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Recently in Professional Responsibility Category

Guardianship Cases Tackle Lawyer-Hospital Relationships, Conflicts of Interest

It's not hard to win a case when the opposing party doesn't show up for court.

That's how April Parks was doing it in Clark County, Nevada. She was awarded guardianships once a week, and had up to one hundred wards at a time.

It was easy pickings because the wards were too disoriented, incapacitated, or demented to go to court. Of course, there is more to the story.

Why You Never Threaten Opposing Counsel

If you learn anything from street law, you learn never to threaten opposing counsel -- especially in writing.

It's not just bad practice, it's a potential bar complaint. It could even land you in jail.

Paul Muckle apparently never learned his lesson. You just can't threaten to kill opposing counsel.

When it comes to the question of non-lawyer ownership of law firms, there are often a few voices in the crowd that seem to insist it would be good for one reason or another. But, even being as fair as possible, none of those reasons are ever really that good.

And when it comes to non-lawyer ownership saving solo law firms, well, that just seems oxymoronic. If a non-lawyer owns a solo law firm, is it even a solo law firm?

Falsifying Billable Hours: Never Worth It

Is it a victimless crime for a lawyer to overstate a legal bill but never send the bill to the client?

Probably not, but the results were about the same for one Louisiana attorney. Kenneth Todd Wallace was suspended from law practice for 30 months because he falsified hours to his law firm.

It's a sad story for an attorney who had risen to the top, serving on the firm's board of directors, as a hiring partner and leader on important committees. It also shows that the pressure of billable hours is sometimes too much even for leading lawyers.

There are some clients that you just can't help. Try as you might, if helping a client jeopardizes your ability to practice law, you need to rethink what you're doing, and maybe call your local ethics hotline.

However, sometimes a client just needs a little bit of help, or might be seeking "unbundled" legal services. While these clients might have money that's as green as the next, if a client is asking for you to draft a pleading for them to file in their name, that's called ghostwriting, and it might not be okay in your jurisdiction.

How to Tell Clients They're Being Stupid

It may come as no surprise that most Americans are ignorant about the law.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, most Americans don't have a clue about the Constitution. Barley one-third can remember the First Amendment right; only one in three can name a branch of government; and even fewer know all three branches.

So how do you deal with clients who are ignorant about the law? Or worse, how do you tell them they are being stupid?

How to Ambush by Deposition

'Ambush by deposition' is not as bad as it sounds.

It means "to catch a witness by surprise," which is the Perry Mason paradigm. Nothing wrong with a little curve, right?

It's not right to harass a witness with argumentative, irrelevant questions, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about pouncing on a witness with exactly the right question.

What to Do When Your Judge Is a Creep

The judge asked an accused prostitute whether she did it because she liked the money or because she liked the action.

Other times, he commented on the attractiveness of female lawyers in his courtroom. He gave them nicknames, like "Ms. Dimples," "bun head" and "Star Parker." His name, Judge Gary Kreep.

For real, you cannot make this stuff up. But what can you do when your judge is a real creep?

They said it was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. Now your client came to a decision, and it was one of a painful kind. Cause now it seems that you wanted to save them from liability, and that's the one thing they kept preventing you from doing. So rather than realizing they're wrong, they fire you.

After all that, are you going to be liable when your now-former client destroys their case, their business, and their life, in spectacular fashion, while misinterpreting your advice?

Of course this will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even from practice to practice. Below, you can read some tips on how to avoid malpractice claims after getting canned (keep the salt shaker handy, as you'll need a few grains for the following).

What's Your Liability for Client Communications to Third Parties?

Among President Trump's covfefe's, dictating Donald Trump Jr.'s statement about a meeting with a Russian lawyer registers high on the Richter scale.

The exact impact will be determined by history. Right now, it's big enough that the special counsel has convened a grand jury amidst growing evidence concerning the Russia affair.

It is a lesson for Trump but also for attorneys who dictate information for clients that is destined for third parties.