate first appeared in the show that ended this week — on a car driven by the eponymous lawyer of questionable ethics.  While easy to like the lawyer — and the show’s other lawyers — it’s tough to believe that many of them still have their law licenses.

Name the show whose final episode aired earlier this week.

BETTER CALL SAUL

Bonus: in the same show, another license plate featured prominently in several episodes. It was on a Jaguar owned by a lawyer mentioned in Question 4. What was the license plate?

Howard Hamlin’s Jaguar bore the plate NAMAST3

Monday Morning Honors #251

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

Honor Roll

  • Evan Barquist, Montroll Oettinger Barquist
  • Penny Benelli, Dakin & Benelli
  • Alberto Bernabe, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Law
  • Andrew Delaney, Martin Delaney & Ricci
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick Fitzpatrick Kasper & Burchard
  • Nicole Killoran, Professor, Vermont Law School
  • John T. Leddy, McNeil Leddy & Sheahan
  • Jack McCullough, Project Director, Mental Health Law Project, Vermont Legal Aid
  • Hal Miller, First American Title Insurance, Hawaii Agency State Counsel
  • Honorable John Valente, Vermont Superior Judge
  • Jason Warfield, J.D.

 ANSWERS

Question 1

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then responded: “Maybe.  Does it arise from your relationship with a current or former client? Or does it arise from a personal interest of yours?

In my response, what is “it?”

It is a conflict of interest.  My response to the inquiry refers to imputed conflicts.  See, Rule 1.10 – Imputation of Conflicts of Interest – General Rule.

Question 2

 By rule, a lawyer who has direct supervisory authority over a nonlawyer ___________:

  • A.  will be sanctioned if the nonlawyer does something that would violate the rules if done by the lawyer.
  • B.  is not professionally liable for the conduct of the nonlawyer.
  • C.  shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations.  Rule 5.3 – Responsibilites Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants.
  • D.  None of the above.  While there is a rule that applies to a lawyer’s supervision of other lawyers, there is no rule that applies to a lawyer’s supervision of nonlawyers.

Question 3

There’s a rule that prohibits a lawyer from making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

Does the rule prohibit truthful statements that are misleading?

Yes.  It’s rule Rule 7.1 – Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services It states that a “communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.”  Per Comment [2], “truthful statements that are misleading are also prohibited by this rule.”  The comment goes on to describe truthful statements that violate the rule.

Question 4

What do the Rules of Professional Conduct define as “the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.”

Informed Consent. Rule 1.0 – Terminology

Question 5

Season 6 of Better Call Saul debuts on Monday. I can’t wait. It’s one of my favorite shows of all-time and I am so looking forward to the final season.

For those who don’t know, the lead character, “Saul Goodman,” is an attorney who often finds himself on the wrong side of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In addition, in both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, Saul often mentions (complains of) his bad knees.

According to the show’s writers, Saul’s needs are so bad because of antics he engaged in well before changing his name to Saul Goodman.  Indeed, those antics resulted in a nickname associated with his real name.

What’s Saul Goodman’s real name?

And, bonus, what’s the antic-driven nickname that explains his bad knees?

James M. McGill.  Slippin’ Jimmy.

8u2S

Five for Friday #251

Welcome to a glorious Friday morning and the 251st legal ethics quiz!

I botched it this week.  This would’ve been the perfect intro to write about the iconic 251 Club of Vermont.  Alas, it wasn’t until about 8:30 this morning that I realized I should’ve made this post about a member of Vermont’s legal community who’d visited all 251 cities and towns.  In other words, I completely failed to comply with my duty of diligence.  So, for now, if you or someone you know is a verified 251er, let me know and I’ll interview you for a Wellness Wednesday post.

Instead, today, I’ll leave you with this.

A few days ago, I bumped into two of Papa’s daughters, Mary and Helen-Anne.  We attended an event at which my mom won an award. (Yay Mom!)  Helen-Anne is my mom’s youngest sister and an avid fan of this blog.  What can I say? Good taste runs in the family.

