Freivogel on Conflicts
This and That - Part III

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This & That - Part I
This & That - Part II

This and That is now three pages, Part I, Part II, and Part III.  The contents of these pages are as follows:

Part I - (click here)

 - Attorney-Client Privilege/Work Product
 - Confidentiality - Duty under Ethics Rules

Part II (click here)

 - Communicating with Represented Party - Rule 4.2
 - Conflicts - Uncategorized

Part III (this page)

 - Liability - not Conflicts-Related
 - Temporary Lawyers
 - UPL
 - Other

Liability - not Conflicts-Related

Client fraud. In re Rimberg, No. 2017-06111, 2020 WL 2892667 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. June 3, 2020). We learned of this case in Loss Prevention Bulletin 20-04 (June 2020), published by the lawyers on Aon's Professional Services team. (Aon is insurance broker for many of the largest law firms in the world.) Robert Rimberg had agreed to represent a foreign business person and distribute $1 million to various interests for "production of a movie." Rimberg received a fee of $25,000 for that work. Years later Rimberg learned that the $1 million was drug money. Rimberg was prosecuted in federal court for a money-laundering related crime and, in 2017, was sentenced to probation and fined $25,000. In this opinion the court imposed discipline of a three-year suspension. Many of you will recall that in April 2020, the ABA Ethics Committee issued Formal Opinion 491, which discusses the ethics implications of a lawyer's "willful blindness" to clients' questionable behavior. A similar earlier treatment of these issues was Formal Opinion 2018-4 of the Ethics Committee of the New York City Bar Association, aptly entitled, "Duties When an Attorney is Asked to Assist in a Suspicious Transaction." As the Aon Bulletin points out, a majority of liability verdicts and settlements exceeding $20 million, against good law firms, involve some degree of client fraud. Our admonition is that if a client's deal smells fishy, the lawyer must dig in and find out exactly what is going on.

Col. Op. 142 (July 10, 2021). This opinion discusses Rule 1.2(d) and when a lawyer "knows" he is assisting client conduct that is "criminal or fraudulent." The opinion is long and thoughtful. It rejects "reasonably should know" as knowledge, but says that "willful blindness" can qualify as knowledge. That distinction may help a Colorado lawyer avoid discipline. But, after our years of involvement in the lawyer liability business, we have concluded that such distinctions seem quaint when a law firm is looking at a $100 million aiding and abetting claim.

Clear discussion of law firm liability in the face of client fraud.  Roger C. Cramton, Enron and the Corporate Lawyer: A Primer on Legal and Ethical Issues, 58 Bus. L. 143 (November 2002).  See, also, Rebecca Roiphe, The Ethics of Willful Ignorance, 24 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 187 (2011).

Lisa H. Nicholson, A Hobson's Choice for Securities Lawyers in the Post-Enron Environment: Striking a Balance Between the Obligation of Client Loyalty and Market Gatekeeper, 16 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 91 (Fall 2002).  Another good article on the ethics rules and securities law liability of law firms.

Eugene J. Schiltz, Civil Liability for Aiding and Abetting: Should Lawyers Be Privileged to Assist Their Clients' Wrongdoing?, 29 Pace L. Rev. 75 (Fall 2008).

Lawyer Liability to Bankruptcy Trustees. Henry S Bryans, Claims Against Lawyers by Bankruptcy Trustees -- A First Course on the In Pari Delicto Defense, 66 Business Lawyer 587 (May 2011).

In re Enron Corp. Securities, Derivative, & ERISA Lit., 235 F. Supp. 2d 549 (S.D. Tex. 2002).  Denial of V&E's motion to dismiss.

Third-party liability cases.  Thornwood v. Jenner & Block, 799 N.E.2d 756 (Ill. App. 2003) (aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty); Newburger, Loeb & Co. v. Gross, 563 F.2d 1057 (2d Cir. 1977) (conspired with partners to squeeze out others); AG Capital Funding Partners, L.P. v. State St. Bank & Trust Co., 808 N.Y.S.2d 579 (N.Y. 2005) (no claims by third parties absent privity or showing of fraud-like conduct) ; Biddle v. Warren Gen. Hosp., 715 N.E.2d 518 (Ohio 1999) (lawyer induced hospital client to violate patient confidentiality); Granewich v. Harding, 985 P.2d 788 (Or. 1999) (lawyer for corporation assisted majority shareholder – not a client – in squeezing out minority shareholder); Reynolds v. Schrock, 142 P.3d 1062 (Ore. 2006) (court found no liability where the lawyer was assisting a client).

NYC Op. 2018-4 (July 2018). A lawyer handling a transaction feels that the lawyer's client's behavior is somewhat "fishy" (our word). This opinion analyzes the lawyer's duties under the ethics rules. While Rule 1.2(d), the rule preventing a lawyer from assisting in a crime or fraud, does not specifically require the lawyer to investigate, other rules, when read with Rule 1.2(d), probably do. This includes Rule 1.1, which requires a lawyer to be competent. The opinion also discusses Rules 1.4, 1.6, 1.16, 2.1, and 8.4. [Our note: disciplinary cases in this context are rare. Civil lawsuits brought by innocent victims against the miscreants' lawyers are inevitable. Some recent settlements of such cases, including defense costs, are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.]

Oakland Police & Retirement Sys. v. Mayer Brown, LLP,
2017 WL 2791101 (7th Cir. June 28, 2017). Law Firm represented Borrower in a $1.5 billion financing involving numerous banks. In a subsequent deal Law Firm's lawyers and staff accidentally released the security interest in the $1.5 million financing. Nobody caught the mistake, including the law firm for the agent for the lenders. Lenders sued Law Firm. The trial court dismissed the case. In this opinion the 7th Circuit affirmed. Fatal to the case was that only Borrower was Law Firm's client in the financing, and Borrower was not suing. The court reviewed various theories under Illinois law where non-clients could recover against law firms, holding none fits here. The court also held that it made no difference that Law Firm represented the agent on matters not related to this one.

In re ICP Strategic Credit Income Fund, Ltd., 2017 WL 1929546 (S.D.N.Y. May 9, 2017). In this opinion the district judge, applying the in pari delicto defense, affirmed the holding of the bankruptcy judge that Law Firm was not liable for allegedly assisting a client’s unlawful conduct.  The opinion is a lengthy discussion of  in pari delicto in New York.

10(b) case against lawyers on the other side not subject to state law defenses.  Thompson v. Paul, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 22307 (9th Cir. Oct. 27, 2008).

Liability to third parties in New York.  Eurycleia Partners, LP v. Seward & Kissel, LLP, 2007 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 12773 (N.Y. App. Dec. 20, 2007).

Prospective client can sue lawyer for negligent misrepresentation.  Steele v. Allen, 2009 Colo. App. LEXIS 214 (Col. App. Feb. 19, 2009).

SEC sanctions.  Weiss v. SEC, 468 F.3d 849 (D.C. Cir. 2006).  This is a clear and well-organized discussion of how a securities lawyer (in this case a bond lawyer) can cross the line in doing a transaction where he did not have a reasonable basis for believing the factual bases for his opinions or the statements in the offering materials.  This is an excellent teaching tool for fledgling securities lawyers.

