Most Important? We are down to 8!

And then there were 8!

Ten days ago, I created the Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Tournament. I matched up 64 rules & concepts associated with PR and legal ethics in an NCAA-style bracket.  Ever since, you’ve voted, and we are down to the Elite 8 rules & concepts.  Winners of this round will advance to an historic Final Four.

To vote, go to ELITE 8.


As the picture shows, this tournament is intentionally low-tech.  Meaning, “no tech.”  Except for the videos referenced below.  If I must say so myself, the videos are jam-packed with hot tips on legal ethics!

This morning, I posted Briefly: what matters most in legal ethics?  In it, I distilled each of the then 16 remaining rules & concepts to a single thought.  For each of today’s 8 winners, here’s the thought I shared this morning.


Candor to a Tribunal vs. Social Media: Looking, Friending & Scrubbing

  • The integrity of the system requires that judges not be misled by false evidence.
  • Evidence must not be unfairly located, obtained, concealed, or destroyed.


Screening/Imputed Conflicts vs. Same or Substantially Related Matters?

  • Fairness includes strict measures to prevent improper sharing of confidential information.
  • A lawyer cannot switch sides.


Who Decides? Lawyer or Client? vs. Tech Competence

  • The client chooses the destination, the lawyer the route.
  • It’s 2020.


Were these MAGIC grits?  vs. Did you say “yutes?”

  • On cross, know your facts.
  • What was that your honor?

Again, to vote, go to ELITE 8.

For more, including four 15-minute videos analyzing the rules & concepts in each of the tournament quadrants, go here.  Where else can you get at least 16 tips on professional responsibility & legal ethics in 15 minutes from a speaker sitting at his Garage Bar?!?!


Ethical Responsibilities | Bollinger Shipyards

Briefly: what matters most in legal ethics?

Lawyers – what if you had to choose between competing duties?  What would happen to the juducial system?  Or to the profession’s standing in the public eye? If forced to choose among the rules & concepts that have advanced to the Sweet 16, of the Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Bracket, which are more important?

I’ve tried to distill each remaining rule/concept down to a single thought.

To vote – go here.  The original bracket is here (image only).

Duties to Non-Clients

Semi-Final 1: Candor to a Tribunal vs. Dealing with the Unrepresented Person.

  • The integrity of the system requires that judges not be misled by false evidence.
  • The integrity of the system requires that unrepresented persons not be misled into thinking that another’s lawyer is looking out for their interests.

Semi-Final 2: Mandatory Reporting vs. Social Media: Looking, Friending, Scrubbing.

  • The privilege of self-regulation includes a responsibility to report misconduct.
  • Evidence must not be unfairly located, obtained, concealed, or destroyed.

Conflicts & Confidences

Semi-Final 1: Withdrawal from Representation vs. Screening/Imputation.

  • Competence includes conflict-free representation.
  • Fairness includes strict measures to prevent improper sharing of confidential information.

Semi-Final 2: Same or Substantially Related? vs. ESI: reasonable precautions.

  • A lawyer cannot switch sides.
  • No matter where it’s stored or the form in which it’s stored, client information must be protected.

Trust Accounts, Fees, Duties to Clients

Semi-Final 1: Who decides? Client or Lawyer? vs. Trust Accounting/Bookkeeping.

  • The client chooses the destination, the lawyer the route.
  • In you they trust: keep track of their money.

Semi-Final 2: Commingling v. Tech Competence.

  • In you they trust: theirs is not yours.
  • It’s 2020.

My Cousin Vinny

Semi-Final 1:  Were these MAGIC grits? vs. Everything that guy just said is B.S. Thank you.

  • On cross, know your facts.
  • As FDR said, “be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Semi-Final 2: The Defense is WRONG! v. Did you say yutes?

  • Competence includes realizing when your theory of the case no longer holds water.
  • Yes, and I get scared running across bridges high over mouzes of rivers.

Again, to vote – go here.

Ethical Responsibilities | Bollinger Shipyards


The Sweet 16

It’s official: we are down to 16.

That’s right, in the first ever* Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics bracket, only the 16 rules, concepts and thoughts remain.  Here’s an exclusive 2-minute video of those that advanced from round 2.  Thanks to all who voted!

Who will claim the inaugural title?  Folks, I have no idea.  That’s why we play the games.

But you can help decide! To vote in the Sweet 16, go here.


(* to my knowledge)

Sweet Sixteen Sweet-Sixteen - Free image on Pixabay




Schedule (all times EDT)

  • 3/22:  First round voting opens
  • 3/25:  First round voting closes
  • 3/25:  2nd round voting opens
  • 3/29: 2nd round voting closes: 6:00 PM
  • 3/29: Sweet 16 voting opens, 8:00 PM
  • 3/31: Sweet 16 voting closes, 7:00 PM
  • 3/31: Elite 8 voting opens, 8:00 PM
  • 4/2:   Elite 8 voting closes, 7:00 PM
  • 4/2:   Final Four voting opens, 8:00 PM
  • 4/5:   Final Four voting closes, 6:00 PM
  • 4/5:   Championship voting opens, 7:00 PM
  • 4/7:   Championship voting closes, 9:00 PM
  • 4/8:   Wellness Wednesday.  Champion announced

TV: none.   RADIO: none.   STREAMING: none.



