Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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Stay current on your child support obligations, or you might lose your law license. As the ABA Journal reported yesterday, the Supreme Court of Kentucky disbarred Daniel Warren James for failing to pay over $200,000 in child support obligations over 13 years.

That's not just a failure to pay a little child support; it's a failure to pay a lot of child support. That, coupled with a history of attorney discipline, led the Supreme Court to conclude permanent disbarment was an appropriate sanction.

If your law firm's clients speak Spanish (or deal with Spanish speakers in their course of business), how can you make sure you're speaking to their legal needs?

According to the Pew Research Center, Spanish is far and away the most-spoken non-English language in the United States. It's spoken by 37.6 million people, followed by Chinese (a distant second, with 2.8 million speakers).

Spanish-speakers need legal services too, and often they may not be able to find them. While you may have a few template legal forms available for simple things like leases and powers of attorney, having them in Spanish, as well as English, is a pretty good idea.

"Law & Order" is chock full of situations where a lawyer elicits some damning testimony from a witness, the other side objects, and Sam Waterston cheerfully says, "Withdrawn." And what's been heard, while "disregarded," can't really be unheard.

That's TV. In the real world, of course, there's no cheeky "withdrawn." A Philadelphia lawyer learned that the hard way, when she got hit with nearly $1 million in sanctions last fall. (Read that in your best Dr. Evil voice.)

As defense attorney Nancy Raynor pursues an appeal, here's what led up to the sanctions -- along with a potential lesson about malpractice insurance:

What should your law firm's website disclaimer say?

As we've pointed out recently, your website is most likely an attorney communication (unless, of course, it's your personal blog about your favorite jazz musicians). Consequently, it's governed by all the same rules that regulate attorney advertising and communications.

That means disclaimers letting people know that it's attorney advertising. But are there any mandatory magic words you have to use? Sometimes; it depends on your state, of course.

The perils of co-representation! Representing two parties at the same time usually comes up in the divorce context, where the parties are (more or less) agreeable and really just want to save money by using just one lawyer.

That sounds great and all -- except when things go south, or when your state's professional rules strictly forbid it. The Legal Profession Blog shares this tale of a Maryland lawyer suspended indefinitely for representing a married couple in a personal injury suit.

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: