Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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A South Carolina ethics opinion on attorney fee-sharing should give lawyers considering fixed-fee legal referral programs like Avvo's Legal Services pause. Avvo launched ALS this January, as a sort of Uber for legal services. The service allows customers to pay for legal work by task, rather than by billable hour, with Avvo setting the prices. Reviewing a prenup costs $150, for example, incorporating an LLC costs $595. Customers purchase the service through ALS, who then pays the attorneys that actually do the work.

Avvo, of course, takes its own cut, as a marketing fee. And those fees, along with the pay-for-referral nature of the service, have just been called unethical by the South Carolina Bar's Ethics Advisory Committee.

How to Talk to Potential Clients So They Don't Proceed Pro Se

It happens to solo lawyers with an unwelcome consistency: a client walks through your door to avail himself of your legal advice and then decides to either look for cheaper options, or worse, go about his matter pro se. What do you do?

It's been more than six years since the so-called economic downturn of 2008, but many people are still unreasonably frugal. It could be that people are worried about the recent negative predictions about the market. In this climate, how do you convince these clients that going pro se could be the worst mistake of their lives?

You've Been Formally Prosecuted in State Bar Court. Now What?

You worked hard for your license to practice law. You studied the LSAT, got into school, passed the bar and passed moral character and fitness... and a single ethics violation means it could all be taken away, just like that.

It's all very scary stuff about a system that very few attorneys know about -- though it haunts our thoughts. How do ethics hearings work? What is this thing called the State Bar Court? And what happens when attorneys are prosecuted in it?

So, Your Client Complained to the State Bar. What Now?

It's doubtful that anyone got into this business to be liked. Still, client complaints are not something you ever anticipate. Complaints by clients can be disheartening and even career-threatening -- especially when the state bar gets involved.

In this piece, we briefly go over how and why attorneys find themselves in hot water when representing a client. It goes without saying: tread carefully or else your career as an attorney could end faster than you thought.

We all know attorneys can't disclose confidential information gained in the course of representation. But what about public, potentially embarrassing information about a client?

Can a lawyer forward an embarrassing blog post about a former client to her colleagues? Can an attorney publicly disapprove of a client's behavior, years after finishing representation? Or would such actions violate a lawyer's duty of confidentiality?

Why You Should Discuss Litigation Financing With Clients

Your clients may not be aware of litigation finance, but you should be. And you should also be aware that handling litigation finance can be like trying to catch a falling knife. And if that's the case, then you're going to need to know how and why you should talk to your clients about possibly getting a third party to pay for their litigation fees and the pitfalls that come with the game.

Like anything else, it's usually better to set out the parameters at the very beginning rather than to wait for awkwardness later on.

Black children are regularly viewed as older and more suspicious than they are, leading to harsher treatment at the hands of authority figures. When imaging powerful figures, women rarely come to mind as often as men. Yet, pretty much everyone this side of Archie Bunker believes such biases are wrong. So why do they persist?

One of the answers is implicit bias, the subtle, often-unconscious associations connected to race, gender, and age that reinforce discriminatory stereotypes, often without our being aware of them. To counteract implicit bias, the Department of Justice recently announced that all of its law enforcement agents and prosecutors would receive training on unconscious bias. Should the rest of the legal profession follow?

Things just got a bit snitchier in the Empire State. In a recent ethics opinion, the New York State Bar Association has said that lawyers must report co-counsel's mistakes to their client, should the other attorney's error or omission rise to the level of potential malpractice.

Here's how the reasoning goes.

Does Your 3-Way With a Client Count as Sex? It Depends.

You know, there are times when you think you've read it all, but then history taps on your shoulder politely to remind that you haven't. Take for example, the old gem of In re Inglimo, which asks the question: "does a three-way with a client count as sex with a client?"

The answer, it turns out, depends on your interpretation of "with." Thanks to Eugene Volokh for reminding us.

Law Firm Succession Planning Registry Approved in Wisconsin

Do you sometimes wonder who will take over your practice when you become incapacitated or pass away? The Wisconsin Board of Governors has addressed that problem recently by approving a succession planning registry.

As it stands, nothing mandates that lawyers within the state participate, but the working group charged with attacking the succession problem has recommended that a mandatory registry ought to be created sometime in the near future.