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A blog by members of the Wake County Bar Association/Tenth Judicial District Bar's Professionalism Committee members.

 

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All I Really Need to Know About Professionalism I Learned in Kindergarten

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, January 12, 2015

By Carmen Bannon, N.C. State Bar 

OK, perhaps not everything—not the legal profession’s long history of adversaries who “strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends,” or the notion that our legal system functions optimally when lawyers treat each other with dignity, courtesy, and respect.  But the fundamental precepts of professionalism—be kind to each other, don’t be a bully, play fair—are the lessons of childhood.  One would hope that lawyers do not need to be reminded to apply these basic tenets to their practice of law…but evidently some do.  The State Bar’s Ethics Committee has published proposed amendments to several of the Rules of Professional Conduct reminding lawyers that they are expected to behave at least as well as kindergarteners.

The proposed amendments include the following additional commentary to Rule 3.5 (Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal):

As professionals, lawyers are expected to avoid disruptive, undignified, discourteous, and abusive behavior. Therefore, the prohibition against conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal applies to conduct that does not serve a legitimate goal of advocacy or a requirement of a procedural rule and includes angry outbursts, insults, slurs, personal attacks, and unfounded personal accusations as well as to threats, bullying, and other attempts to intimidate or humiliate judges, opposing counsel, litigants, witnesses, or court personnel.

… and the following proposed addition to the commentary to Rule 4.4 (Respect for Rights of Third Persons):

Threats, bullying, harassment, insults, slurs, personal attacks, unfounded personal accusations generally serve no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden others and violate this rule. Conduct that serves no substantial purpose other than to intimidate, humiliate, or embarrass lawyers, litigants, witnesses, or other persons with whom a lawyer interacts while representing a client also violates this rule.

… and the following proposed addition to the commentary to Rule 8.4 (Misconduct):

Threats, bullying, harassment, and other conduct serving no substantial purpose other than to intimidate, humiliate, or embarrass anyone associated with the judicial process including judges, opposing counsel, litigants, witnesses, or court personnel violate the prohibition on conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. When directed to opposing counsel, such conduct tends to impedes opposing counsel’s ability to represent his or her client effectively.

The proposed commentary makes explicit what should go without saying:  It is unethical to use the powers and privileges attendant to being a lawyer to gratuitously hurt and embarrass people.  In other words:  Be kind to each other. Don’t be a bully. Play fair.

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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Who is Driving This Thing?

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Wednesday, December 31, 2014

By Howard A. Marsilio, La Mantia, Marsilio & Verna, PLLC

For attorneys that regularly, or even on rare occasions, “step in” for a fellow attorney, this blog is for you.  For the purposes of this blog post, I will use the designations of “primary” and “secondary” attorneys.  While I suspect most attorneys would like to handle every aspect of their own cases, there are a myriad of circumstances (e.g. attorney scheduling conflict, illness or other absence, associate attorney responsibility, etc.) which may give rise to the need for one attorney (“primary”) to ask another attorney (“secondary”) for assistance with occasional court appearances or even entire case management/handling for some period of time. 

 

The anticipated duration and extent of the secondary attorney’s involvement will provide some guidance as to what that attorney stepping in should know about the case at a minimum, or what decisions that attorney may feel comfortable making.  For example, if an attorney is merely stepping in for a fellow attorney to continue a traffic ticket case for the first time due to an unanticipated absence, perhaps the secondary attorney’s working knowledge need be very limited.  However, with each layer of complexity or factual circumstance, we all can imagine how varied and risky the secondary attorney’s involvement may become depending on the primary attorney’s circumstances or the procedural posture of a matter.  It may accordingly call for a much more in-depth working knowledge of the case, and clearly defined authority and direction, in order to best effectuate or protect a client’s interests and to prepare the secondary attorney to make decisions, if necessary.

 

Despite the circumstances which give rise to secondary attorney’s involvement, at the very least North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 and Rule 1.4 should be immediately considered.  Rule 1.1 states in part “[a] lawyer shall not handle a legal matter that the lawyer knows or should know he or she is not competent to handle without associating with a lawyer who is competent to handle the matter.”  Additionally, Rule 1.4 et seq. explains what is required of a lawyer, with regard to communicating with their clients. 