The 197th Five for Friday Legal Ethics Quiz

I hope you’re all doing well.  Remember: keep rowing the boat.

I don’t have much to say this week.

Wait….are y’all serious?? I can hear the cheers from here! Come on!

Anyhow, I got out for a run yesterday.  During my trek, I pondered “197.”  Initially, my mind fast-forwarded to “200” and whether I should do something special to mark the occasion.  Then I re-wound.  As we’ve learned, 3 weeks is an eternity.  Day by day.

Then, after days of swirling in my clouded mind, a thought crystallized.

Like the rest of you, I haven’t gone anywhere for 2 weeks.  I’ve got my music, TVs, and streaming channels.  I’ve got fish & meat in the freezer, coffee/half & half galore, my Garage Bar, my dart board, the keyboard I’m (still) teaching myself to play, and my bike.  In theory, and likely in the mind of February-me, life is damn good: I’m not at the office and I’ve got all my things.


On a scale of 0-20, 0 being least important, 20 being most, I’ve realized that my things are, at most, 0.3.

I can hear you again: “Mike, what’s the rest?”

The answer came to me during my run.

Spending time with family and friends.  Chatting with the familiar faces working the various stores and businesses that life brings me to every week.  Catching up with the lawyers I bump into at the court house.  Chuckling at the couple that always takes the corner stools, whose names I couldn’t tell you but whose drink orders I know by heart. The option to wait until the morning to text my Dad about the Sox game.

The life experiences that have nothing to do with things.

They are, at the very least, 19.7

This will end.  And, when it does, I hope I remember the appropriate balance between life and things.

Onto the quiz.


  • None.  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
  • 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

Attorney called me with an inquiry.  Attorney said “Mike, I represent a witness.  The defendant’s lawyer keeps contacting my client directly. I asked the lawyer to stop.  Lawyer aid Lawyer doesn’t need my permission because my client is only a witness, not a party.  Is Lawyer right?”

What was my response?

  • A.   Yes.
  • B.   The rule is unclear.
  • C.   It depends.  Is your client a material witness?
  • D.  Lawyer is wrong. The rule applies to any person represented in a matter.

Question 2

True or false.

The rule on trial publicity only applies to criminal cases.

Question 3

With respect to legal ethics, the phrase “going up the ladder” is most often used in connection with the duties of an attorney who:

  • A.  is bound to report another attorney to disciplinary authorities.
  • B.  represents an organization.
  • C.  is being paid by someone other than the client.
  • D. paints houses on the side.

Question 4

At one of the Zoom seminars I intend to present, you wake from a brief nap to me discussing conflicts of interest.  If I’m doing my job, it’s unlikely that I will use the word/phrase _____-:

  • A.  material limitation.
  • B.  former.
  • C.  held in connection with a representation.
  • D.  prospective.

And, if I’m doing my job, it’s your resolve that breaks.

Question 5

I’ve been running the Professional Responsibility & Legal Ethics Bracket. It’s based on the NCAA March Madness brackets.  In 3 of the 4 quadrants, the contestants are terms and phrases associated with legal ethics.   To vote in the 2nd round, go here.

The contestants in the 4th quadrant are quotes from My Cousin Vinny.  That’s a hint for question 5!  It’s a “fill-in-the-blank” question.

I’ll give Bill Belichick his due: when it comes to coaching football, the long-time Patriots coach clearly has satisfied the duty of competence.  Of course, as a Steelers fan stuck behind enemy lines in New England, I’ve always suspected Belichik’s team of skirting the ethics rules.  For example, 2015’s notorious Deflategate Scandal that involved Tom Brady and underinflated footballs.

At a press conference, Belichick defended his team’s ethics by blaming the deflated footballs on the weather:

  • “”So the atmospheric conditions, as well as the true equilibrium of the ball, is critical to the measurement.”

Asked further about the air pressure measurements in the footballs, Belichick, normally not one to say anything to suggest he’s aware of pop-culture, replied:

  • “”I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert in footballs. I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know. I would not say I’m _____________ of the football world, as she was in the car-expertise area.”


Again, to vote in the 2nd round of the #prmadness bracket, go here.




The #prmadness bracket: first round results are in!

The votes are in and we’re down to 32 rules, concepts, and precepts associated with legal ethics and professional responsibility.  The #prmadness bracket is off to a rollicking start!

Here are the results from the first round, along with links to vote in the 2nd round.

Didn’t vote in the first round? No problem!  It’s like real-life: just because you skipped the primary doesn’t mean you can’t vote in the general.  Even better, unlike real life, you can vote as many times as you want . . . and brag about it!

Here’s the full bracket.  Now, I’ll break down the first round results quadrant by quadrant.

Conflicts & Client Confidences

This quadrant was chalk.

“Chalk” dates to the days when gambling parlors posted horse-racing odds on chalkboards.  As more and more people bet on a favorite, the odds would change.  Someone would erase the old odds, post the new odds, causing clouds of chalk dust as the money came in.  The term has survived and refers to favorites winning.