SEC sanctions.  SEC v. Detling, No. 1:11 cv 4565 (N.D. Ga.) (Litig. Rel. No. 22215 Jan. 3, 2012).  In this case a lawyer settled an SEC disciplinary case by agreeing to a five-year suspension from appearing before the SEC.  The charge was that, in a municipal bond financing, the lawyer -- representing a conduit borrower -- failed to add to offering materials that his client, the principal of the borrower, was a subject of a criminal prosecution.  The lawyer also stated in an opinion letter that there were no proceedings pending that would adversely affect his client.

Altman v. SEC, 666 F.3d 1322 (D.C. Cir. 2011).  Lawyer was barred from practicing before the SEC because he was caught on tape suggesting that his client would commit perjury.  The D.C. Circuit affirmed, holding that a Rule 102(e)(1)(ii) penalty could be based upon the lawyer's violation of state ethics rules.

Aiding and abetting liability of lawyers in Illinois.  Hefferman v. Bass, 467 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 2006).

Antioch Litig. Trust v. McDermott Will & Emery LLP, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1487 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 4, 2013).  In this opinion the court granted the defendant law firm judgment on the pleadings because Ohio does not recognize a cause of action for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty.

(posted November 30, 2015) Nomura Asset Cap. Corp. v. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, 2015 WL 6180983 (N.Y. Oct. 22, 2015). Law Firm did real estate mortgage securitization work for Plaintiff and opined on the tax aspects of those transactions. Law Firm had advised Plaintiff that property valuations had to be based on the real estate involved and not personal property. Because Plaintiff had done a transaction in which personal property was included in an appraisal, Plaintiff was sued by investors and settled for $67.5 million. Plaintiff sued Law Firm for not digging into the appraisal and flagging the offending personal property. We will skip proceedings below and get to the Court of Appeals ruling in this case that Law Firm had no duty to look behind the appraisal and, thus, had no liability.
Court applies Stoneridge in dismissing securities case (refused to certify class) against Clifford Chance.  In re DVI Inc. Securities Lit., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34978 (E.D. Pa. April 29, 2008).

Duty of lawyer to find insurance covering client.  Shaya B. Pacific, LLC v. Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, 827 N.Y.S.2d 231 (N.Y. App. 2006); Soni v. Pryor, Index No. 16545/11 (N.Y. App. Div. May 11, 2016).

Rare case on liability for misdirected facsimile.  Poway Land, Inc. v. Hillyer & Irwin, 2002 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 10786 (Cal. App. November 21, 2002).

No breach of fiduciary duty cause of action for revealing a former client's confidences.  Image Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 2003 Tenn. App. LEXIS 431 (Tenn. App. June 10, 2003).

Liability to non-client for not recording mortgage.  Cheswell, Inc. v. Premier Homes and Land Corp., 319 F. Supp. 2d 144 (D. Mass. 2004).

Patent Malpractice.  Accuweb, Inc. v. Foley & Lardner, 728 N.W.2d 373 (Wis. App. 2007) .  This may be the first reported decision on a lawyer’s liability when maintenance fees aren‘t paid.  In this 2-1 decision the majority did not address fault, but rather held that the plaintiff could not prove damages.

Third-party negligent misrepresentation claim against lawyer.   Orshoski v. Krieger, 2001 Ohio App. LEXIS 5018 (Ohio App. November 9, 2001).  The court upheld a third-party claim for negligent misrepresentation against a lawyer.  The court relied heavily upon Section 552 of the Restatement of the Law of Torts and several out-of-state opinions, notably, McCamish, Martin, Brown & Loeffler v. F.E. Appling Interests, 991 S.W.2d 787 (Tex. 1999), and  Tajan v. Pavia & Harcourt, 693 N.Y.S.2d 544 (N.Y. App. 1999).

Guardian for Minor's Estate has standing to sue lawyer for predecessor guardian for allowing the predecessor guardian to deplete the estate.  In re Karan v. Topliff, 38 P.3d 396 (Wash. App. 2002).

Liability in California: successor fiduciary can sue lawyers retained by predecessor fiduciary.  Borissoff v. Taylor & Faust, 93 P.3d 337 (Cal. 2004).

Duty to Executor (posted April 4, 2014) Sabin v. Ackerman, 2014 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 31 (Iowa March 28, 2014). Lawyer was hired to represent the executor of a decedent’s estate in the administration of the estate. The executor was personally, financially, disadvantaged during the administration and sued Lawyer. In this opinion the court upheld summary judgment for Lawyer.  The executor argued that Lawyer represented her personally unless there was a specific agreement that he did not. Citing only Iowa cases and the Restatement the court rejected that position. The executor must show more to establish a lawyer/client relationship.

No in personam jurisdiction even though number of contacts.  Richards & O’Neil, LLP v. Conk, 774 N.E.2d 540 (Ind. App. 2002). 

In re Cybergenics Corp., 330 F.3d 548 (3d Cir. 2003).  The court held that a creditors' committee could bring fraudulent conveyance proceedings for the estate where the debtor in possession declined to do so.  The court distinguished Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Union Planters Bank, N.A., 530 U.S. 1 (2000), which disallowed such an action in a Chapter 7 case.  The court noted that both the Second and Seventh Circuits have reached the same result.

Aiding and Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty.  Anstine v. Alexander, 128 P.3d 249 (Col. App. 2005).

Firing client and telling him wrong Statute of Limitations; when does intervening lawyer excuse liability?   Lopez v. Clifford Law Offices, P.C., 841 N.E.2d 465 (Ill. App. 2005).

May or must a party use an expert witness on ethics issues?  U.S. v. Kellington, 217 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir. 1999) (may); In re Public Offerings Securities Lit., 174 F. Supp. 2d 61 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (must not).

Useful case on use of experts and ethics rules in legal malpractice litigation.  TCW/Camil Holding L.L.C. v. Fox Horan & Camerini L.L.P., 330 B.R. 117 (D. Del. 2005).

Interesting opinion letter case.  Mega Group, Inc. v. Pechenik & Curro, P.C., 819 N.Y.S.2d 796 (N.Y. App. 2006).

Third-Party Opinion. Crews & Assocs., Inc. v. City of Port Gibson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160481 (S.D. Miss. Nov. 13, 2014). We have followed third-party opinion-giving since attending the ABA Silverado Opinions Conference in 1989. Thus, this off-topic summary. City entered into a financing transaction with Co. Law Firm represented City. As part of the transaction Law Firm was required to furnish to Co. an opinion that the deal complied with state law. Later Co. sued Law Firm, claiming the opinion was wrong (this case). (There was much more to this case than that claim, but it is our focus.) In this opinion the court denied a motion to dismiss that claim. The court based its ruling on a finding that Co. could show it had a lawyer-client relationship with Law Firm. We have not seen this approach before. Usually, courts that hold that the author of a third-party opinion is liable to the recipient, follow the approach recognized in Restatement §51, which deals with lawyer liability to non-clients.

Innocent partner protected by PLLC.  Babb v. Bynum & Murphrey, PLLC, 643 S.E.2d 55 (N.C. App. 2007).

Violating duty of confidentiality can be cause of action.   Elkind v. Bennett, 958 So. 2d 1088 (Fla. App. 2007).

In bankruptcy, closely-held entity turns on law firm.  Divine Tower Int’l Corp. v. Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter Co., L.P.A., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65078 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 4, 2007).

Lawyer who submitted to personal jurisdiction as lawyer, could not deny personal jurisdiction as trustee. Cummings v. Pitman, 2007 Ky. LEXIS 242 (Ky. Nov. 21, 2007).

