Articles Tagged with “legal ethics”

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ABA’s Law Practice Today

Ethical issues and dilemmas hit the legal profession from all angles. In serving as issue editor for the September 2018 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today (LPT) webzine, I sought to address a wide variety of subjects from attorneys with different practices and backgrounds.

Of course, I authored my own piece, What Do the Revised Rules for Lawyer Advertising Mean for Me?, recapping the recently adopted Resolution 101, passed by the House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago this past August. These suggested amendments to the Model Rules (7.1 through 7.5) relate to the realities of today’s lawyer advertising. While change is long overdue, it will be interesting to see the true impact that they may or may not have on state bar regulations and subsequent enforcement.

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Home of AAJ 2018 Annual Convention

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) Annual Convention that recently took place July 7-10, 2018 in Denver, Colorado, was an eye-opening experience. I was asked to speak on Avoiding Ethical Missteps in Promoting Your Firm, as part of a Professional Negligence Section CLE Program track. Besides a multitude of CLE programs on themes that ranged from trampoline injuries to the hugely popular (standing room only) sexual assault litigation group programs in what is now the #MeToo era, I found that a walk through the Expo Hall offered dozens of vendors providing products and services geared toward marketing, business development, and simply getting leads…and converting them. Some were quite entrepreneurial and unique; some made me a bit queasy (regardless of whether I was wearing my marketing attorney hat or ethics attorney hat, or both). There are seemingly hundreds of companies with the “best” web development, SEO and PPC strategies. And, yet, there were products that got me to stop, watch a demo, and grab a business card.

The track in which I participated as a faculty member, Professional Negligence, offered an excellent day of subjects and attorney speakers, including: Finding Damages Through Every Witness Defense and Plaintiff, J. Jude Basile; my Avoiding Ethical Missteps in Promoting Your Firm session; Cross-Examination of Defendants in Medical Negligence Cases, Paul A. Casi; Captivating the Jury, William P. Lightfoot; Leveling the Playing Field:  A Jury Selection System that Roots Out Bias, Keith R. Mitnik; Practical Application of Electronic Medical Records for Trial, James Puga and Don Hanson; The Affordable Care Act:  Are Future Damages a Thing of the Past?, Emily G. Thomas; Topics in Calculating Economic Damages for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Gene A. Trevino; Direct Examination or “The Heart of the Trial”:  Direct Examination From A to Z, Thomas J. Vesper; and Avoiding Legal Malpractice, David L. Wikstrom.

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PBIIn the 15+ years where I’ve taught the marketing & advertising ethics CLE hour of Ethics Potpourri, this years’ program has elicited some of the most fascinating exchanges from the audience. I teach this hour live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every April, August and December. The coming weeks include the live presentation in Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 30th. For directions and registration information, visit PBI. If you missed the program in April and can’t make August, the December dates will be here before you know it.

The deadly Amtrak train crash in Pennsylvania last May (2015) serves as the backdrop for a program that examines whether today’s ethics rules regarding solicitation and advertising are still effective in protecting victims and their families?  For an attorney who believes in the reasoning and philosophy of the Rules of Professional Conduct, does waiting out a 30 day moratorium on contact mean you’ve lost out on the lucrative race for clients? The program examines related court cases, ethics opinions and the RPC as they tie into various forms of business development for plaintiff’s attorneys that are seeking clients in a highly competitive marketplace. Some of the concepts might disgust you—but they are kosher. Some might remind you that today’s society, spurred on by a different news cycle, social media and a more cutthroat landscape means changing the way you do business, and get business.

The program flows from a column I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine in late 2015, Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules. That column also elicited many e-mails from colleagues on the somewhat controversial subject matter. As I witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash at home in Philadelphia, I watched the way attorneys used newspaper articles, press conferences, e-mail, social media, press releases and other semi- or non-“advertising” means to promote themselves and position their law firms for prospective clients. It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective. Judge for yourself.

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Sangary-Article-201409171849.jpgCall her the Zelig or Forrest Gump of California attorneys, but you can also call her “suspended.”

I’ve seen a lot of fun and strange law firm web site ethics issues come up since the mid-90s, but it is refreshing to see that there are still new takes on the concept of “deceptive and misleading” lawyer advertising online in 2014.

A State Bar Court judge in Sacramento, California has recommended a six month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who put Photoshop to use in manipulating a photo gallery on her website filled with fake pictures of her with various politicians, celebrities and star athletes. The court found that this photo gallery amounted to deceptive advertising. Read the highly entertaining opinion here.

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red_flag.jpgRecently, a California State Bar committee discussed a controversial proposal that would put a red warning label on attorney profiles for those facing disciplinary charges. This would take the concept of a website disclaimer to new heights. Only in California. Actually, I’d say only in Florida. But, indeed, this comes out of the left coast.

The proposal came from State Bar prosecutor Jayne Kim. It prompted an outcry from defense attorneys that felt accusations that had not been fully litigated and proven in court would lead to a serious hit on a law firms’ business.

The state delayed voting on the proposal until after a 60-day public comment period. Kim had argued that it was unnecessary, claiming it was simply an extension of a 2011 policy that required consumer alerts on profiles of attorneys formally charged with misappropriation of client funds or improper loan modification activities.

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wmt-logo-24b.pngIn my monthly column on internet marketing for lawyers in Web Marketing Today, I tackle the sticky issue of ethics and compliance for law firm websites. If you had told me when I started teaching ethics CLEs on this subject in 1997 that I’d be this well-versed on the subject–and it would become a niche area of expertise for my practice, I’d have laughed. But lo and behold, the Rules of Professional Conduct have become my Ten Commandments. There are plenty of golden calves and false idols–but I won’t name names. Let’s just say that websites are now the tip of the iceberg in a land of Groupons and “ask the lawyer” sites, getting the disclaimer language right should be child’s play.