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Cohen Review: When Your Career Is Over, Should You Burn It Down?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 01, 2019 2:57 PM

Michael Cohen wasn't squeamish in his testimony against President Trump; the former attorney dragged the skeletons out of the closet and stomped on them.

If there were any more dead bodies in the Trump Organization, it would be a cemetery. But for lawyers who even think about turning on their own clients, here's another question:

When your legal career is over, should you burn it down? Here's why the answer might be yes:

The Sorry Lawyer

Cohen started his explosive testimony by apologizing to Congress for lying. He said he lied to protect his client, but he wanted to come clean before the Senate.

As Cohen proceeded to throw stones at the Trump empire, critical Republicans said he was just angry that he didn't get a White House appointment. Instead, he got a jail sentence -- for lying to Congress.

If convicts have principles, pleading guilty is a good one. It's a good reason for a lawyer to breach client confidentiality, too.

Ethics rules may require it in the balancing act between client confidentiality and being an officer of the court. An attorney may reveal such information "to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer's representation of the client."

The Disbarred Lawyer

As fate would have it, Cohen was disbarred as he was testifying. Effectively, attorney ethics rules no longer applied to him.

A disbarred attorney can apply for reinstatement to practice law. But as a practical matter, it may be better to burn it down and rebuild.

Cohen, for example, definitely will not be a jailhouse attorney. He has three years to figure out his next career move, like a tell-all book or a reality-TV show.

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