Lawyer representing Delaware corporation subject to in personam jurisdiction in Delaware.  Sample v. Morgan, 2007 WL 4207790 (Del. Ch. Nov. 27, 2007).

Lawyer cannot be sued for conspiring with a client.  Evans v. Chichester School Dist., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1821 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 10, 2008).

Law firm's failure to document end of relationship keeps it in case.  Jenifer v. Fleming, Ingram & Floyd, P.C., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5492 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 25, 2008).

Minnesota Supreme Court evaluates law firm liability to non-clients in context of loan syndication.  McIntosh County Bank v. Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, 745 N.W.2d 538 (Minn. 2008) (March 6, 2008).

Ohio Supreme Court re-confirms that beneficiary of will does not have privity with the lawyer who drafted the will.  Shoemaker v. Gindlesberger, 2008 Ohio LEXIS 1192 (Ohio May 7, 2008).

Damages in faulty tax-planning malpractice case.  De May v. Moore & Bruce, LLP, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97064 (D.D.C. Nov. 6, 2008).

No need to notify malpractice carrier for client misconduct.  Executive Risk Indem. Inc. v. Pepper Hamilton LLP, 865 N.Y.S.2d 25 (N.Y. App. Sept. 23,  2009).

Zaboth v. Beall, 1992 Va. Cir. LEXIS 565 (Va. Cir. Jan. 29, 1992).  This personal injury action was brought against a decedent's estate.  Because, under Virginia law, the action should have been brought against the personal representative, the court in this opinion dismissed the complaint.  The court held that the estate, per se, did not have the capacity to sue or be sued.

Aiding & Abetting Client.  Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24681 (N.D. Ill. March 9, 2011).  One notable holding by the district judge was that if squarely presented, the Illinois Supreme Court would hold that alleging a lawyer aided and abetted a client in the commission of a tort states a cause of action.

Fortress Credit Corp. v. Dechert LLP, 2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8481 (N.Y. App. Div. Nov. 29, 2011).  This case involves a $50 million note issue orchestrated by the infamous Marc Dreier.  He obtained Law Firm to issue a third-party opinion letter to the purchaser on behalf of the issuer.  It turned out that the supposed issuer knew nothing about the transaction and that this was one of a series of massive frauds committed by Dreier.  The purchaser sued Law Firm, claiming it relied on Law Firm's opinion letter.  The trial court denied a motion to dismiss.  In this opinion the Appellate Division reversed, holding that the purchaser was not Law Firm's client and that the purchaser failed to make sufficient allegations that Law Firm's conduct rose to the level to justify liability to a non-client.  Evidently, the opinion letter was a typical third-party opinion that made certain assumptions, relied upon facially proper certificates, etc.  The law firm did not claim that it did an investigation into whether the note issuer was what Dreier purported it to be.  The Appellate Division likened the situation to that in Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood, 605 N.E.2d 318 (N.Y. 1992), which involved a drafting error in deal documents, but not in the opinion letter.

Lemkin v. Hahn, Loeser & Parks, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42363 (S.D. Ohio March 28, 2012).  This was a malpractice case brought against Lawyers by a non-client.  In this opinion the court granted Lawyers summary judgment and discussed what a non-client needs to show to prevail on claims for negligent misrepresentation and other causes of action, against lawyers who were not his lawyers.

Tocco v. Richman Greer Prof. Ass’n, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25739 (6th Cir. Dec. 26, 2013).  Borrower owed Lender $4.8 million.  Borrower retained Lawyer to explain to Lender that Borrower would pay upon receipt of an inheritance from a Saudi royal.  Evidently tired of waiting, Lender sued Lawyer.  One of the theories was negligent misrepresentation.  In affirming a summary judgment for Lawyer the Sixth Circuit held that to create a duty in favor of an adversary “would create an unacceptable conflict of interest.”  The opinion discusses the necessary elements under Michigan law to show fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, innocent misrepresentation, and silent fraud.  While it is unclear what Lawyer told Lender, the court assumed for purposes of its analysis that Lawyer “did make assurances” to Lender that Borrower would pay.

Williamson v. Schweiger, 2014 Wisc. App. LEXIS 520 (Wis. App. July 1, 2014). Plaintiffs contacted a paralegal at Law Firm about possibly bringing a medical malpractice case. Plaintiffs had several contacts with the paralegal, who had, among other things, said she knew of the doctor in question. Neither the paralegal nor any lawyer at Law Firm ever said they would take the case. After the statute of limitations had run, Plaintiffs brought this legal malpractice case against Law Firm. The trial judge denied the lawyers’ motion for summary judgement. In this opinion the appellate court reversed, holding as a matter of law that no lawyer-client relationship had begun. In a footnote the appellate court chided Law Firm for not having sent a letter rejecting the case.

Pharma Supply, Inc. v. Stein, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112789 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 14, 2014). Law Firm represented Pharma as a defendant in business litigation (“Other Case”). After Other Case settled, Pharma sued Law Firm for malpractice. One count was for Law Firm’s failure to discover timely that Pharma had insurance covering the claims in Other Case. Thus, the insurance company denied owing defense costs incurred prior to being notified of the case. In this opinion the court denied a motion to dismiss that count.

Gonzales v. Flushing Hosp. Med. Ctr., 2014 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3630 (Civ. Ct. N.Y.C. Aug. 12, 2014). Law Firm defended Doctor in a medical malpractice for a period of time. This is a legal malpractice brought by Doctor against Law Firm, claiming it failed to identify insurance covering Doctor. In this opinion the court granted Law Firm summary judgment. The court held that the duty to comply with the notice provisions of the policy was Doctor’s, not Law Firm’s.

Peterson v. Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, No. 14-3632 (7th Cir. July 7, 2015). This is a suit for legal malpractice. The complaint alleged that Law Firm should have warned its clients that there were less risky ways of structuring certain transactions. Ultimately, the plaintiffs were defrauded. The trial court granted a motion to dismiss, basically saying that that would have been business, versus legal, advice, and lawyers are not liable for failing to give business advice. In this opinion the Seventh Circuit disagreed and reversed, sending the case back for trial. The court said that lawyers should warn business clients that there are less risky ways of structuring their deals in order to avoid fraud. [Note; we learned of the case in the July 15, 2015 online edition of the Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct.]

Broadway Victoria, LLC v. Normington, Wiita & Foster, No. B266060 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. April 19, 2017). In this opinion the court held that a legal malpractice plaintiff cannot maintain claims for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty if both claims are based upon the same facts. Evidently, this was the first California appellate court to so hold.

Donkle v. Lind, 2018 IL App (1st) 171915 (June 28, 2018). Father died leaving Daughter 1 and Daughter 2. Daughter 1 had been trustee of Father's trust. Daughter 2 sued Daughter 1 in her capacity as trustee for mishandling the trust. Lawyer defended Daughter 1 in her capacity as trustee. In this case Daughter 1 is suing Lawyer for failing to tell Daughter 1 that she had a personal claim against the estate. The trial court granted a motion to dismiss. In this opinion the appellate court affirmed. The court held that a lawyer representing a person solely in that person's capacity as a fiduciary has no duty to advise that person as to personal matters.

Temporary Lawyers

Our former colleague and good friend, Doug Richmond, has written an article on temporary lawyers, Douglas R. Richmond, Temporary Lawyers and Professional Risk, Of Counsel, Mar. 2006, at 8.  Many of the following authorities are from his article.

