Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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Sometimes, civility will not do. Your opposing counsel pushes every single one of your buttons, and hell, you're nobody's doormat. 

But how far do you go? Sharp tones, a threat of sanctions, or gasp, a profanity or two? And what else makes a good "F U" letter? Are there any other ways to irk opposing counsel?

We've got a few ideas.

Judge Judy -- yes, that Judge Judy -- has reached a settlement with a Connecticut lawyer accused of using images from her TV show in his own commercial, TMZ reports.

The fact that this case exists at all seems silly, because as Judge Judy so astutely noted, "Mr. Haymond is a lawyer and should know better."

Here are three takeaways from Judge Judy's real-life legal predicament that, hopefully, you knew already:

Michigan homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday for killing an unarmed woman on his porch -- Renisha McBride. But could a statement by Wafer's defense attorney be a problem if he pursues an appeal?

During closing arguments, Wafer's defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter described the situation Wafer faced: It was very early in the morning and an unknown person was pounding on his front door. "He armed himself. He was getting attacked. ... Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning," Carpenter said, according to The Associated Press.

Uh oh.

You know of pro bono. You did some of that in law school: you know, providing free legal services to people who can't afford them. But now that you're working, you wonder, "Hey, whatever happened to pro bono work?"

If you work in BigLaw, there's usually a dedicated pro bono coordinator, but if you're at a small firm, medium firm, or if you're a solo practitioner, the onus is on you to go seek out those pro bono opportunities.

Sure, you can always go down to Legal Aid, but where else can you find pro bono work? As it turns out, there are a lot of pro bono opportunities that you may not have known about. Here are five ways to fit pro bono work into your practice:

Public defenders are overworked. This is not news. This is how it's been since Gideon v. Wainright. It's part-and-parcel of the gig: Represent those whom society doesn't really care about and do it with fewer resources than your adversary in the D.A.'s office. It's a huge reason why being a public defender is such an admirable career path -- you're constantly making chicken salad out of chicken excrement.

But what we don't know is: Just how badly are public defenders overworked? And how much does it affect their indigent clientele?

The answer, as you might expect, is "a lot." And a new joint study by the American Bar Association, accounting firm RubinBrown, and the Missouri Public Defender System finally puts some numbers behind the truism.

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If a prisoner talks to his lawyer in person, at the prison, the prosecutor typically can't eavesdrop.

If he writes his lawyer a letter, the same protections apply.

If they talk on the phone, again, the prosecutor is supposed to back off.

But if the prisoner sends an email to his attorney, the federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are going to read it, and possibly use it against him.

This is a wee bit ridiculous.

New Orleans Attorney Stuart Smith, a notable environmental lawyer, apparently hates noise, fun, and cabaret shows. Robert Watters owns Rick's Cabaret and opposes strict noise ordinances in the French Quarter. On its own, this dispute is unremarkable.

Except Smith allegedly sent a text message to Watters and is now being charged with cyberstalking.

My favorite judge in America, outside of the Supreme Court, just made headlines again. And again, it's for his manner of online speech, rather than the content.

Last time, it was tips for ladies dressing for court, especially when appearing in front of "dirty old male" judges. This time, it's Kopf telling the U.S. Supreme Court to "stfu" (shut the [expletive] up). Both times, good points were masked by hyperbole and coarse language.

Again, it's begging the question: Is it time for Judge Kopf to re-retire his keyboard? And with the demands of avoiding the appearance of impropriety, respect for the office, and political correctness, should judges blog, or tweet, or even go on social media at all?

Judge Brian MacKenzie just can't catch a break.

Back in February, we recapped the rarest of all bench-slappings: a circuit court seizing control of Judge MacKenzie's docket after finding that he ignored the law, handed out illegal sentences, hid or sealed case files, and tweaked court transcripts, all because he didn't want to wait for a prosecutor to show up. Then, in late March, a recording of the Judge pressuring an inmate to drop a police brutality lawsuit surfaced.

Now? Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is asking that he be held in contempt of court for not disclosing thirty-three additional cases that he mishandled. Plus, he's facing an election challenge for the first time since 1988. Really, 2014 is not his year.

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A recent ethics opinion out of Texas has drawn a lot of scrutiny over its ban on managerial titles for nonlawyers (e.g., Chief Technical Officer) in firms -- indeed, we had a lot of fun coming up with alternative titles for CTOs -- but the opinion also pointed out another area where firms can get into trouble with nonlawyer ownership and management prohibitions: bonus structures.

Contingent bonuses are target of the opinion, and if your firm bases bonus on revenue, you might want to reconsider.

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