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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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Help, I need somebody! – Part Two

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Friday, May 29, 2015

by Leslee Ruth Sharp, Sharp Law Offices, Raleigh, NC

 

In the previous blog of the same title, information was provided on NC LAP.  This follow-up blog presents information on other organizations and programs that benefit lawyers including CPM and BarCARES.

 

CPM                          

Unlike the North Carolina State Bar, our North Carolina Bar Association is voluntary. Even so, some of its programs have been designated by the North Carolina State Bar as lawyer assistance programs for purposes of Rule 1.6(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, for instance, the Center for Practice Management (CPM).  As an advisory program, CPM garners lawyer assistance program status.  

 

Started in 2008, CPM provides advice, webinars, articles, and videos on reducing risk, improving quality of your legal services and improving client relations.  You can also find information for managing your practice and improving efficiency.  And all this is free and confidential!  Look at all that is offered at http://www.ncbar.org/members/practice-management/.

 

BarCARES is a confidential, short-term intervention program provided cost-free to members of participating judicial district bars, voluntary bar associations (for instance the North Carolina Bar Association) and law schools. BarCARES is designed to offer no-cost assistance in dealing with problems that might be causing distress and can be used to help with personal issues (crisis intervention, depression/anxiety, substance use and financial concerns); family issues (marriage/relationships, children/adolescents and parenting/family conflict); work issues (professional stressors, case-related stress and conflict resolution); and student coaching on stress/time management, etc. If you would like additional information about the program and its availability in your area, please contact the BarCARES coordinator at 919-929-1227 or 1-800-640-0735 or visit www.barcares.org.

 

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 *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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Help, I need somebody!

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Friday, May 22, 2015

Help, I need somebody!

Help, not just anybody!

Help you know I need someone....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ApstMKNEMI

 

By Leslee Ruth Sharp, Sharp Law Offices

This is intended as the first in a three-part blog series and a precursor to an upcoming article in the Wake County Bar Flyer.

When the Beatles made this song a hit in 1965, I wasn’t yet a lawyer, much less out of grade school. Although, maybe like many of you, I already knew I was headed in that direction. My mother says as soon as I was talking I was telling of my career in the law. At any rate, when I began practicing 30 years ago, the idea that I would ever need help as a lawyer was not on my agenda or in my vocabulary. I was a newly minted lawyer in 1985, invincible, self-assured!

I knew I would need continual education in the law, but the idea that I would require a helping hand in any other matter was beyond my grasp. That there would be stress associated with handling cases, running a law practice, managing staff and difficult clients… why this concept never occurred to me. Meeting payroll, finding the next client, correcting the mistake made in court, managing deadlines, fulfilling the client’s expectations, why, the list goes on and on and this is just Monday! I had made my way through college, though law school, through an internship, my first job and was well on my way with my career. What could be so difficult about my new life as a lawyer?

Thirty years have passed, I’ve done pretty well for myself, better than some, not as well as others, all depending on how you take the measure. As we get older, we appreciate that from time to time we do need a little help. Did you know there are certain groups and individuals available to each of us as a lawyer in North Carolina to help with the many and varying challenges we encounter in our day-to-day service as a lawyer? Help is here, once you come to that point in life that you find yourself "not so self-assured." I encourage you to "open up the doors," visit the websites, talk with the contact person(s), or otherwise take advantage of these resources. Sometimes we all need a little help from a friend. If you see a colleague in need, be that friend.

NC LAP: As a licensed attorney, you are a member of the North Carolina State Bar, and the Lawyers Assistance Program is available to you. In 1979, a group of volunteer lawyers who were themselves recovering alcoholics saw the need to offer assistance to other lawyers suffering from addiction and alcoholism. They assembled together under the name Positive Action for Lawyers with Substance Abuse Issues (PALS) committee. In 1994, the State Bar formally recognized the PALS Committee and incorporated PALS as part of the State Bar administration and infrastructure. In 1999, further recognizing the need for additional assistance for lawyers dealing with mental health issues not related to substance abuse, the State Bar then formed the FRIENDS committee.