General.  Michael Downey, Use of Temporary Lawyers, For the Def., Dec. 2005; Brenda Sandburg, Conservatively Optimistic, Am. Law., Dec. 2005; Peter J. Gardner, The Economics and Ethics of Hiring a Temporary Lawyer, Vt. Bar J., Spring 2005; Terry Carter, Surge Instead of Splurge, A.B.A. J., Sept. 2005, at 32, 32.

Disclosure to Client.  ABA Op. 88-356 (1988); Ohio Op. 90-23 (1990); Oliver v. Bd. of Governors, Ky. Bar Ass’n, 779 S.W.2d 212 (Ky. 1989).  N.Y. City Op. 1989-2 (1989); Cal. Op. 2004-165 (2004); D.C. Op. 284 (1998); N.Y. Op. 715 (1998); Alaska Op. 96-1 (1996); Va. Op. 1712 (1999); In re Worldwide Direct, Inc., 316 B.R. 637 (Bankr. D. Del. 2004); Mich. Op RI-310 (1998); In re Wright, 290 B.R. 145 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2003).

Billing Issues.   ABA Op. 00-420 (2000); Mahaney, Geghan & Roosa v. Baker, No. CR 970138281, 1999 WL 367804 (Conn. Super. Ct. May 27, 1999); D.C. Op. 284 (1998); Shaffer v. Superior Court, 39 Cal. Rptr. 2d 506, 513 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995).  In re Enron Corp. Securities, Derivative & ERISA Lit., 2008 WL 4178130 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 8, 2008) (a law firm could bill out temporary lawyers' time at a rate that exceeds the compensation paid to the temporary lawyers).

Fee Splitting.  In re Worldwide Direct, Inc., 316 B.R. 637 (Bankr. D. Del. 2004).

Conflicts of Interest.  ABA Formal Op. 88-356 (1988); Colo. Op. 105 (1999); Pa. Informal Op. 94-164 (1995); Tex Op. 560 (2005); Va. Op. 1712 (1999).

Imputation.  D.C. Op. 352 (Feb. 2010).  This opinion provides guidance to law firms that hire lawyers on a project-by-project basis.  Basically, the Committee holds that if the lawyer is not "associated" with the firm, there is no imputation of knowledge between that lawyer and the firm.  The opinion goes on to hold that the law firm must arrange for the temporary lawyer not to be exposed matters not related to his/her assignment.  The opinion also discusses the circumstances under which the lawyer might be considered "associated" with the firm.  In that case the imputation issues become significant.

Supervision.  Restatement  § 11(2); Colo. Op. 105 (1999); Tex. Op. 560 (2005).

UPL.   D.C. UPL Comm. Op. 16-05 (2005).


Having instate co-counsel appears to save out-of-state firm's fee claim.  Winston & Strawn, LLP, v. Salt Lake Trib. Pub. Co., LLC, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24246 (D. Utah April 24, 2006).

Arbitration in Massachusetts.  Superadio Limited Partnership v. Winstar Radio Prod., LLC, 844 N.E.2d 246 (Mass. 2006), and Mscisz v. Kashner Davidson Securities Corp., 844 N.E.2d 614 (Mass. 2006).  In these opinions, dated the same day, the court held that an arbitration award rendered in Massachusetts is enforceable even though the lawyers for the prevailing party were not admitted in Massachusetts.

UPL as cause of action.  Fogarty v. Parker, Poe, Adams and Bernstein, 2006 Ala. LEXIS 212 (Ala. Aug. 18, 2006).  The court held that where a lawyer is violating UPL rules, and the client is injured, that violation can be a cause of action for civil damages.  The court cites cases from other jurisdictions with similar holdings.

Contract lawyers in D.C.  D.C. UPL Op. 16-05 (June 17, 2005).  As of October 2003 the following pages of the ABA/BNA Lawyers Man. on Prof. Conduct comprised a current review of the subject, 21:2101-2125.

"Staff Counsel" OK.  American Home Assurance Co. v. Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, 121 S.W.3d 831 (Tex. App. 2003).

New Jersey Committee delineates restrictions on out-of-state lawyers in estate administration.  Henry Gottlieb, Estate Work by Out-of-State Lawyers Called Unauthorized Practice of Law, N.J.L.J., July 8, 2002.  It discusses Opinion 38 of the New Jersey Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.

Lawyer appearing before federal agency need not be admitted in state of proceeding.  Augustine v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 429 F.3d 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2005).  Other cases on federal practice:  Sperry v. Florida, 373 U.S. 379 (1963) (patent agent need not be admitted); Surrick v. Killion, 449 F.3d 520 (3rd Cir. 2006) (suspended lawyer allowed, temporarily, to practice state law in federal court); Attorney Grievance Commission v. Bridges, 759 A.2d 233 (Md. 2000); In re Lallier, 555 N.W. 2d 903 (Minn. 1996); Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Marcone, 855 A.2d 654 (Pa. 2004); In re Desilets (Rittenhouse v. Delta Home Improvement, Inc., 291 F.3d 925 (6th Cir. 2002); Phila. Op. 2004-6 (August 2004) and Phila. Op. 2005-14 (August 2005) (immigration lawyer need not be admitted).  The following authorities are more negative: Ohio Op. 91-6 (April 1991) (lawyer not admitted in Ohio with office in Ohio practicing in federal court violates Ohio’s UPL rule); Blackman v. District of Columbia, No. 97-1629 (D.D.C. Jan. 3, 2005) (court rejected motion filed by lawyer with office in D.C. but not admitted in D.C.). .  See authorities collected at William T. Barker, Extrajurisdictional Practice by Lawyers, 56 Bus. Law. 1501, 1539 –1540 (2001).

Non-admitted lawyer may not practice immigration law in California if the lawyer is going to handle state unemployment proceedings and interpret state law.  In re Wells, 01-O-00379 (Rev. Dept. of the Cal. State Bar Ct, , Dec. 5, 2005).

Lawyer on inactive status cannot share in contingent referral fee.  Morris & Doherty, P.C. v. Lockwood, 672 N.W.2d 884 (Mich. App. 2003).

Complaint signed by a lawyer on inactive status not a nullity.  Applebaum v. Rush Univ. Med. Ctr., 2008 Ill. LEXIS 1438 (Ill. Nov. 20, 2008).   

Suspended lawyer's notice of appeal a nullity.  Jones v. Jones, 635 S.E.2d 694 (Va. App. 2006).

Complaint not a nullity.  Reid v. Cole, No. COA07-272 (N.C. App. Nov. 20, 2007) (filed pro se, local lawyer added after statute ran), following Theil v. Detering, 315 S.E.2d 789 (N.C. App. 1984) (out of state lawyer).

California appellate court approves "captive law firms."  Gafcon, Inc. v. Ponsor & Associates, 120 Cal. Rptr. 2d 392 (Cal. App. June 5, 2002).   The June 18, 2002, edition of the online National Law Journal mentions this case and reviews activities in Texas and Florida that suggest that the California approach may not hold up in all states. 

The ABA Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice has issued its final report.  It is dated August 2002.  The 73-page document can be found at the ABA Web site.

Chance to improve the California UPL situation.  California Supreme Court Advisory Task Force on Multijurisdictional Practice, Final Report and Recommendations, January 7, 2002. 

