Professional Responsibility for Small Law Firms - Strategist
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Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle took on a pair of brothers as clients in early September. Knowing that she had a six-week maternity leave coming up, she immediately filed a request to postpone the hearing. After a month, and with only a week until the hearing, Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. denied her request, stating: "No good cause. Hearing date set prior to counsel accepting representation," reports The Associated Press.

On October 7, 2014, with her husband out of town on work, no friends or family in the area, and no daycare willing to take a 4-week-old baby, Ehrisman-Mickle showed up to court with her baby strapped to her chest -- after clearing it with her pediatrician. When her child began to cry, Judge Pelletier publicly scolded her for her behavior and questioned her parenting, commenting that she was exposing her child to many germs in court.

Judge Pelletier eventually delayed the hearing, while Ehrisman-Mickle filed a formal complaint the same day.

Amal Alamuddin. Amal Clooney. Amal Alamuddin Clooney. This whole marriage thing can get a bit confusing, right?

It's even more confusing for clients and the court, which is why the decision about whether to practice law under your maiden or married name is pretty darn important. There's the marketing and name recognition aspect. There are ethics considerations too. And, of course, the convenience factor: changing firm names, business cards, websites, and letting clients and the court know.

Maybe hyphenation is in order?

One of the more ridiculous inventions in the law has to be the waiver of the right to appeal, especially the right to bring claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Imagine if we could all make our missteps and mistakes go away by having clients sign waivers -- there would be no malpractice suits, no insurance requirements, and maybe even no disciplinary proceedings.

There would also be a whole heck of a lot more misconduct and far less faith in the justice system. That's why it's heartening to see that the Department of Justice is finally ending its practice (albeit a somewhat sporadic practice) of requiring defendants to waive ineffective assistance claims as part of a plea bargain.

Even if, as the policy change memorandum notes, "federal courts have uniformly held a defendant may generally waive ineffective assistance claims pertaining to matters other than the entry of the plea itself," the goal should be fairness and adequate representation, even at the cost of a few additional appeals.

Part of the reason you're doing all the networking we keep harping about is so that you can get referrals from other lawyers. Like your friend the tax attorney who knows a guy who knows a guy who needs a personal injury attorney -- like you.

New lawyers especially might not know how to navigate referrals, so we've provided this handy guide so that you know how to take advantage of referrals -- and do it without violating any laws.

You'll recall that in July, Eric Garner, a man from Staten Island, was placed in a lethal chokehold by NYPD officers after he was arrested for the inherently dangerous felony of selling untaxed cigarettes. (That was sarcasm, by the way.) Garner's family filed a civil suit against the NYPD.

Well, things just took a turn. In another case of lawyers (allegedly) behaving badly, Sanford Rubenstein, the attorney representing Garner's family, was accused of rape earlier this week and has now said he will drop out of the case.

You've finally got clients coming in the door! Clients are coming! After hanging your shingle, advertising, handling your aunt's cat's estate plan and living will, and redesigning your firm stationary for the 65th time, you finally have a few client intakes lined up.

What steps should you take to protect the client's interests, as well as your own? Here are five things you should be doing to ensure that you end up with conflict-free, sane, paying clients:

This opinion (via The Recorder) was promising by page 2, when the court noted that "Respondent denied the allegations contained in the NDC and then wrote a 16-page soliloquy with little to no rational connection to the charges at hand." By the time the opinion got through a Natalie Portman comparison and a Barack Obama mention, it was even better than that dude who slept with more than a half-dozen of his divorce clients.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the tale of Svitlana Sangary, a lawyer who, according to the California State Bar's allegations, photoshopped herself into pictures with celebrities to post on her website, withheld a client's file, and refused to participate in the disciplinary hearings, citing her First Amendment right to remain silent.

No, that is not a typo.

As a lawyer, should you ever represent family members?

"Hey, listen, you're a lawyer, right? See, I have this issue with my landlord ..." Or it's an issue with a boss. Or a co-worker. Or a neighbor. Or the police, for crying out loud.

It's bad enough when these questions come from complete strangers at cocktail parties, but at least you can walk away because you'll never see those people again. It's a different story when the innocuous request for just a little help comes from a family member. Before you start representing Aunt Sally, take these considerations to heart:

Yesterday, we looked at five things that you might want to buy on a cheap microjob website, like Fiverr. Examples included a logo, business cards, voiceover talent for your website content, and maybe, just maybe, an animated video that explains basic legal concepts, such as the consequences of a first DUI.

The reason why we recommended those is simple: The investment cost is so small, that even if you don't like what is produced, and if the seller can't or won't fix it, you can always drop another $5 and get a second take from someone else. Worst case scenario: You lose a latte.

But there are some services on these sites that you really should not purchase. These include:

Fall is here, and it's time to start preparing for winter. (Or, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, fall is here, it's always been here, and it's time to start preparing for more fall.) As you look around the office, what do you see? Client files. Boxes of them, piled up in a closet somewhere, some from clients that you haven't seen for years. What do you do with these (hopefully not moldy) old boxes? Can you scan the file? Can you destroy the file? Do you have to contact the client first?

Every state is different, of course, and every state that has adopted the ABA Model Rules is in the same pickle; the ABA Rules don't say anything about how long you have to keep the file, only that you have to keep it "to avoid foreseeable prejudice" and provide it to the client on demand.

Below, we offer two examples of state rules; of course, your state's mileage may vary.