Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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It's Friday! You've worked all day and most of the nights for the past few weeks. You've come into the office on Saturday and worked through to Sunday morning. It's time for a break. Your sanity, or your marriage, may depend on it.

So what do you do when your much needed respite is interrupted by clients? Model Professional Conduct Rule 1.4 requires that attorneys provide prompt and reasonable communication with clients, but there's plenty of room for interpretation what constitutes a prompt or reasonable response. How can you get around responding to a client for the weekend?

It's supremely frustrating when potential clients (or worse, current clients) think they know more about the law than you do. Usually it's because a friend of a friend (not a lawyer) gave them legal advice, and hey, why aren't you doing this thing for me?

You don't want to condescend, obviously. But you do want to make clear that your client isn't going to gain your years of knowledge and experience through a quick Internet search. How do you convince your client that you can't get a degree from the Google School of Law?

Here's some schadenfreude for tax day: Former IRS ethics lawyer Takisha Brown has been disbarred by the D.C. Court of Appeals (not the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals) for ethics violations and misappropriating client funds.

Brown withdrew money from a settlement payment meant to go towards a client's medical bills following an automobile accident. Of course, it wasn't just the crime, it was the cover up that landed Brown in hot water.

No one likes clients who lie -- at least, not one the ones who lie to their lawyer. When clients lie or fail to disclose necessary information, they make it hard for lawyers to do their job.

When a client's lie is discovered, it can raise messy ethical, profession and practical issues for the lawyer. Here's what to do, and what not to do, when your client's pants catch on fire.

Many attorneys frequent Internet message boards (like FindLaw Answers) to answer legal questions from anonymous strangers. It can actually be useful to drum up business, provided you post using your real name and contact information.

Even though it's the Internet, which is the untamed frontier of communications, there are still rules lawyers need to follow. Here are just some of the things you need to keep in mind when answering questions online.

LinkedIn endorsements are pretty easy to come by. People you've never met will rush to endorse your skills in the hope that you will do the same. On the professional's Facebook, an endorsement is the equivalent of a like or share -- easily gained and not of much weight.

Except, of course, if you're a lawyer. In which case, accepting unearned endorsements on LinkedIn may land you in ethical trouble.

Complying with attorney advertising rules is more than just a couple questions on the MPRE and a headache for the rest of your life. It's an ethical obligation just like any of those other rules that our profession is governed by.

Whether it's a website, blog, billboard, or a tweet, attorneys need to know their jurisdiction's rules about attorney advertising and take care not to fall into one of these common ethical traps.

Electronic discovery is the name of the game these days as more and more people and companies store their stuff in the form of bytes, not pages. That means that lawyers need to know how electronic discovery works (and in some places, that's an ethical requirement).

Even so, nobody's perfect, and replying to requests for ESI can cause headaches. When you're responding to an ESI request, take caution to avoid these three mistakes.

Can attorneys advise their clients to remove, before litigation commences, social media pages and accounts which may contain potential evidence in a dispute? The Florida Bar's Ethics Committee took up this and similar questions in a recent proposed advisory opinion.

The state bar, like others, advises that lawyers must not advise clients to obstruct access to evidence the lawyer reasonably should know is relevant to pending or foreseeable proceedings.

Of course, like many ethical questions, there's a fair amount of wiggle room in the answer.

Clients who don't get everything they wanted. Clients who think they shouldn't have to pay everything you asked them to. Clients whose friends -- armchair lawyers, all -- tell them to.

What do all of those people have in common? They're in the class of "people who are most likely to file a bar complaint against you." The bar complaint is a Sword of Damocles that clients think they can hang above attorneys to get what they want, including out of a fee agreement.

So what should you do if you're on the receiving end of such a complaint?