 

With regard to attorney competency, we know from our law school days, competence in an area law is earned, not automatic.  For both the primary and secondary attorneys’ sake, honest and thoughtful considerations about experience, comfort level, potential pitfalls, etc. is worth having sooner rather than later.  A secondary attorney’s loyalty or willingness (or obligation) to assist is helpful, however, having a solid working knowledge of any matter will help prevent against embarrassment (I always fear the question to which I must reply “I don’t know”) or getting reprimanded by opposing counsel or a judge, for something you were not prepared for and probably did not deserve.  

 

With regard to communication, as a matter of courtesy, ethics, and professionalism, any change in attorney, whether limited or extended and regardless of compensation, should be brought to a client’s attention and consent/permission obtained.  For an unexpected absence or emergency, a lawyer has the discretion and authority to involve another attorney if necessary to protect the client’s interest.  For a longer switch, the choice would clearly be the client’s with regard to what course of action they would like to take.  Other than for birthdays and holidays, people rarely like surprises.  Whatever the client’s decision might be, they will likely always appreciate being informed.  Additionally, let’s not forget to communicate with the secondary attorney as a matter of professionalism.  Although some may like surprises, nobody likes being “thrown under the bus.”  Nothing is more painful than watching a fellow attorney in court squirm in front of a judge because they were not adequately informed of case facts, procedural history, or what to expect.

 

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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Staying Professional in the Face of Adversity

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, December 22, 2014
Updated: Monday, December 29, 2014

By Crystal S. Carlisle, The Brocker Law Firm, P.A.

It is difficult when your best efforts for a client appear to have been in vain; especially when you know without a doubt that the result should have been in client’s favor and there are no more avenues left to pursue to right the wrong.  Sometimes insult is added to injury when the client does not understand that you did everything humanly possible to help them.  We learn at an early age that life is not fair, but to see this concept played out is sometimes very hard to witness.  How do we remain professional in these circumstances?

(1)    Do not allow your emotions to get in the way.  Don’t yell, be overly animated, or allow your body language to show you are upset.  For some, keeping neutral facial expressions and not expressing anger and outrage comes naturally, but I believe for a lot of us, it is a learned behavior that comes with experience and effort.  If you need to vent, wait until after you leave the forum.

(2)    Try not to take things personally.  There are often factors involved that play into a decision that having nothing to do with you, i.e. politics, group dynamics, etc.

(3)    Stay positive.  Set the tone for those around you.  “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” (King Henry VI, William Shakespeare)

(4)    Respond decisively.  Speak with conviction, confidence, and authority – despite the circumstances.

(5)    Remain fearless.  Do not allow the experience to keep you from pursuing what is just.

(List derived from http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2014/01/20/7-ways-leaders-maintain-their-composure-in-difficult-times/)

Conducting yourself professionally in these types of situations sets an example for those around you.  Exhibit civility and self-control.  This type of behavior will certainly benefit you in the legal community and in your practice.  Though you may lose a battle, losing it with grace is commendable and will be noticed.

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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Embezzlement

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Wednesday, December 3, 2014

By Leanor Hodge, NC State Bar 

The State Bar has seen an increase in reports of employee embezzlement from law firms.  This is an issue of concern for the State Bar, and of concern, angst and heartache for the lawyers whose accounts and trust have been breached by their embezzling employee. Let’s go over a few tips that might help safeguard against employee theft. 

  1. Maintain physical control of your trust account records.  Your trust account records should not be maintained by your staff.  You can give your staff access to your account records in the office as needed in support of your obligations under Rule 1.15, but staff should not be permitted to take your account records off site.

     

  2. Review your bank records, including bank statements and canceled checks, making sure to review the canceled checks for forged signatures.  Many cases of employee theft would have been discovered if the lawyer reviewed bank statements and canceled checks.