Anyhow, when we saw each other, I was wearing this tie:

IMG_6783

Aunt Mary commented on it first.  Then, AHAB (their maiden name is “Bonneau’ so my brother and I call Aunt Helen-Anne “AHAB”) grabbed my tie and asked how many diamonds are on it.  At first, I was baffled and thought it was yet another example of behavior by his children that my brother and I believe must’ve left Papa perpetually shaking his head in exasperation.  AHAB continued with something like “maybe the total is a number that you could TIE to the quiz number! Get it??? Tie to the quiz number??”

I confess. I must give credit where credit is due.

But first, and backing up a bit, when I was 6 and my brother 4, our parents took us to Virginia Beach for vacation.  I don’t remember whether AHAB was a high school senior or in her first year at UVM, but she tagged along.  One day, while tasked with babysitting us in the hotel, AHAB lost my brother. Yes, lost him.  She let him get on an elevator and then literally stood watching as the doors shut and it went wherever it went.  For all I know, the kid we found and brought back to Vermont isn’t really Patrick.

Many years later, AHAB lived just outside Boston during the 3 semesters that I attended Boston College.  I often stopped by to visit, serving as a much more responsible babysitter for my cousins than their mother had been for Patrick.  My thanks?  One night, AHAB tried to poison me with Bailey’s Irish Cream!

Now, returning to the tie: I’ve not counted the diamonds. Maybe there are about 251, or maybe there are 51 or 551.  Who knows? And, indeed, the total might be the perfect tie” to a future quiz number.  In fact, I’ve used far looser “ties.”

Therefore, AHAB, thank you!  Your clever and witty remark has earned you full and final forgiveness for the aforementioned (and all your other) transgressions!

Onto the quiz!

Rules

  •  Open book, open search engine, text-a-friend.
  • Exception:  Question 5.  We try to play that one honest.
  • 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 consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Share on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

Hint:  The 7 Cs of Legal Ethics.

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then responded: “Maybe.  Does it arise from your relationship with a current or former client? Or does it arise from a personal interest of yours?

In my response, what is “it?”

 Question 2

 By rule, a lawyer who has direct supervisory authority over a nonlawyer ___________:

  • A.  will be sanctioned if the nonlawyer does something that would violate the rules if done by the lawyer.
  • B.  cannot be held professionally liable for the nonlawyer’s misconduct.
  • C.  shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations.
  • D.  None of the above.  While there is a rule that applies to a lawyer’s supervision of other lawyers, there is no rule that applies to a lawyer’s supervision of nonlawyers.

Question 3

There’s a rule that prohibits a lawyer from making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

Does the rule prohibit truthful statements that are misleading?

Question 4

What do the Rules of Professional Conduct define as “the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.”

Question 5

Season 6 of Better Call Saul debuts on Monday. I can’t wait. It’s one of my favorite shows of all-time and I am so looking forward to the final season.

For those who don’t know, the lead character, “Saul Goodman,” is an attorney who often finds himself on the wrong side of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In addition, in both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, Saul often mentions (complains of) his bad knees.

According to the show’s writers, Saul’s needs are so bad because of antics he engaged in well before changing his name to Saul Goodman.  Indeed, those antics resulted in a nickname associated with his real name.  (He didn’t become “Saul Goodman” until the last episode of Season 4).

What’s Saul Goodman’s real name?

And, bonus, what’s the antic-driven nickname that explains his bad knees?

the-quiz

Competitive Keyword Advertising. Unethical or a good marketing strategy?

Do you know what happens when potential clients use the internet to search for you?  More specifically, do you know whether your name returns more than your name?