Anyhow, chalk walked here.  Only the 7 v. 10 matchup was close, with Mandatory Disclosure slipping past Permissive Disclosure with 53% of the vote.

Same or Substantially Related Matters and Prospective Clients topped the quadrant, with each receiving 77% of the vote.  Their reward?  Going against each other in Round 2!

To vote in Round 2 go to: Conflicts & Confidences – 2nd Round.

Here’s the full round:


Trust Accounts, Fees & Duties to Clients

It’s tough to call 9 over 8 an upset, but Who Decides, Client or Lawyer? slipped past higher seeded Disputed Funds. The vote was the closest of the quadrant: 56% to 44%.

A more surprising result was in the 6 v. 11 match-up where Commingling/Own Funds in Trust topped Collected Funds with relative ease.

Top-seeded Client Communication cruised to victory, amassing a quadrant best 82% of the vote.

Sadly, none of the 2nd round contests thrill me.  Which means TV will give these games the worst timeslots.

Wait, what? You think I don’t have a broadcast deal?

To vote in Round 2 go to Trust Accounts, Fees & Duties to Clients: 2nd Round.

Here’s the first round:


Duties to Non-Clients

Conventional wisdom holds that if you’re going to bet an underdog in the first-round of the NCAA tournament you should pick at #12 to beat #5.  The match-up has produced some of the most exciting games and upsets of the past 20 years.

Well folks, our tournament is no different!

12th seeded Dealing with the Unrepresented Person posted a convincing win over Inadvertent Receipt. And by “convincing win” I mean, it was a rout! 73-27%.

Tenth-seeded Social Media/Can I look?/Can I friend? Can I scrub upset #7 Civility by a similar margin.  Hopefully this signfies that I need to do more presentations on social media, and not that people are telling me to cut back to 6 from my 7 C’s of Legal Ethics.

To vote in Round 2 go to Duties to Non-Clients: 2nd Round

Here’s the first round:


My Cousin Vinny

Thes quadrant is proving to be a blogger’s dream!

68 people voted in this quadrant.  The other 3 combined for 65!

Oh, by the way, so far, not a single competitor has received 100% of the vote in any match.  My use of “so far” should be a hint.   That’s right Were those MAGIC grits? did what not even Candor to a Tribunal could do! It got every vote!

It gets better: a SHOCKING upset!  2-seeds almost NEVER lose in the first round of the NCAA tourney.  Dont tell that to You Knew You Could Ask Questions, Right Vin?

There was another mini-upset in what turned out to be the closest match-up of the ENTIRE first round.  Positration/Spinning Tires/Alabmama Mud (51%) nipped And Since They Were Both Made By GM, Were Both Available in Metallic Mint Green Paint? (49%).

Finally, in Round 2, we’ve got both B.S. v. B.S. and Mona Lisa Vito taking on herself!

To vote in Round 2, go to My Cousin Vinny: 2nd round

The full round:


#Prmadness.  You can’t beat it.  Join it!

Instant Analysis: Legal Ethics in Brief

Good morning all. I hope everyone is healthy, positive and undeterred. Row the boat!

Sunday, I published the #prmadness bracket. It’s based on the NCAA tournament brackets that, in any other year, would’ve caused a decline in workplace productivity last week. The idea is simple: I’m tying legal ethics & professional responsibility to the March Madness brackets that aren’t happening this year.

Some might call it trivial. That’s fine, it probably is. But for me, it’s also a way to stay focused on work & divert my thoughts from the outside world. For others, I hope it’s both a diversion and a fun educational tool.

And education it is. More on that in a moment.
In real life, when the tournament bracket comes out, the talking heads on tv & radio scrutinize the pairing, providing instant analysis on which teams are overrated, underrated, likely to advance, likely to fall victim to an upset. In doing so, they share quick tidbits as to the strengths & weaknesses of each team. I decided to do the same with my professional responsibility bracket.
Last night, I recorded my “instant analysis” of 3 of the quadrants in the bracket. Each is between 15 and 19 minutes long, jam-packed with one or two tips, thoughts, and reminders on each of the 16 legal ethics concepts included in the bracket. 16 tips in less than 20 minutes!  It don’t get much better than that my friends!

Anyhow, if you don’t like the videos, that’s fine. All you must do is stop watching. What’s not necessary is to send me an email complaining that you don’t like the format or how I’m dressed.

Yes, that happened. I tweeted the videos last night and, lo’ & behold, woke up to a critical email.

Dude, seriously,

Image result for you need to calm down taylor swift

Anyhow, the bracket, instant analysis videos, and links to the voting forms are below.  Except, no video for the My Cousin Vinny quadrant.  Even to attempt it, I’d violate the duty of competence.

Enjoy! And please vote!  Unlike real life, voter fraud encouraged! Vote as often as you’d like!

The Bracket (Image Only)

Top Left Quadrant:  Duties to Non-Clients

Lower Left Quadrant: Conflicts & Client Confidences

Top Right Quadrant: Trust Accounts, Fees, Duties to Clients

Lower Right Quadrant: My Cousin Vinny


To learn more, here’s the initial bracket announcement.