     

  3. Reconcile your trust account promptly.  It is the lawyer’s responsibility to reconcile his or her trust account.  If this responsibility is delegated to a non-lawyer staff person then the lawyer should review and sign off on each reconciliation monthly and quarterly (three-way reconciliations).

     

  4. Review all trust account activity regularly.  Random spot checks of the bank records against documentation from the client file helps deter theft.

     

    What should a lawyer do if he or she discovers that an employee has embezzled from the trust account?  The Winter 2015 edition of the North Carolina State Bar Journal will include an article authored by Trust Account Compliance Counsel, Peter Bolac that outlines his “Top Tips on Trust Accounting.”  Let’s preview Bolac’s tips for action after embezzlement has been discovered:

     

  1. Actions the lawyer must take:

  1. Replenish any known deficit; and

  2. Report the embezzlement to the North Carolina State Bar.

     

  1. Actions that the lawyer is strongly encouraged to take:

  1. Terminate the employee;

  2. Call the police;

  3. Question other employees; and

  4. Consider opening a new trust account.

     

    Make sure to read Peter Bolac’s article in the Journal later this winter for more detailed information on this subject.

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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Attorney-client Confidentiality, Social Media and the Internet

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Tuesday, November 18, 2014

By Elizabeth Oxley, Attorney at Law, Member, WCBA Professionalism Committee

The question of attorney-client confidentiality may arise if a disgruntled client posts a negative comment about an attorney on social media such as Facebook or on an internet site such as AVVO.  May an attorney respond?  If so, in what manner?  An attorney may only respond in a general manner, making a statement such as, “This firm strives to provide its clients with excellent legal service and regrets that any client is less than satisfied.  Please contact the firm, and we will be happy to discuss your concerns with you.”

 

Newly-admitted attorneys who have been accustomed to free rein in posting personal items on Facebook, other social media, and the internet, have to make a special adjustment to the demands of N. C. Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.6, Confidentiality of Information.  In response to negative client comments, attorneys must not post comments that breach attorney-client confidentiality. 

 

In relevant part, Rule 1.6 states that “[a] lawyer shall not reveal information acquired during the professional relationship with a client unless the client gives informed consent….”    In Rule 1.0, Terminology, “Informed consent” as defined in (f),  “ …denotes the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation appropriate to the circumstances.”   Lack of informed consent from a complaining client is tantamount to a prohibition against an attorney’s posting of confidential client information on social media or the internet.

 

There are exceptions to Rule 1.6 that usually do not apply to the hypothetical facts considered here.  Per Comment 3, however, Rule 1.6 “….applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information acquired during the representation, whatever its source….”  All information acquired during the representation would include a prohibition against an attorney’s reference to pleadings and other documents filed with the court, even though they are public record.

 

And, per Comment 4, “This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to the discovery of such information by a third person.  A lawyer’s use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation.”    The size of the community may determine whether it is appropriate for an attorney to communicate a particular hypothetical or other reference—the smaller the community, the greater the likelihood that the listener would be able to determine the identity of the client.

 

Finally, per Comment 21, [t]he duty of confidentiality continues after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated.”   There is never a time when it is permissible to breach attorney-client confidentiality.  It is a sacred trust and part of the duty that goes with the privilege of practicing law.