Imagine I quit as bar counsel and open my own firm.  If that were to happen, a natural focus for me would be legal ethics and malpractice defense.  A lawyer in need of both doesn’t know how to contact me but has heard of this thing called “the internet.”  So, the lawyer searches “michael kennedy legal ethics.”  Some of you might be surprised to know that the search might not return my firm’s website at the top of the list.  Rather, if a competing firm has purchased keywords that include “michael kennedy” and “legal ethics,” that firm might show up above mine.

I know for a fact that there are Vermont lawyers who engage in competitive keyword advertising.  If you don’t believe me, think of a lawyer who practices in a certain area and search the lawyer’s name and practice area.  I am willing to bet all that I didn’t win in yesterday’s NFL games that the results at the top will include “ads” (or promoted results) for at least one of the lawyer’s competitors.

I can sense your reactions. Some of you are thinking “well that’s dishonest and misleading!”  Others of you are thinking “duh, that’s nothing but a good SEO strategy.”  Thanks to a tip from a regular reader, I can report that we will soon have additional guidance.

Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court took argument on whether a lawyer violates the Rules of Professional Conduct by purchasing competitors’ names as keywords on search engines.  Courthouse News provided coverage.  Here’s the back story.

In June 2019, New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics issued ACPE Opinion 735. In it, the Committee concluded:

  • “a lawyer may, consistent with the rules governing attorney ethics, purchase an internet search engine advertising keyword that is a competitor lawyer’s name, in order to display the lawyer’s own law firm website in the search results when a person searches for the competitor lawyer by name. This conduct does not involve dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, and is not conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

The Committee further concluded:

  • “a lawyer may not, however, consistent with the rules governing attorney ethics, insert, or pay the internet search engine company to insert, a hyperlink on the name or website URL of a competitor lawyer that will divert the user from the searched-for website to the lawyer’s own law firm website. Redirecting a user from the competitor’s website to the lawyer’s own website is purposeful conduct intended to deceive the searcher for the other lawyer’s website. Such deceitful conduct violates Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c).”

The Committee’s opinion concurs with the State Bar of Texas’s Formal Opinion 661 and this decision from a Wisconsin court.  By contrast, in 2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 14, the North Carolina State Bar concluded that a lawyer violates the rules by purchasing a competitor’s name as a keyword.

I don’t know New Jersey’s procedural rules.  However, the New Jersey State Bar Association disagreed with the Advisory Committee’s conclusion and, per Courthouse News, “pushed the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to hold that attorney advertising rules forbid lawyers from purchasing the names of competing counsel as keywords on search engines.”  The NJSBA argued that such a practice is deceptive and misleading.  The NJ Attorney General defended the Committee’s conclusion.  I don’t want to get into a series of block quotes with the competing arguments and the questions asked by the justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court.  Again, Courthouse News has in-depth coverage of the argument.

I understand why competitive key word advertising causes a negative reaction. As a lawyer argued in this post in the New Jersey Law Journal:

  • “Nevertheless, competitive keyword advertising is unethical in the greater sense of the word ‘ethics.’  At the least, ‘buying’ a colleague’s name and using it as bait in front of her potential clients violates the Golden Rule. Who among us would not resent his or her name being a keyword on another lawyer’s site? Who would okay another to siphon off the fruits of her goodwill? If our colleagues would agree to our piggybacking on their success, why not just ask for their permission. But we know they would object, so we do it with neither their knowledge nor consent. While that may be fair play in the marketplace, the practice is not only morally repugnant, it neither embodies who we are nor engenders the types of inter-attorney relationships we must have.”