Arbitration in Massachusetts; award enforceable even though UPL rules violated.  Mscisz v. Kashner Davidson Securities Corp., 844 N.E.2d 614 (Mass. 2006).

Court approves use of insurance company staff (in-house) lawyers to defend insureds.  Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee v. American Home Assur. Co., Inc., 2008 Tex. LEXIS 233 (Tex. March 28, 2008).

Arkansas court says insurance company employee may not defend insureds.  Brown v. Kelton, 2011 Ark. LEXIS 85 (Ark. March 3, 2011).

Friendly to out-of-state lawyer claiming fees in federal court.  Winterrowd v. American Gen. Annuity Ins. Co., 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 2899 (9th Cir. Feb. 17, 2009).

Pro hac vice admission denied in part because the lawyer had been practicing in the state without a license.  Pease v. Burns, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4034 (D. Mass. Jan. 13, 2010).

Implies pro hac vice status required to take deposition in a state where not admitted.  Arteaga v. Hutchins Drywall, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8668 (D. Nev. Jan. 21, 2011).

Debt Settlement Services Prohibited.  Ohio Op. 2011-2 (Oct. 7, 2011).

Downtown Disposal Serv., Inc. v. City of Chicago, 2012 Ill. LEXIS 1511 (Ill. Nov. 1, 2012).  A city agency cited Close Corp. for several dumpster ordinance violations and imposed penalties when Close Corp. failed to appear at the hearing.  The president of Close Corp. (not a lawyer) filed appeals using simple forms supplied by the court clerk.  The city moved to dismiss the appeals because they were filed by a non-lawyer.  The trial court granted the motion, but the appellate court reversed.  On appeal,  in this 4-3 opinion , the majority affirmed the appellate court.  First, the court held that the president's filing was UPL.  However, the court refused to adopt, or follow, a rule that such conduct should result in dismissal of the appeals (a "nullity rule").  Both the majority and minority opinions contained a thorough review of "nullity-rule" authorities in Illinois as well as federal and state court decisions around the country.

Information Sys. Assocs., Inc. v. Phuture World, Inc., 2013 Fla. App. LEXIS 2265 (Fla. App. Feb. 13, 2013).  Lawyer was admitted pro  hac vice to represent a corporate party.  Lawyer appeared at the deposition of a corporate employee and claimed to represent both the corporation and the employee.  The other side moved to revoke Lawyer's pro hac vice status in part because representing the employee was UPL.  The trial court granted the motion.  In this opinion the appellate court reversed.


In several of the following cases the court held that a contract with a lawyer may be enforceable, even though the transaction violated ethics rules.  They may not be in the majority, but are of interest, nonetheless.  Ballow Brasted O'Brien & Rusin P.C. v. Logan, 435 F.3d 235 (2d Cir. 2006); Freeman v. Mayer, 95 F.3d 569 (7th Cir. 1996);  Abbott v. Mulligan, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55377 (D. Utah June 7, 2010); Daynard v. Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A., 178 F. Supp. 2d 9 (D. Mass. 2001) and 188 F. Supp. 2d 115 (D. Mass. 2002); Day v. Meyer, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13470 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); Ankerman v. Mancuso, 830 A.2d 388 (Conn. App. 2003); Alan B. Garfinkel, P.A. v. Mager, 2010 Fla. App. LEXIS 19773 (Fla. App. Dec. 23, 2010) (involved possible violation of Rule 5.6); Peebles v. Sheridan Healthcare, Inc., 853 So. 2d 559 (Fla. App. 2003) (ethics rule not mentioned); Lee v. Florida Dep't of Ins. & Treasurer, 586 So. 2d 1185 (Fla. App. 1991); Saggese v. Kelley, 837 N.E.2d 699 (Mass. 2005); Guest v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 27,253 (N.M. App. Feb. 17, 2009); Gaiter v. City of Buffalo Bd. of Ed., 2016 WL 5518386 (N.Y. App. Div. Sept. 30, 2016) (unethical fee-splitting agreement enforced); SCF Consulting, LLC v. Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, 2017 WL 6492686 (Pa. Dec. 19, 2017) (enforceability depends on culpability of non-lawyer party); M.A. Mills, P.C. v. Kotts, 2022 WL 176125 (Tex. App. Jan. 20, 2022); Shebay v. Davis, 717 S.W.2d 678 (Tex. App. 1986); In re Mitcham, 133 S.W.3d 274 (Tex. 2004); National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Keck, Mahin & Cate, 154 S.W.3d 714 (Tex. App. 2004); Watson v. Pietranton, 364 S.E.2d 812 (W. Va. 1987).  To the contrary are Evans & Luptak, PLC v. Dettmer, 650 N.W.2d 364 (Mich. App. 2002); and Valley/50th Ave., L.L.C. v. Stewart, 153 P.3d 186 (Wash. 2007) .  In Morris & Doherty, P.C. v. Lockwood, 672 N.W.2d 884 (Mich. App. 2003), the court held that a lawyer on inactive status cannot enforce an agreement to share a contingent referral fee.

Non-Compete Violated Rule 5.6(a) - Not Enforceable. Ipsos-Insight, LLC v. Gessel, 2021 WL 2784634 (S.D.N.Y. July 2, 2021). Lawyer, in joining Co. 1 as an in-house lawyer, signed an agreement preventing him for working for a competitor of Co. 1, in the U.S. and Canada, for one year after leaving Co. 1. Lawyer left Co. 1 and soon thereafter joined Co. 2, a competitor of Co. 1. Co. 1 then brought this case against Lawyer for breach of the non-compete agreement. Lawyer moved to dismiss because the agreement violated N.Y. Rule 5.6(a). In this opinion the court granted the motion. The court said it had no choice, given the N.Y. Court of Appeals decisions in Cohen v. Lord, Day & Lord, 550 N.E.2d 410 (N.Y. 1989), and Denburg v. Parker Chapin Flattau & Klimpl, 624 N.E.2d 995 (N.Y. 1993). The opinion contains a lengthy discussion of the incongruity of a lawyer walking away from his contractual commitment because he had violated his "own ethical obligations." As to lawyer non-compete provisions in settlement agreements, go to the "Settlement Agreements" page at this site.

Hance v. Super Store Indus., 2020 WL 373070 (Cal. App. Jan. 23, 2020). Wage and hour class action. Several lawyers represented the class. They had a fee splitting agreement. One of the lawyers did not have malpractice insurance, and that fact was not conveyed to the plaintiffs, in violation of then California Rule 3-410 (now, Rule 1.4.2 - effectively the same). The trial court granted a fee award in conformance with the fee agreement. In this opinion the appellate court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to determine what, if any, quantum meruit award the offending lawyer should receive. The court discussed several California decisions dealing with the enforceability issue including, prominently, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Mfg. Co., Inc., 6 Cal. 5th 59 (Cal. 2018).

Douglas R. Richmond, Lawyers’ Professional Responsibilities and Liabilities in Negotiations, 22 Geo. J. of Legal Ethics 249 (Winter 2009).

Duty to Client where Lawyer Aware of Mistake.  All materials can be found at the “Underlying Work” page near the bottom.

Duty to correct drafting/scrivener’s error in contract documents.  ABA Informal Op. 86-1518; N.M. Adv. Op. 1987-11; Henning v. Ahearn, 601 N.W.2d 14 (Wis. App. 1999).