 

~~~~~

 

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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How to Make a One Click Thank You Note

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Tuesday, November 4, 2014

By Erik Mazzone, North Carolina Bar Association 

 

The following fact pattern has never occurred in any science fiction movie or book:

 

People invent a new technology. The new technology evolves, grows and expands in unpredictable ways. Everyone lives happily ever after.

 

I don’t know why it is, but it seems hard wired into our cultural consciousness that the inevitable march of technology is destined to conflict with our humanity.  The robots turn on us, soylent green is people, the Terminator becomes Governor of California. Disaster is unavoidable.

 

Happily, things don’t always go down like that. Sometimes, technology can help us be a little more human to each other.

 

You, like me, receive a ton of email. More than you can respond to. So we don’t. All day we send each other emails that go unanswered. There are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

 

One of my favorite tech tools to help with this is to use a typing shortcut program. I use TextExpander on my Mac. The equivalent one for Windows is ActiveWords.

 

Here’s how it works:

 

When I recognize that I retype the same email (or any block of text, really) over and over again, I enter it in TextExpander along with a special shortcut key. For example, I give out directions to my office fairly frequently, so I use a shortcut. I typed out one set of really good directions and stored them in TextExpander. I type in “.addy” and TextExpander pops that entire block of directions right in whatever email, word document, Skype chat or other program I am working in.

 

It’s cut and paste on steroids.

 

It’s a small thing. A saver of minutes, not hours, each day. But as you build up your library with text blocks for “thank you”, “good job”, “great to see you” and so forth, you will be able to more easily manage the insane volume of communication coming at you without spending an insane amount of time.

 

Best of all, no soylent green involved.

 

Erik Mazzone is a Practice Management Advisor for the North Carolina Bar Association and member of the Wake County Bar Association.

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The Evolving Law of Mediation

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, October 20, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 21, 2014

By Mark Finkelstein, Partner, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP
 


The North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission has recently issued a number of advisory opinions that lawyers in the dispute resolution business should know.

A.     Mediator Testimony

First, The confidentiality provisions of Standard III have been held to prohibit a mediator from testifying regarding statements at mediation even when all parties want the mediator to testify.  Standard III.A states in part that:

“Apart from statutory duties to report certain kinds of information [i.e. juvenile and elder abuse], a mediator shall not disclose, directly or indirectly, to any non-party, any information communicated to the mediator by a party within the mediation process.”

 While the parties may testify regarding the mediation for the purposes of determining whether an enforceable settlement was reached and the mediator may provide his written report of mediation, the mediator may not testify about what happened at the mediation.  Advisory Opinion No. 30 (2014) (comment period ending October 10, 2014).

B.     Limits of Inadmissibility of Statements Made in Mediation

Many lawyers are surprised to learn that there are limits to the rule on inadmissibility of statements made at mediated settlement conferences.  The Dispute Resolution Commission addressed the limitations of G.S. § 7A-38.1(1).  This statute provides:

“Evidence of statements made and conduct occurring in a mediated settlement conference . . . shall not be subject to discovery and shall be inadmissible in any proceeding in the action or other civil actions on the same claim …” 

 

However, statements made during mediation may be used in criminal cases and in civil actions on different claims.  There are also at least four additional exceptions to the inadmissibility of statements during mediation “rule”:

(1)        Proceedings to enforce or rescind a settlement; 

(2)        Proceedings for sanctions regarding the mediation;

(3)        Disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar or the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission; and

(4)        Proceedings to enforce laws concerning juvenile or elder abuse.

 Mediators have the duty to define and describe these concepts of inadmissibility, but legal interpretation of these rules is the responsibility of counsel for the parties.  Advisory Opinion No. 29 (2014).

C.     Disputes over Corporate Appearance

Advisory Opinion No. 25 addresses the issue of mediator conduct when a corporate party

indicates that it will be represented by an employee only and not a lawyer.  The opinion indicates that the mediator should act as a neutral facilitator and is not required to police attendance issues.  The mediator should hold the conference and report to the court those individuals who are present at the conference.  The parties can address issues regarding attendance to the court either before or after the mediated settlement conference.

D.    Interlocutory Appeal

What should happen when a case with a mediation deadline is appealed and the appeal may be of an interlocutory order that may not affect a substantial right?  The appeal of an interlocutory order that does not affect a substantial right does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction.  RPR & Associates, Inc. v. The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, et al., 153 N.C.App. 342 (2002).  In such a case, the parties should obtain guidance from the court as to whether the matter is stayed pending appeal, and if they fail to do so, the mediator should obtain such guidance from the trial court.  Advisory Opinion No. 26 (May 17, 2013).

            Conclusion    

The law of mediation is complex and detailed.  The duty of competence requires all lawyers involved in the mediation process to understand this complex and detailed law.  

~~~

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

Tags:  admissibility  appeal  corporate appearance  ethics  mediation  mediator 

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What’s My Line? – Your LinkedIn Endorsements

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Thursday, October 9, 2014

By Deanna Brocker, The Brocker Law Firm, P.A.