However, as with most stories, there’s another side. Eric Goldman is a law professor at Santa Clara.  Professor Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog is in the ABA Journal’s “Blawg Hall of Fame.”  Professor Goldman discussed the New Jersey opinion in here. And, in 2016, Professor Goldman and a colleague authored this article in the Illinois Law Review in which they argued that competitive key word advertising is not misleading and should not be banned, concluding:

  • “Lawyers are notorious laggards when adopting and embracing emerging technological developments. Thus, even as the wars over competitive keyword advertising wind down everywhere else, it is not surprising that the legal industry is still working through its own (delayed) catharsis about the legitimacy of competitive keyword advertising. But other than the North Carolina ethics opinion, competitive keyword advertising by lawyers is not restricted by intellectual property law or attorney advertising rules. As a result, it seems that North Carolina’s rule is an outlier that needs to be fixed, and North Carolina bar regulators should reconsider the matter. We also hope other bar regulators will affirmatively acknowledge, like the Florida bar did, that competitive keyword advertising is permissible.”

I lean towards the position adopted by Professor Goldman, the State Bar of Texas, and the New Jersey Committee.  For example, once I hit “publish,” it’ll go to my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.  Is using this picture misleading or deceptive?

Saul

I mean – this post is about legal advertising.  And who stands as a better source of material to frame a discussion of legal advertising than Slippin’ Jimmy?

That said, I’m willing to listen to argument to the contrary by anyone who agrees with the North Carolina State Bar.

For now, the legal ethics of competitive keyword advertising doesn’t seem to be a hot topic in Vermont.  Perhaps it’s a sleeping dog that I’ll regret not letting lie.  Alas, it’s Monday, and, come Friday, I can’t send out a week’s worth of posts unless I start somewhere.

This is this week’s start.

ps: I assume the race is on to buy “michael kennedy legal ethics.”

pps: if you don’t think that all these words about legal advertising have me ready to call it a day and watch my next episode of Better Call Saul, then here are my keywords for you: Simply Red.

Monday Morning Answers #211

Welcome to Monday.

Friday’s questions are here.  The answer’s follow today’s honor roll.

Honor Roll

 Answers 

Question 1

 I often speak and blog about the 7 C’s of Legal Ethics.  Indeed, I mentioned “competence” above and the 7 Cs were the subject of the first video I uploaded during the pandemic.  Anyhow, here’s a phrase that appears in one of the Rules of Professional Conduct. To which of the 7 C’s does the rule refer?

  • “information relating to the representation, no matter the source.”

Confidentiality.  Per V.R.Pr.C. 1.6(a), a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of the client.  Comment [3] makes clear that duty of confidentiality is broader than the attorney-client privilege and applies to all information relating to the representation, no matter the source.

Question 2

Red met with Lawyer to discuss potential representation in Red v. Blue. Red chose not retain Lawyer. Now, Blue wants to hire Lawyer.   Under the rules, a factor that Lawyer must consider in deciding whether to represent Blue is whether:

  • A.  During the consult with Red, Lawyer learned information that could be significantly harmful to Red.  
  • B.  Red is likely to proceed pro se instead of finding another attorney.
  • C.  Trick question – there are no circumstances under which Red can ethically represent Blue.
  • D.  Trick question – since Red did not retain Lawyer, Lawyer may absolutely represent Blue.

This is the ”prospective client” scenario.  V.R.Pr.C. 1.18 applies.  A “prospective client” is one who, in good faith, meets with a lawyer to discuss potential representation, but does not retain the lawyer.  The lawyer’s duty of confidentiality applies as if the prospective client retained the lawyer. However, the lawyer’s duty of loyalty is relaxed.  If the lawyer did not receive information that could be “significantly harmful” to the prospective client, the lawyer may represent someone whose interests are adverse to prospective client’s in the same matter that was the subject of the consult.

Question 3

Rule 1.4 requires a lawyer to communicate to a client sufficient information to make adequately informed decisions about the representation.   Some have argued that the duty includes informing the client (a) that the lawyer doesn’t have ________________; or (b) if ____________ lapses during the representation. The Professional Responsibility Board and the Vermont Bar Association recently agreed to form a committee to study the issue.

Which most accurately fills in the blank?

  •  A.  a trust account.
  •  B.  a succession plan.
  •  C.  malpractice/professional liability insurance.
  • D.  a law license.

