Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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It's happened to you before: You get an unsolicited email from someone you don't know, claiming that someone else did something to him and now he wants to sue. You're pretty sure this person got your email address from the state bar website, because you've never heard of this person before.

Opening up the email, and the inevitable attachments, you find a litany of charges and poorly constructed pleadings. What should you do now?

Well, this one hits close to home. At the end of last year, the State Bar of California proposed a formal ethics opinion on attorney blogging. We here at FindLaw's Strategist are all in favor of attorney blogs (well, when they're good, anyway), but the California opinion raises a few issues that blogging lawyers will want to consider.

Public comment on the proposed opinion is being solicited until March 23, 2015. So why does the State Bar want to harsh our mellow, man?

Lessons From 5 Lawyers Who Made Fools of Themselves in 2014

Happy 2015. We have many thing to be thankful as the new year begins, not the least of which is this: We didn't make this list.

Last year, we talked about the biggest legal fools of 2013 on social media, and fortunately for our industry's sake, we're going to have to expand that a bit to all of the fools: criminals, pornographers, hooker-lovers, stabbers, and photoshoppers.

Here are five lawyers who really wish 2014 didn't happen:

The online legal researcher. The one whose non-lawyer friends know better. The one who wants updates daily. The one who wants to double-check your work. There are a lot of kinds of irritating clients out there, and while any one of these people might be tolerable, there may come a point where you just can't stand it anymore. You're going to have to quit representation.

How to do it? Well, there's the ethical way, which is heavily circumscribed. Then there's the tactful way, for which there are no state rules.

So what's the best way to go about firing a client?

Remember that 2011 movie "Win Win," where probate attorney Paul Giamatti tells the court that he'll become an elderly man's caretaker, and in return he'll receive money for doing so from the man's estate? Then he sticks the guy in a home and pockets the cash.

Ah, how life imitates art. That sort of happened to a Maryland elder law attorney, except, unlike Paul Giamatti, he got disbarred. What are some of the obvious professional responsibility lessons to come from this? Here are three:

Lawyer's 'Admit to a DUI' Scholarship: Deterrent or Marketing Ploy?

Is this a noble attempt at deterring teens from driving drunk or a marketing ploy? We'll let you decide.

Christian Schwaner, a DUI defense attorney in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is offering a $1,000 scholarship to the winner of a contest for teens who admit to driving drunk. Applicants must also research the dangers of doing so and come up with a plan for avoiding such missteps in the future, reports The Denver Post.

Critics, however, are already lining up, with some saying that it might implicitly encourage drunk driving and others worrying about the ethics implications of the contest.

Last week, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission suspended two lawyers for two years for a variety of issues in their dealings with low-income clients who were settling debts. They're all somewhat run-of-the-mill violations, except committed on a much larger scale.

What could attorneys Thomas Macey and Jeffrey Aleman have possibly done to get suspended for two years? Read on, and maybe you can learn what not to do with your new debt settlement firm.

Kan. Attorney Suspended for 'Emotional Blackmail' Over Facebook

Eric Michael Gamble, a lawyer in Kansas City, Kansas, made one big mistake. While representing a biological father who wished to contest the adoption of his daughter, he sent a Facebook message to the unrepresented 18-year-old biological mother urging her to reconsider. He also attached a form that he'd prepared to revoke her consent to the adoption, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

The message, which the Kansas Supreme Court called "emotional blackmail," also contained inaccurate legal advice and inaccurate factual assertions. However, Gamble self-reported his misconduct, carefully outlining all of the rules that he thought that he may have violated and expressed remorse for his conduct.

The adoption went though as planned. Gamble not only lost the case, but the court ran wild with his self-reported misconduct and imposed a six-month suspension, far more than a hearing panel's 60-day recommendation. Did he deserve that harsh of a sanction?

Blogging Lawyer Gets 3-Year Suspension: Did Lawsuit Play a Role?

Earlier this fall, we brought you the tale of a lawyer filing a copyright lawsuit to prevent a disciplinary board from including text from her blog in a disciplinary complaint. Needless to say, the lawsuit failed.

Joanne Denison is back, and this time, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) is recommending a three-year suspension ("and until further order of the court") because of the allegedly false statements she published on her blog about the Probate Court of Cook County, as well as local judges and lawyers.

Did her copyright lawsuit play any part in the lengthy sentence?

Even amid reports that it's the season of trampling people to get a cheap TV, it's still the season of giving. Sometimes, this involves giving from a client to a vendor, or, in your case, from a client to you.

Hold up there, buddy! Can you accept that gift from a client? What are the ethical rules surrounding accepting gifts from clients? And even if it's ethical, is it a good idea?