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Nearly one in five American adults suffer from a mental illness at some point, with almost ten million adults experiencing serious mental illnesses that interfere with daily life. This means that, sooner or later, most lawyers will encounter a client with some sort of mental illness or impairment.

Working with a client with mental illness can raise serious ethical questions about your representation, your client's competency, and the form of your relationship. Here are some issues to consider in the event that you find yourself representing a client with a mental illness.

When advising a corporate client, lawyers may be tempted to limit their inquiry into the legality of a particular business practice or matter. Instead, they should also consider the ethical implications of their advice.

There are codified ethics guidelines, laws and regulations, all of which attempt to establish minimal levels of good behavior. But there are also individual ethics, a personal commitment to what is right, not just what is legally required.

Personal ethics may foreclose classic "gray area" arguments and may require a lawyer to counsel clients against suspect behavior. When it comes to advising business clients, legality is an attorney's main concern. But it should not be the only one.

What to Do When Opposing Counsel Won't Play Nice

We've written before about how lawyers do (or at least, should) extend each other professional courtesies. These small actions, like not objecting to reasonable discovery requests or scheduling depositions at convenient times and places, amount to treating opposing counsel with respect.

Some lawyers, though, think that any amount of cordiality amounts to surrender. They've got to the establish themselves as the Alpha Dog, or whatever metaphor their self-help books use. How do you deal with these crazy people?

Keeping abreast of legal developments, picking up some management skills, learning about new legal tech or marketing strategies -- these are just some of the benefits of making sure you have continuous professional development. After all, in an industry that evolves every time a new case is decided, lawyers can't stay idle. Attorneys have an obligation to keep up their professional development.

But what are you to do if you're a solo practitioner or your firm doesn't offer a formal (or just good) professional development program? Fret not. There's plenty of P.D. opportunities out there for you. Here's five places to find them:

If you're an expert in your field, or if you're representing a noteworthy client, you should expect to get contacted by the press at some point. A reporter may want background information on tenant's rights or healthcare law, or ask for your comments on an important ruling.

Great! Getting your name out in the media as a legal expert is exactly the kind of publicity lawyers should court. If your clients are involved in high-profile litigation, speaking to the press can help you get their side of the story across.

Make sure, though, that when you speak to the press, you do it right, focusing on getting your points across clearly and avoiding any ethical entanglements. Here's some tips:

How Much Should You Give to Judicial Election Campaigns?

The Supreme Court's decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar upheld restrictions on judicial campaigns, and while it didn't address the propriety of electing judges, Chief Justice Roberts did acknowledge that the practice of judges asking lawyers around town for donations can make things pretty awkward.

Judicial elections have long represented a gray zone for ethics; normally, lawyers aren't allowed to give judges anything of value, but during election season, everything is A-OK. But is there a line that you shouldn't cross? How much is too much when it comes to donating to a judge's election campaign?


When does a tweet of 140 characters or less require a disclaimer? More often than you might think. While a solid social media policy is a good way to avoid online complications and potential ethics breaches, if you're a lawyer who tweets, a cautious disclaimer every now and then can save you headaches later.

Whether it's notifying your readers that they're not getting legal advice, distancing your views from that of your firm, or ending each tweet with #imnotyourlawyer, Twitter disclaimers can give you an added layer of protection.

There aren't many lawyers who went into law because a career in theoretical mathematics would have been just too easy. In fact, many of us can probably get away with counting on our fingers much of the time -- except when it comes complex patent litigation. Or to client funds. Lawyers' ethical responsibility to maintain a client's funds in trust is one of the most common reasons lawyers face disciplinary action.

As a rule of thumb, you should strive to manage your client funds so that, should you die tonight, everything would remain in order. Of course, we don't always live up to that ideal. So, if you find an accounting mistake in an trust account, what sort of ethical issues might arise and what must you do about it?

How Lawyers Can Avoid The Dark Side

For Star Wars Day (May the Fourth -- get it?), we're focusing on The Dark Side of the Force and how lawyers shouldn't be tempted by it. Sure, it comes with cooler costumes and Force Lightning, but at the end of the day, it's the good side that always wins. Or it should, anyway.

You might not think that in the moment, though. A young Anakin Skywalker thought that the Dark Side was a super-good deal, and look where it led him? Here are some Tales from the Dark Side (of the Force), just for lawyers.

Should You Ask if Your Client Did It?

On a recent episode of "How to Get Away with Murder," Professor Keating posits a question to her murder class: Should you ask the client if he committed the crime? Keating suggests that a defense attorney has to "lie" to the jury about a client's innocence, but that's not really the case.

The lawyer shouldn't be making a moral judgment; after all, some proportion of clients are bound to have actually done the thing they're accused of, so that goes with the territory. (You didn't think you'd be representing only innocent people, did you?)

But is there any utility to asking if your client "did it"?