 Question 4

 Law Firm is short on cash.   Investor offers to provide cash in exchange for an ownership interest in the firm.   May the lawyers at Law Firm agree to the offer?

  • A.  Yes, if Investor doesn’t direct the lawyers’ professional judgment.
  • B.  Yes, if Investor’s name is not added to the firm name.
  • C.  A & B.
  • D.  No.

Many consider the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership and investment in law firms to impede access to justice.  For more, see this blog post.

Question 5

 Speaking of award winners . . .

. . . This is fictional attorney Kim Wexler.  She’s in a tv show.

Kim Wexler

Earlier this year, the show released a series of YouTube videos called “Ethics Training with Kim Wexler.”  In them, and in character, Wexler offers tips on legal ethics and professional responsibility. A few weeks ago, one of the videos won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Short-Form Comedy.

On the show, Wexler’s partner is one of the most unethical lawyers in TV history. A few seasons ago, New Mexico suspended his law license. He’s since regained it.  I imagine he’ll eventually flee the law and work at a Cinnabon in Nebraska.

Name the show.

Better Call Saul.

Attorney Wexler’s legal ethics videos are here.

Saul

$1 Billion

Update: March 28 at 3:43 PM.  Avvo’s Josh King was nice enough to let me know that the $1 billion is only on tv ads.  Josh indicates that the amount spent on all attorney advertising is between $4 and $5 billion.

This year, it’s estimated that U.S. lawyers and law firms will spend over $1 billion on advertising.

$1 Billion.

You read that correctly.

The ABA Journal has the story here: Legal Advertising Blows Past $1 Billion And Goes Viral.

By comparison, in FY 2015, the Legal Services Corporation’s budget was $375 million.  (Editorializing? Maybe.  But, also, fact.)

Some of the lawyers/firms highlighted in the ABA Journal’s article:

  • an all-female firm that uses the catchphrase “Ever Argue with a Woman?
  • an attorney whose ads made him such a celebrity that a mother threw a birthday party for her 2-year-old in which the theme was…..the attorney.
  • a lawyer whose alter ego is the Texas Law Hawk.
  • the lawyer who originated the campaign “If you are injured in a car accident, call us immediately” and whose firm now spends between $30 and $40 million per year on advertising.

The article also includes an interesting recap of the history of lawyer advertising.  From the days when the ABA’s Canons of Professional Ethics banned nearly all advertising and, referring to lawyer advertising, included the ominous statement that “[t]he future of the republic, to a great extent, depends upon our maintenance of justice, pure and unsullied,” to the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizonato today’s landscape.

I’ve worked in the Professional Responsibility Program since 1999.  We’ve not received many advertising complaints. Maybe 5 or 6 in 18 years.

Vermont’s advertising rules are in Rules 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and 7.5.   It’s a violation to advertise a firm as being “injury experts” and “the experts” in particular areas of law.  It’s also impermissible to advertise as a “County’s Premier Criminal Defense Firm.”

I’ve never been a huge fan of the advertising rules.  I’m not against them, just not a fan.

The Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers recommended that the ABA streamline its Model Rules on advertising.  The comment period closed on March 1.  I’m curious to see how the ABA responds.

$1 Billion.  On ads.

jimmy mcgill

 

 

Monday Morning Answers

So, in last week’s Five for Friday, I mentioned my friend  Daren, his Catch the Mania an Top Hat trivia events, and his Viva Saloon in Key West.  Daren and I went to high school together.

When I posted on Friday, little did I know that yesterday was Daren’s birthday!  (thank you Facebook).  Yesterday afternoon, my brother and I ran into Daren at The Pour House, official pub of Five for Friday, and were able to celebrate the occasion with him.  Happy Birthday Daren, godfather of this column and my trivia-style ethics seminars.

Now, on to the answers.