Two incredibly good articles touching on ethics and technology: David Hricik, I Can Tell When You’re Telling Lies: Ethics and Embedded Confidential Information, 30 J. Legal Prof. 79 (2005-2006) (clearest explanation yet of metadata and related concepts); and David Hricik, The Speed of Normal: Conflicts, Competency, and Confidentiality in the Digital Age, 10 Computer L. Rev. & Tech. J. 73 (Fall 2005) (being conflicted out of a case for reading unsolicited E-mails, and other subjects on confidentiality and technology).

ABA Litigation Section report on the ethics of settlement negotiations.  The ABA Litigation Section has published a highly comprehensive report, "Ethical Guidelines for Settlement Negotiations."  To read it, go to the Litigation Section's Web site.

Truthfulness in negotiations.  ABA Op. 06-439 (April 12, 2006).  May not lie about facts, but may "puff" about client's settlement posture or strength of case.

Negotiation ethics in California. Cal. Op. 2015-194 (undated). No surprises here. The issue is when a lawyer may “fudge” (our word) when negotiating on behalf of a client. For example: A lawyer may not misrepresent a clients earnings prior to an accident; a lawyer may say she has a witness to the accident when she does not; a lawyer for a defendant may not misrepresent the amount of insurance coverage available; a lawyer may dance around about what her client is willing to accept/pay; a lawyer for a defendant may not threaten defendant’s bankruptcy when she knows the defendant may not legally file for bankruptcy. The opinion is completely consistent with ABA Op. 06-439 (2006) and the comment to Model Rule 4.1, both of which are cited in this opinion.

Using deceit in obtaining exonerating evidence not a violation of Rules 4.1(a) or 8.4(c), In re Hurley, No. 2007AP478-D (Wis. Feb. 11, 2009).

Restrictions on practice; retirement.  ABA Op. 06-444 (Sept. 13, 2006).

Fees.  Ween v. Dow, 822 N.Y.S.2d 257 (N.Y. App. 2006).  Appellate Division in this opinion ruled that a provision in a fee agreement allowing the lawyer to collect attorneys’ fees and costs in an action to collect his fee was unenforceable.

Undisclosed ghostwriting by lawyer for pro se not permitted in D.N.J.  Delso v. Trustees for Plan of Merck & Co., Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16643 (D.N.J. March 5, 2007).  ABA Committee disagrees.  ABA Op. 07-446 (May 5, 2007).  N.J. Op. 713 (undated; 2007?) takes a permissive view of ghostwriting and is a good review of authorities on the matter.  In re W.A.R. LLP, 2012 Bankr. LEXIS 1989 (D.D.C. May 4, 2012) (ghostwriting not per se improper, but was under circumstances of this case). With certain qualifications Orange County Op. 2014-01 (undated) approved ghost-writing.

More on ghostwriting. Auto Parts Mfg. Miss. Inc. v. King Constr. of Houston, LLC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38305 (N.D. Miss. March 24, 2014). Lawyer, from another state, had acted openly as a lawyer for Defendant on various matters. Defendant retained a Mississippi lawyer to represent it in this case. Suspecting that Lawyer had drafted some of Defendant’s pleadings in this case, another party moved for, among other things, an order preventing Lawyer from participating in this case until admitted pro hac vice. The opinion does not deal with that particular motion other than to caution that a lawyer “who ghostwrites motion briefs and pleadings is acting unethically. . .” [Note: the court did not mention those authorities approving of ghostwriting. More strangely, the court seems to be dealing with an allegation that the ghostwriting was not for a pro se litigant, but for an admitted Mississippi lawyer of record. Since when is that not OK?]

Lawyer reprimanded because his investigator misrepresented status.  In re Ositis, 40 P.3d 500 (Ore. 2002).

Choice of law/enforceability of unethical contract.  Daynard v. Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A., 178 F. Supp. 2d 9 (D. Mass. 2001).

Fee-splitting agreement with non-lawyer unenforceable.   McIntosh v. Mills, 17 Cal. Rptr. 3d 66 (Cal. App. 2004).

Guidelines for the Preparation of Closing Opinions, 57 The Bus. L. 345 (November 2001).

Discipline for failing to supervise when lawyer "reasonably should have known."  In re Herbert Cohen, 847 A.2d 1162 (D.C. App. 2004).

David Hricik, Trouble Waiting to Happen: Malpractice and Ethical Issues in Patent Prosecution, 31 AIPLA Q. J. 385 (Fall 2003).

Non-competition clause in law firm retirement plan is enforceable and not a violation of Rule 5.6(a).  Hoff v. Mayer, Brown & Platt, 772 N.E.2d 263 (Ill. App. 2002).

Pro-lawyer decision on right to withdraw.  Fidelity Nat. Title Ins. Co. v. Intercounty Nat. Title Ins. Co., 310 F.3d 537 (7th Cir. 2002).

Wells submission discoverable.  In re Initial Public Offering Securities Lit., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23102 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 24, 2003).

Client files.  What must the lawyer turn over to the client?  Iowa Sup. Ct. Atty. Disciplinary Bd. v. Gottschalk, 729 N.W.2d 812 (Iowa 2007) .   The court adopted the majority rule, expressed in Sage Realty Corp. v. Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn, 666 N.Y.S.2d 985 (N.Y. 1997), and in Restatement Sec. 46(2), that the client is entitled to almost everything in the file.  Exceptions would include such internal ruminations as to who should work on the matter and whether there might be a claim against the law firm.  Pa. Formal Op. 2007-100 (undated) is nearly the same.

Pretexting Review. N.Y. County Op. 737 (May 23, 2007).

Law as literature.  Bender v. Dudas, 490 F.3d 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  In the court's words:

The background of this case reads like a novel but represents the true story of hopes dashed, fees wasted, and dreams lost by hundreds of individual inventors caught up in the world of self-interested promoters who promise the world and deliver very little.

Technology.  Using to see opponent's earlier Web pages not actionable.  Healthcare Advocates, Inc. v. Harding, Earley, Follmer & Frailey, 497 F. Supp. 2d 627 (E.D. Pa. 2007).

Lawyer changing firms and keeping clients.  Pa. & Phila. Joint Op. 2007-300 (June 2007), and ABA Op. 99-414 (1999).

1.16.  No right to withdraw.  "See it through."  Schock v. S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56725 (W.D. Va. Aug. 3, 2007).

Plagiarism as violation of Rule 8.4.  In re Burghoff, 374 B.R. 681 (S.D. Iowa 2007).  Grounds for public reprimand, Iowa S. Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Cannon, 2010 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 100 (Ia. Oct. 15, 2010).

When model code becomes law, no copyright infringement.  Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress Int'l, Inc., 293 F.3d 781 (5th Cir. 2002). 

Appointed counsel’s relationship to a person who declines to be represented.   ABA Op. 07-448 (Oct. 20, 2007).

Wrongful hiring of opponent's employees gets lawyers disqualified; a Scruggs pratfall.  McIntosh v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27736 (S.D. Miss. April 4, 2008).

Establishing lawyer-client relationship absent specific agreement.  Tinn v. EMM Labs, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35888 (D. Ore. April 29, 2008).