Today both programs have been merged into a single Lawyer Assistance Program. NC LAP currently has a staff consisting of a director, three clinicians and 2 office administration and special projects personnel. NC LAP also has a cadre of dedicated, trained lawyer and judge volunteers located throughout the state who are actively involved in providing assistance to lawyers and judges whenever and wherever needed. Find out more at www.nclap.org.

The second and third blogs in this series will discuss other organizations designed to assist lawyers in their time of need.

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 *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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Stubbs Bankruptcy Clinic

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Thursday, April 30, 2015

By Adam Gottsegen, Nicholls & Crampton, PA

 

On August 11, 2014, Campbell Law School announced the opening of the Stubbs Bankruptcy Clinic.  The Clinic is located within the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Raleigh and will be overseen by its director David F. Mills.  The Clinic is named after prominent bankruptcy attorney Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs.

The Clinic will not only provide law students with hands-on experience in bankruptcy law, but will also provide an outlet for referrals from Legal Aid of North Carolina and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  Exposing law students to practical skills and providing a resource for indigent citizens in our community is a "win-win" for professionalism in Raleigh. 

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 *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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The Professionalism Support Initiative

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, April 13, 2015

By Melvin F. Wright,  Executive Director of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism

 

The Professionalism Support Initiative (PSI) is a voluntary confidential local lawyer and judge assistance program that addresses client-lawyer, lawyer-lawyer, and lawyer-judge issues. The purpose of the PSI is to promote professionalism and thereby bolster public confidence in the legal profession. Local volunteer peers communicate privately and informally with lawyers and judges in order to address the complaint. The PSI offers counsel and assistance to lawyers and judges who receive repeated complaints at the State Bar, the Judicial Standards Commission, or through the local bar that do not rise to the level of ethics or professional responsibility violations but are matters of professional concern that should be addressed.

 

Inquiries include a wide range of matters that fall under “unprofessional conduct,” such as incivility, perceived bias by judges, lack of respect to litigants, attorneys, court personnel, witnesses, clients, etc.; excessive delay in courtroom proceedings or filing court documents, abuse of discovery practices, deficient practice skills, communication problems, failure to return phone calls or keep appointments, and consistent lack of preparation. Sometimes inquiries are just a matter of a personality conflict, oftentimes resolved by a PSI volunteer who helps both sides see how their behavior could be improved.

 

Visit the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism’s website at http://www.nccourts.org/Courts/CRS/Councils/Professionalism/PSI.asp in order to learn more or view the PSI training video and materials. Or, visit the Wake County Bar Association’s Professionalism Committee page at http://wakecountybar.site-ym.com/?page=Professionalism .

  

 

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NY Ethics Opinion on LinkedIn

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NY Ethics opinion rules that lawyers must monitor their LinkedIn endorsements for accuracy, should not use “specialties” section unless they have a certification, and may need to include a results disclaimer, depending on the site’s content.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/does_your_legal_linkedin_profile_have_off_base_endorsements_ethics_opinion/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tech_monthly

 

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 *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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Spotlight on Professionalism

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Monday, March 30, 2015

By Elizabeth L. Oxley, Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina

 

As a way to recognize and encourage high standards of professionalism among members of the 10th Judicial District, the Professionalism Committee of the Wake County Bar Association (WCBA) has initiated a program called, “Spotlights on Professionalism.”  At its quarterly meetings, the Committee recognizes and presents a commemorative plaque to an attorney whose actions or efforts exemplify and promote qualities of professionalism.  The program focuses on an attorney’s individual acts or efforts to promote professionalism, as opposed to an attorney’s entire career doing so, which is the focus of the esteemed WCBA Branch Professionalism Award.  Nomination forms are available on the WCBA website and can be completed and submitted to the committee.

 

The first recipient was Melvin F. Wright, Jr.  Mr. Wright is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism.  He developed and administers the Commission’s “Professionalism Support Initiative” (PSI).  The purpose of PSI is to promote professionalism and thereby bolster the public’s confidence in the legal system.  This program is designed to offer counsel and assistance when an attorney’s behavior is less than professional yet not a violation of a professional rule.  In most cases, Mr. Wright and another attorney visit the attorney to discuss any apparent breaches of professionalism in an effort to informally resolve the problem.