Unlike the game show “What’s My Line” from the 1960′s where celebrity panelists had to guess the occupation of contestants by asking a series of questions, you don’t want to leave prospective clients guessing about your “line” of work.  First, you have an obligation under the ethics rules to ensure that you only post truthful and accurate information about your services on social networking sites. Second, it just makes no sense from a marketing perspective.  If you practice only family law, why would you advertise your skills as a real estate practitioner?  This is what could happen, however, if you are not careful about the endorsements you accept through LinkedIn.

Have you ever received an endorsement through LinkedIn for an area of practice that you don’t do?  I once received an endorsement for patent law.  What?!  Well, I’ve learned to just ignore those endorsements that have nothing to do with my practice, but not after accepting a few of them, just to see what would happen.  If you have accepted LinkedIn endorsements for areas in which you do not currently practice, even inadvertently, then you need to visit your LinkedIn profile, and hide those endorsements/practice areas.  I am not the person who can best tell you how to do that.  I fiddled around with my profile for awhile until I figured it out — I think.  But, suffice it to say that if you are showing practice areas on LinkedIn that you do not do, then you must take some action to delete or hide those practice areas and the corresponding endorsements.

The failure to do so would be a violation of Rule 7.1(a).  This Rule provides that every communication about your services must be truthful and not misleading.  If you have created a LinkedIn profile, you have control over your information on that site, including your profile, your connections and your endorsements.  Unlike some other social networking sites, LinkedIn gives you lots of flexibility about what to show and what may be deleted.  Because you have control over the contents of your LinkedIn profile, you must periodically review it to ensure it is accurate.  If you change practice areas, review your profile to see if it needs to be updated or modified.  Also, if you change employment, promptly add your new employer to your profile so it does not appear you are still working at your old firm.