Ethics rules and client fraud.  State of Oklahoma v. Golden, 201 P.3d 862 (Okla. 2008).  Lawyer pleaded guilty to the federal crime of misprision of a felony.  His conduct was assisting a client in committing healthcare fraud.  Based upon the plea papers the court in this opinion disbarred Lawyer.  The opinion is a rare, but very brief, judicial discussion of a state’s version of Model Rules 1.2(d), 4.1(b), 1.6 (b)(2)&(3), and 8.4, in the context of assisting client fraud.  Here is another healthcare fraud-related disbarment, In re Abdallah, No. 08-DB-074, Hearing Committee #15 (La. Att'ys Disc. Bd. March 21, 2011).

Lawyer's duties when client threatens to destroy documents.  Mich. Op. RI-345 (October 2008).

New Jersey's Rule 3.3 and duty to tell court of unpublished contrary opinions.  Brundage v. Est. of Carambio, 2008 N.J. LEXIS 874 (N.J. July 15, 2008).

California Mandatory Fee Arbitration Act does not prevent enforcement of written agreement for binding arbitration.  Schatz v. Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory LLP, 2009 Cal. LEXIS 125 (Cal. Jan. 26, 2009).

Soliciting Representation of Non-Party Witness Frowned Upon.  Mid-State Aftermarket Body Parts, Inc. v. MQVP, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41914 (E.D. Ark. May 4, 2009).

Using third party to get Facebook information deceptive under Rules 8.4(c) and 4.1(a).  Phila. Op. 2009-2 (March 2009).

Turner v. AIG Domestic Claims, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71947 (D. Neb. July 5, 2011).  In a prior arbitration proceeding Lawyers represented Claimants claiming securities fraud by Turner.  Turner settled the arbitration pursuant to an arrangement in which she had no exposure to damages or expenses.  She agreed to a judgment of $4,500,000 and assigned her lawyer malpractice claim to Claimants.  Turner also agreed to pay Claimants $10.  Claimants agreed not to enforced the award against Turner.  Turner retained Lawyers to represent her in this case against her former lawyer.  Her former lawyer moved to disqualify Lawyers from representing Turner.  In this opinion the magistrate judge granted the motion, holding that the representation violated public policy.

Rule 3.6; Publicity.  CG Trading, LLC v. Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, 2011 Mass. LEXIS 679 (Mass. July 29, 2011).  The trial court denied a pro hac vice motion because the out-of-state lawyer had violated Massachusetts' version of Model Rule 3.6 (publicity rule).  The lawyer had been quoted in an article about the case.  In this opinion the Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the article fit well within the exceptions contained in Rule 3.6(b).  The quotes attributed to the lawyer contained facts or allegations, which were already public record.

3.3; When to Intervene in Deposition.  Corbello v. DeVito, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98305 (D. Nev. Aug. 31, 2011).

Arbitrator Misconduct.  Northwestern Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Insco, Ltd., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113262 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 3, 2011).  In an arbitration between two insurance companies, one of the "party-appointed" arbitrators shared with the law firm that had appointed him confidential communications among the three arbitrators, including communications relating to their deliberations.  Law Firm did not reveal this receipt until being compelled to do so.  In this opinion the court ruled Law Firm had behaved unethically and should be disqualified in the arbitration.

Board of Overseers v. Warren, 2011 Me. LEXIS 122 (Me. Dec. 8, 2011).  Partner in large (for Maine) law firm took client money for himself.  The executive committee failed to notify bar authorities for three months.  A single judge found no ethics violations.  In this opinion the court reversed as to the failure to notify and remanded to the judge to enter judgment and impose a sanction.

Compensating WitnessChicago Ins. Co. v. Capwill, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143333 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 13, 2011).  Lawyers for the plaintiff sought the deposition of a former employee of the plaintiff.  They agreed to pay the former employee $175/hour for preparation and deposition time, an amount equivalent to what the former employee was making at his new job.  In this opinion the court found that the total compensation ($2,187) was reasonable and not a violation of any law or ethics rule.

Cuadra v. Univision Commc'n, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48431 (D.N.J. April 4, 2012).  The lawyer for the plaintiff in this civil rights action sought leave to withdraw.  In this opinion the magistrate judge denied the motion.  It would serve little to discuss the facts, but the opinion does explore helpfully the provisions of Rule 1.16, both mandatory and permissive.

Local Counsel; Limiting RoleJohnson v. Brock & Scott, PLLC, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140713 (E.D.N.C. Sept. 27, 2012).  This FDCPA case contains a conflicts issue too trifling for this audience.  It does contain an interesting discussion of whether "local counsel" can successfully limit their role in a case and thereby avoid malpractice liability or disqualification.  Some of the cases cited allow them to do so; other cases take a stricter approach.  The court in this opinion did not have to reach what approach would apply in the Fourth Circuit, holding that the lawyer in question had complied with the stricter standard. A more recent ethics opinion discussing duties of local counsel is NYC Op. 2015-4 (June 2015).

Tax Cheat Lawyer Sentenced.  According to the March 2, 2013 online Bloomberg News, Donna Guerin, formerly a partner at Altheimer & Gray and Jenkens & Gilchrist, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for her role in constructing phony tax shelters for wealthy clients.  She was also ordered to pay $190 million in restitution.  Guerin, along with her partner, Paul Daugerdas, had been convicted in an earlier trial, but the jury verdict was thrown out because of juror misconduct.  Guerin pleaded guilty in September 2012 rather than face a retrial.

Stark & Knoll Co., L.P.A. v. ProAssurance Cas. Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50326 (N.D. Ohio April 18, 2013).  Law Firm was duped by a crooked foreign client into disbursing $260,000 from Law Firm's trust account before a phony check had cleared.  Law Firm brought this suit against its malpractice carrier for recovery of the loss.  In this case the court held that the policy was ambiguous and refused to grant summary judgment to the carrier.

In re Godshalk, 2013 Ind. LEXIS 406 (Ind. May 23, 2013).  While Lawyer was representing Client 1 in a criminal case, Client 2, Client 1's alleged victim, came to Lawyer's office for representation regarding her own, different criminal matter.  Lawyer's assistant signed up Client 2 and entered an appearance for Lawyer in Client 2's case.  Lawyer was disqualified in Client 1's case and withdrew in Client 2's case.  In this disciplinary proceeding Lawyer was prosecuted for having a conflict, and in this opinion the supreme court approved an agreed-upon public reprimand.  One of the grounds was violation of Indiana Rule 5.3(b), for failure to ensure that the assistant did not cause Lawyer's violation.

Rule 1.4; Keeping Client Informed (posted June 8, 2013) Moye White LLP v. Beren, 2013 Colo. App. LEXIS 866 (Col. App. June 6, 2013).  Suit by Law Firm for fees.  Client counterclaimed alleging that Law Firm failed to advise Client that one of the lawyers working on his case ("Lawyer") had substance abuse issues, including arrests and temporary suspension from the practice.  Law Firm countered that it monitored Lawyer's work and found it satisfactory.  In this opinion the court held that Law Firm did not breach its fiduciary duty to Client, nor violated Rule 1.4, for not disclosing the substance abuse issues, because the issues were not "material" to Lawyer's work for Client.

Att'ys Liab. Prot. Soc., Inc. v. Whittington Law Assocs., PLLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91190 (D.N.H. June 28, 2013).  In this opinion the court held that a law firm's $150,000 loss due to the "Nigerian Check Scam" is not covered by the law firm's ALPS malpractice policy.