 

Thomas C. Worth, Jr., was the second attorney whose work was recognized with the Spotlight on Professionalism.   Mr. Worth took the very unusual--perhaps unprecedented--step of volunteering to be appointed to serve as trustee to wind down and close the practice of an attorney who had died suddenly and unexpectedly.  For more than two years, Mr. Worth spent many hours contacting all the deceased attorney’s former clients, finding representation for clients who needed it, and closing the trust account.  

 

Carmen H. Bannon, Deputy Counsel for the N. C. State Bar, received the third Spotlight on Professionalism.  Carmen has made numerous outstanding ethics and professionalism CLE presentations to WCBA members, and has developed, planned and supervised the WBCA’s Professionalism Roundtable ethics CLE for many years. 

 

The fourth recipient of the Spotlight on Professionalism was attorney Paul Suhr.  Mr. Suhr developed and has coordinated the WCBA Lunch with Lawyer Program for twenty years.  In an effort to provide a positive role-model for at-risk youth, this program schedules lunches between volunteer attorneys and high school students.

 

Nicolette Fulton, an attorney with the City of Raleigh, received the most recent Spotlight on Professionalism.  Ms. Fulton coordinates the “Rule of Law” program for the WCBA, an annual event in which area high school students participate in a moot court contest and are coached by attorneys and judged by actual judges.  The goal of the program is to promote an understanding of the U. S. legal system, which is based on a settled body of law.

 

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 *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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Think Before You Link: New NC Ethics Opinion on Social Media Connections

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

By Doug Brocker
The Brocker Law Firm
& Professionalism Committee Chair

The Ethics Committee has now adopted an opinion about the propriety of making and accepting invitations to connect and endorsements from judges and others on social media sites.  2014 FEO 8.  You can view the entire opinion by inserting the opinion number @ http://www.ncbar.gov/ethics/ethics.asp.  The opinion distinguishes between two types of “links” and also by who is making them-- a judge or a lawyer.  For the first category – connections -- the adopted opinion holds that an attorney may ordinarily accept an invitation to connect from a judge.  Opinion #1.  The lawyer generally also may send an invitation to connect with a judge.  Opinion #2. 

The opinion warns that if the attorney is currently in proceedings before the judge at the time of the invitation, however, the Rules of Professional Conduct may require the lawyer to decline the invitation until the proceedings have concluded.  The lawyer must determine whether acceptance of the invitation during the pendency of a case will: (a) impair the lawyer’s ability to comply with the Rule 3.5 concerning ex parte communications and (b) amount to conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(d), among other Rules. 

Ultimately, the opinion directs lawyers to be mindful of their obligation to protect the integrity of the judicial system and to avoid creating an appearance of judicial partiality.  The same criteria apply when deciding whether to send an invitation to a judge to connect. Opinions #1 and 2.  Based upon this opinion, the safest course is to wait to connect with a judge until you are not appearing before that judge, if possible.

The next part of the opinion deals with endorsements and recommendations.  On LinkedIn, you have an option to display your “skills & expertise” on your profile page.  Your connections can then endorse a skill or expertise for you and you get a notification of the endorsement.  If you do nothing, and the endorsement is for a skill you have selected to show, then that endorsement automatically will appear on your profile page.  You may edit the “skills & endorsements” section to “hide” selected endorsements or skills.  People can also post recommendations on your profile page.    

Why is all of this important?  The proposed ethics opinion says that it is okay to endorse a judge for skills or expertise (assuming you are not currently appearing before them).  Opinion #3.  Likely, this is permitted because it is really no different than sponsoring a judicial campaign or being listed publicly as a donor.  The lawyer also may accept endorsements and recommendations from persons other than judges as long as they are truthful and not misleading.  Opinion #5.   

The opinion, however, holds that an attorney may not accept an endorsement from a judge under any circumstances or at any time because it would create the appearance of judicial partiality in violation of Rule 8.4(e).  Opinion #4.  Further, if a person who endorsed you later becomes a judge, you are required to remove or hide the endorsement from your profile if you know or reasonably should have known the person is or became a judge.  In the final adopted opinion, the State Bar added the reasonableness qualifying language.  Opinion #6.    