Bottom Line: Make sure your LinkedIn profile accurately shows “What’s Your Line” so you don’t get in trouble with the Bar.

~~~

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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You Will Survive…the State Bar’s Random Audit Process

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Wednesday, September 17, 2014

By Leanor Hodge

NC State Bar

Approximately every five (5) years, lawyers from one of the thirty judicial district bars in North Carolina will be audited by the State Bar pursuant to 27 N.C.A.C. § 1B.0128(b).  The 10th judicial district bar’s number was called this past quarter (July 2014) when fifty-three 10th judicial district bar lawyers received a subpoena from the State Bar directing them to gather their trust account records in preparation for review on a date certain by Anne Parkin, the new State Bar auditor. 

When a lawyer receives a random audit subpoena, the responding lawyer should gather and review all of his or her trust account records from the most recent 12 month period and have these records ready to present to the auditor when she arrives.  The records and documentation that lawyers are required to maintain for their trust accounts are identified in Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15-3.  For most lawyers, identification of the records needed for the audit is practically intuitive:  bank statements, canceled checks, deposit slips, copies of deposited items, client ledgers, credit card payment receipts, wire transfer confirmations, etc.  However, for far too many lawyers, there are two important but often overlooked trust account records that are required to be produced and should be included in that list:   PRINTED or digitally saved (which means a copy has originally been printed and then scanned to create an electronic copy) copies of the reports of monthly and quarterly reconciliations of the trust account.  Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15-3(d)(3) states “[t]he lawyer shall retain a record of the reconciliations of the general trust account for a period of 6 years…”  It is not acceptable for a lawyer to fail to maintain the printed reconciliation record for the required 6 year record keeping period though the lawyer may have actually performed the reconciliations in accord with the requirements of the Rule.

After the auditor has completed her review of the trust account records, she will prepare the State Bar Auditor’s Report and provide a copy of it to the subject lawyer.  It is likely at this stage of the audit that the crescendo of angst associated with the audit process reaches its climax.   For most lawyers who are the subject of a random audit, any worry they experienced in anticipation of and during the audit dissipates at the conclusion of the audit.  This is because the majority of lawyers who are the subject of a random audit get an average result.  This means that at the conclusion of the audit they receive an audit report which outlines administrative changes that the lawyer needs to make to his or her trust account administration with an instruction to make the changes going forward.  In some instances, those lawyers who have received an average result are required to demonstrate to the Trust Account Compliance Counsel that they have made the changes listed in the audit report.  For an elite class of lawyers, the random audit process will end with what the State Bar auditor describes as an “A+ result”:  completing the audit process with little or no recommended changes to the lawyer’s trust account administration.   Will you be a part of that elite class of lawyers if you are among those subpoenaed when the 10th judicial district bar’s number gets called again…?


*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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Checking under the Hood of Your Trust Account

Posted By Whitney D. von Haam, Wake County Bar Association, Tuesday, September 2, 2014

By Doug Brocker
The Brocker Law Firm
& Professionalism Committee Chair 

 

Are you doing the ethical equivalent of checking under the hood and kicking the tires of your trust account? If not, you better make some time to do so, and soon.   Over the last several years, the State Bar has made a concerted effort to step up enforcement concerning supervision of trust accounts, or lack thereof.  It primarily has done this by aggressively pursuing disciplinary action against attorneys who fail to satisfy what it considers to be adequate supervision and oversight of trust accounts. 

A significant number of attorneys have received public discipline, including active or stayed suspensions.  Many of these individuals were experienced, well- respected attorneys with previously unblemished disciplinary records and in many instances very impressive credentials.  If you believe you are immune because you're in a large or well-established firm or because you're not the partner or principal directly responsible for the trust account, think again.  This is an issue that potentially affects any lawyer in North Carolina whose firm handles trust funds.  The most common reasons that lawyers have gotten caught in this disciplinary net is either because: (1) they placed too much faith in a trusted employee, who betrayed it, or (2) they abdicated, rather than delegated, their responsibilities concerning the trust account to an employee or outside bookkeeper or accountant.   

It is not possible in this format to provide an exhaustive list of the potential issues or pitfalls on this subject.  Instead, I will cover three of the most common areas that have ensnared some very good lawyers over the last several years.  There also is an e-publication available on our Firm website that addresses these issues entitled, “Tips for Safeguarding Client Trust Funds.”  http://brockerlawfirm.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Trust-Funds.pdf

First, all the lawyers in a firm must ensure that they have an adequate system in place to comply with the trust account rules, including adequate supervision of non-lawyers.  In the last few years, if trust funds were stolen or even just misapplied by employees or other non-lawyers and there was an inadequate system in place concerning trust account supervision (or none at all), the State Bar has obtained a stayed or active suspension against at least one of the lawyers in the firm in many cases. 

Second, even when there is a system in place, if funds are misused or misappropriated, the State Bar has issued public disciplinary action against one or more lawyers in the firm.  Public discipline has been imposed even when the lawyers discovered the theft, self-reported it to the State Bar as required, and took all other possible corrective remedies after the discovery, including full reimbursement to the client and pursuing criminal charges against the embezzler. In essence, the State Bar has taken a strict liability approach to trust account violations concerning misuse of the funds.     

Third, the State Bar has taken the position that supervising attorneys are required, at least periodically, to review the trust account bank statements, checks, deposit slips, wire transfers and other source documents.  Although this requirement is not specifically set forth in the Rules, Comments or Formal Ethics Opinions to my knowledge, the Bar consistently has taken the position in recent years that such review of source documents is required as part of a lawyer's duty to adequately supervise non-lawyers with respect to trust accounts.  According to the State Bar, it is not sufficient for an attorney merely to review trust account summaries prepared by a non-lawyer without crosschecking or confirming the information in the summaries with the corresponding source documentation, at least periodically. 

In other words, the State Bar expects that lawyers will go beyond just merely observing if things appear to be running smoothly and requires them to check under the hood of their trust account, at least periodically.  A good place to start for a DIY approach is the State Bar’s Trust Account Handbook, which is available on its website.  Our Firm also offers customized trust account procedural assessments for law firms and lawyers who need outside assistance.  However you decide to do it, it is past time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.      

 

*Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole.

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