Iowa Op. 13-02 (Aug. 6, 2013).  This opinion (flagged by the valuable Hinshaw Alerts) says that Iowa lawyers sponsoring a pro hac vice admission have certain responsibilities to clients that may be greater than those of sponsors in other jurisdictions.  Thus, the sponsor is in no sense a mere “mail-drop,” but is, in a large sense, “co-counsel.”  For example, the sponsoring lawyer cannot limit her responsibilities as provided in Iowa’s version of MR 1.2(c).  In sum, Iowa lawyers who sponsor pro had vice admissions had better read the opinion.

Solicitation. N.Y. County Op. 747 (June 9, 2014). A lawyer representing a corporation and interviewing current and former employees, may, at the request of the corporation, offer to represent the employees, without violating Rule 7.3. This assumes that the lawyer is satisfied that this joint representation would not create a conflict of interest.

Sale of Law Practice. ABA Op. 468 (Oct. 8, 2014). Model Rule 1.17 for some years has provided for the sale of a law practice with certain restrictions. One restriction is that the selling lawyer must cease practice in the substantive area of that part of the practice sold. This opinion clarifies the extent to which the selling lawyer may assist the buying lawyer in order to provide continuity for the benefit of the client. The opinion also provides what fees can, and cannot, be charged to the client for this purpose.

Choice of Law (posted February 26, 2015) N.Y. Op. 1027 (Oct. 16, 2014). This one got past us late last year. In this opinion the committee discusses the effect of N.Y. Rule 8.5 (the choice of law rule) on a lawyer, admitted in New York and another jurisdiction, practicing in a non-litigation matter in that other jurisdiction. The N.Y. rule seems similar to ABA Model Rule 8.5. Whether any differences might suggest different results, we will leave to others to sort through.

Tex. Op. 663 (Sept. 2016). The Committee held that a Texas law firm in a global verein using the verein’s name violates Texas’ version of MR 7.5.

Rule 4.1(a) (posted October 5, 2016) Iowa S. Ct. Att’y Disc. Bd. v. Barnhill, No. 16-0731 (Ia. Sept. 16, 2016). Lawyer discipline case. Among other things, the Iowa Supreme Court held that lying to another lawyer is a violation of Rule 4.1(a).

N.Y. Op. 1083 (Jan. 2016) discusses the extent to which a law firm with a consulting business can handle a legal matter adverse to a customer of the consulting business.

Rule 1.8(i). Residences at Bay Point Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Chernoff Diamond & Co., LLC, 2017 WL 3531683 (D.N.J. Aug. 17, 2017). Lawyer representing condo association in suit against managers owned, along with family members, ten condos in the association. Court found no violation of Rule 1.8(i).

Franco v. Ideal Mortgage Bankers, Ltd., 2017 WL 5195223 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 9, 2017). This is a class action alleging Company's violation of FLSA. Plaintiffs joined Company and several officers allegedly in charge. One of the officers had pleaded guilty to a related criminal charge and was awaiting sentencing. The plaintiffs' lawyers emailed members of the class inviting them to comment to the Probation Office on their views on sentencing. The officer in question moved to disqualify the plaintiffs' lawyers, claiming they had violated N.Y. Rule 3.4(e). That rule prohibits a lawyer from threatening criminal charges to obtain an advantage in a civil case. (The ABA Model Rules have no such provision.) In this opinion the court denied the motion, noting that no prejudice to the defendants occurred in this case.

Need for Expert. Sere v. Trapeni, No. 170842 (Va. July 26, 2018). Lawyer filed a complaint for Client against Store. Because of name mixups, that case was dismissed. Client then brought this suit against Lawyer. However, the trial court found that Client had not complied with Virginia rules on designating experts, found that this failure was fatal to her case, and dismissed it with prejudice. On appeal Client argued that Lawyer's failures were not beyond the ken of a lay jury, and expert testimony was not required. In this opinion the supreme court affirmed. The court noted that the expert would have to address the following: complex rules regarding voluntary dismissals; how to determine the proper defendant; and, the distinction between misjoinder and misnomer. These matters were beyond the ken of "a layperson, or perhaps, even the average attorney."

Need for Expert. Sandhu v. Kanzler, 2018 WL 3862774 (D. Minn. Aug. 14, 2018). This is a legal malpractice case involving, among other things, an alleged conflict of interest. Plaintiff did not comply with a Minnesota statute requiring disclosure of experts. Plaintiff claims an expert would not be necessary in this case. In this opinion the court disagreed and granted Defendant a summary judgment. The court said a conflict claim "is far more complex and nuanced than missing a deadline or stealing client funds."

Need for Expert. Balint v. Wynne, 2018 WL 5279393 (Wash. App. Oct. 23, 2018). David was dying of cancer. David's son, Bradford, had Lawyer prepare a quitclaim deed transferring certain of David's property to Bradford and his wife. David died, and his siblings challenged the deed during probate. The probate court quieted title to the property in the estate, ruling, in part, that Bradford and his wife had exercised undue influence over David. Bradford and his wife then filed this action against Lawyer for having a conflict of interest and for failing to warn them about a potential claim of undue influence. The trial court granted summary judgment to Lawyer because Bradford and his wife failed to designate an expert witness to testify about those claims. In this opinion the appellate court affirmed, holding that an expert witness would have been necessary.

Disaster Preparedness (post September 19, 2018) ABA Op. 482 (Sept. 19, 2018). While a lot of information about disaster preparation is available, according to the Committee a "dearth of guidance on a lawyer's ethical responsibilities" is available. In this opinion the Committee recites the way in which the following Model Rules could be implicated: 1.4, 1.1, 1.15, 5.5, & 7.1-7.3. We recommend you read the opinion.

Data Breach Ethics. ABA Op. 483 (Oct. 2018). This opinion discusses lawyers' ethical obligations in connection with client information being at risk of being breached. The opinion discusses the application of the following Model Rules: 1.1, 1.4, 1.6, 1.15, 5.1, & 5.3. In short, lawyers must understand how breaches can occur, take reasonable steps to prevent them or limit their damage, and keep clients advised of breaches where appropriate.

Playing Games with Notary. Sieranski v. TJC Esq., No. AC 43272 (Conn. App. March 2, 2021). Whenever a lawyer crosses the line in the use of notaries or notarized documents, we feel it is worth a mention. In this case Paralegal is suing Law Firm for wrongful termination. Law Firm had missed an appeal deadline from an arbitrator's decision. So, Lawyer at Law Firm asked Paralegal, a notary, to prepare and notarize an affidavit saying that Law Firm had not received the decision. Presumably, Lawyer was to be the affiant. In any event, Paralegal refused to notarize the affidavit because she knew it was false. Law Firm then fired Paralegal. In this case Paralegal is claiming that Law Firm's firing her for refusing to notarize a false affidavit was wrongful. The trial court dismissed that claim based upon the court's interpretation of Maryland notary laws. In this opinion the appellate court, based upon its own reading of those laws, reversed, holding that the case could proceed. We will spare this audience with the various interpretations, because they are unique to Maryland. At bottom, in the words of the court, Law Firm "allegedly punished [Paralegal] for her conduct as a good citizen."

Marijuana (posted July 19, 2021) N.Y. Op. 1225 (7/8/2021) The Committee opined that, subject to certain limitations, a lawyer (1) may ethically represent persons in the recreational marijuana business, (2) may use and grow marijuana, and (3) may take an equity position, with a client, in a recreational marijuana business.

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