Although the opinion primarily concerns the use of LinkedIn, it also applies to any social media site that allows public displays of connections, including endorsements or recommendations.  Opinion #7.    After reading the final opinion and before posting this blog, I decided I needed to figure out how to check my LinkedIn profile for people that may have become judges and might have endorsed or recommended me at one time.   Fortunately, no current judges endorsed me on LinkedIn so I didn’t have to learn how to hide or remove any.  Now I am off to figure out how to get onto our firm Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages to check them as well.  Whose idea was it to set up all these social media sites anyway?   

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 *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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Campbell Law Connections Mentor Program

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Friday, February 27, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Megan West, Attorney, Campbell University School of Law

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  

-- Benjamin Franklin

Campbell Law Connections mentor program, which pairs highly-qualified attorneys with our third-year students and newly-minted attorneys in Wake County, holds this as a central tenet.  The goal is not just to establish mentoring relationships that last a year, but symbiotic and progressive bonds that last a lifetime. 

This sort of outreach is also at the core of the North Carolina State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which state:

As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law, and work to strengthen legal education. (emphasis added)

In 1997, the Wake County Bar Association/10th Judicial District adopted a Creed of Professionalism, which holds in part:

The practice of law must be motivated by service rather than inspired by profit….  My word is my bond.  Integrity is an absolute.  Fairness and civility are essential….  To my colleagues in the practice of law, I offer concern for your welfare.  As we work together, I will respect your personal and family commitments.  I will share my learning and experience so that we may all improve our skills and abilities. (emphasis added)

Connections asks mentors to work with their mentees to complete six activities over the course of the academic year for an average total commitment of only 20 hours.  Mentee activities range widely from attending a WCBA meeting, drafting or reviewing sample pleadings, attending court hearings, and participating in pro bono efforts like a wills clinic for low-income citizens. 

Connections is looking for mentors who have been in practice at least five years and are members of the WCBA/10th to work with and provide learning opportunities to motivated third-year law students and attorneys who have been in practice less than three years.  For more information, please contact Megan West at westm@campbell.edu or 919-865-5875.

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 *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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Taking Steps to Prevent Hacking - A Change to the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct effective October 2, 2014

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Thursday, February 19, 2015

By Dan Johnson, Professionalism Committee Member 

 

It appears there is now an express ethical duty to take reasonable steps to prevent hacking of client data.

 

Rule 1.6 (c) was added to the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct stating: 

 

“(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”

 

Comment 19 to Rule 1.6 was re-written to state:

 

[19] Paragraph (c) requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information acquired during the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. See Rules 1.1, 5.1, and 5.3. The unauthorized access to, or the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, information acquired during the professional relationship with a client does not constitute a violation of paragraph (c) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use). A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this Rule, or may give informed consent to forgo security measures that would otherwise be required by this Rule. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps to safeguard a client’s information to comply with other law—such as state and federal laws that govern data privacy, or that impose notification requirements upon the loss of, or unauthorized access to, electronic information—is beyond the scope of these Rules. For a lawyer’s duties when sharing information with nonlawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm, see Rule 5.3, Comments [3]-[4].

 

So, taking reasonable steps to preventing unauthorized access to law firm computers appears to have evolved from an implied requirement or best practice to an express provision in the Rule and Comments.  

 

NOTE:  All of the State Bar’s October 2014 changes can be seen at this link:  http://www.ncbar.com/2014_RPC_final.pdf

 

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*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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Our Learned Profession—Keep Learning to Succeed

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Friday, January 30, 2015

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

A law school professor told us that the first and the great commandment in law practice is, “Read the statute,” and the second is like unto it, “Re-read the statute.”  These commandments apply to rules, regulations, judicial opinions, and any other legal authority, as well as to facts contained in documents or in notes from conversations with clients.  Thoroughness in preparation of a case yields great results for lawyers and their clients.

 

As recommended by the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, a third commandment is that, at the beginning of each new year, all lawyers read the Rules of Professional Conduct, and that all judges read the Code of Judicial Conduct.  

 

The fourth commandment could be, as our beloved Raleigh attorney Robert McMillan does, each day to read the Bill of Rights—the amendments to the U. S. Constitution.   The U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the foundation of our great legal system and of our cherished learned profession.

 

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*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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