Honor Roll

One perfect score this week: Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland

Others on the  Honor Roll:

  • Bob Gensburg, Gensburg, Atwell, & Greaves
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Keith Kasper, McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard
  • Cassandra LaRae-Perez, Primmer (*special bonus for Question 5)
  • Team Liberty (ACLE of Connecticut)
  • Hal Miller, First American

The Answers

Question 1

Which doesn’t belong?

  • A.  Social Media
  • B.  Safekeeping Property
  • C.  Competence
  • D.  Advertising

Choices B, C, and D are the titles of Rules 1.15, 1.1, and 7.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. There is no rule entitled (or that specifically deals with) “social media.”  My outline on legal ethics of social media is HERE.

Question 2

Lawyer represents Landlord.  Lawyer mails notice of eviction to Tenant.

A few days later, Lawyer listens to his voice mail.  After the beep, a voice says:

“Hi. I’m Tenant. My friend told me you handle evictions. I just got an eviction notice and would like some legal advice. Please call me at 802-xxx-xxx.”

Which is most likely under Vermont’s Rules of Professional Conduct?

  • A.  Lawyer must withdraw from representing Landlord.
  • B.   Lawyer must call Tenant back.
  • C.  If Tenant denies receiving the notice of eviction, Lawyer may use the voice mail message.
  • D.  If Tenant denies receiving the notice of eviction, Lawyer may have a conflict.

Maybe the question was poorly phrased.  However, in this instance, Tenant attempted to consult with Lawyer.  Thus, the information conveyed by Tenant is confidential. The best answer here is “D.”  I’m not aware of any scenario, absent informed consent to disclose, in which a lawyer may use against someone information that the person conveyed in a good-faith attempt to secure legal advice.  Here, Tenant is most likely a “prospective client” for the purposes of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  See, Rule 1.18.  Lawyer may represent Landlord, provided that Lawyer did not receive from Tenant information that could be significantly harmful to Tenant. If Tenant claims not to have received the notice, Lawyer cannot disclose the voice mail and, as a result, has a conflict under Rule 1.7 in that Lawyer’s duties to Tenant conflict with Lawyer’s duties to Landlord.

Question 3

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  I listened.  Then, I asked: “did you confirm it in writing and provide your client with a written explanation of what you’d do for her?”

Attorney answered “no.”  To which I replied “Houston, we have a problem.”

What did Attorney call to discuss? (please be specific)

A non-refundable fee.  See, (new) Rule 1.5(f).  Most of you were in the ballpark, indeed with very good seats.  Only Matt, however, was on home plate.

Question 4

Attorney represents Mork.  Mork intends to sue Mindy.

Attorney is married to Lawyer.  Attorney and Lawyer do not work in the same firm.

Mindy hires Lawyer.

Which is most accurate under Vermont’s Rules of Professional Conduct?

  • A.  Attorney and Lawyer do not have conflicts of interest.
  • B.  At a minimum, Mork & Mindy are entitled to be informed that Attorney & Lawyer are married.  See, Rule 1.7, Comment 11.
  • C.  If Attorney withdraws due to the conflict presented by being married to Lawyer, the conflict is imputed to all others in Attorney’s firm.
  • D.  The rules specifically prohibit a lawyer from representing someone in a matter in which an adverse party is represented by a lawyer who is “closely related by blood, marriage, or civil union.”

Question 5

Jimmy received his law degree from the University of American Samoa. His natural instincts as a con artist led him to cross several ethical boundaries while practicing law in  New Mexico.  From filing fraudulent insurance claims, to advertising violations, to assisting drug clients in money laundering schemes.

You might know Jimmy better by another name he uses.  A name he concocted from the phrase “It’s all good, man.”

Name one of the two TV shows on which you might have seen Jimmy.

Jimmy McGill practiced under the name “Saul Goodman” in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.  Kudos to Cassandra for knowing that Jimmy’s nickname is “Slippin’ Jimmy,” a name that harkens back to the days where he’d intentionally “slip” and fall in order to make fraudulent claims.