Welcome to the Contemporary Approach to Professional Responsibility Blog


Welcome! We would like you to join our community as we promote study of, and debate regarding, the professional responsibility of lawyers.  Although our blog will serve as a resource for users of Professional Responsibility:  A Contemporary Approach (2nd. ed 2013), the current developments, innovative teaching materials, and commentary should be thought-provoking and fun for all those interested in the legal profession.  Please feel free to share your ideas and we will post as much as we can.

ABA Issues Final Model Regulatory Objectives (to be voted on Feb. 2016)

The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services has issued its final Resolution & Report: Regulatory Objectives.   This Resolution is scheduled for a vote at the February 2016 San Diego ABA Midyear Meeting.  The draft objectives can provide the basis for a useful discussion in Chapters 2 and 9 regarding the purpose of regulation.  (The ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual article about these regulatory objectives is available here.)

Full disclosure:  I am on record as supporting regulatory objectives.  As I explained in my Oct. 30, 2015 comment letter, I believe that regardless of what one thinks about recent market and regulatory developments, it is useful to have regulatory objectives:

My final comment is that it is important for the Commission and ABA members not to allow controversies about regulatory developments in the United States or elsewhere to derail the discussion about Model Regulatory Objectives.  Many of the recent lawyer regulatory developments have been quite controversial.  As I have noted in several articles, one way to think about both market and lawyer regulation developments is that they present issues regarding the “who-what-when-where-why-and-how” of lawyer regulation.    For example, the North Carolina Dental Board case and the 2007 UK Legal Services Act raise issues about who it is that should regulate lawyers; LLLT, entity regulation, and ABS developments raise issues about what it is that should be regulated; the UK’s outcomes focused regulation raises questions about how regulation should occur.  While these who-what-when-where-why-and-how issues have become intertwined in particular jurisdictions, it is important for U.S. jurisdictions to recognize that these issues are separable. 

I believe that it is exceedingly important for a jurisdiction to ask itself the “why” question – why does the jurisdiction regulate lawyers and what it is trying to accomplish?  I don’t think that asking the question of why a jurisdiction regulates presupposes a particular answer to one of the controversial “who-what-when-where-or-how” lawyer regulation issues.  Moreover, failing to ask the “why do we regulate?” question doesn’t mean that the difficult issues are going to go away.  Whether one likes it or not, there are market and regulatory developments in the United States and elsewhere that will be cited during regulatory debates.   If a regulator can say what it is trying to achieve, its response to a particular issue – whatever that response is – should be more thoughtful and should have more credibility.  It seems to me that this is in everyone’s interest. 


We can’t be satisfied with a C average (at best) on affordable legal help

No state receives higher than a ‘C’ overall on the new Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help released today by Responsive Law.

Tom Gordon, Executive Director of Responsive Law, explains more in today’s USA Today:

Imagine that at tax time you’re required to either fill out your 1040 without help or pay a CPA hundreds of dollars to do it for you. There’s no H&R Block, and while TurboTax exists, it’s under constant siege by state regulators for being an unlicensed accountant.

That’s analogous to the situation that most Americans face whenever they have a legal issue. For even simple matters, they have to either do it themselves, hire a lawyer for over $200 an hour or use software that can do the job well but which the lawyer cartel is trying to put out of business.

Responsive Law’s Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help, which will be released Thursday, grades each state on how restrictions created by lawyers make legal help expensive and inaccessible for its residents. No state received a grade above a C. The two factors most responsible for the low grades are restrictions on who can provide legal services and restrictions on the corporate structure of law firms.

For a basic will or uncontested divorce, a consumer could be well served by a competent professional other than a lawyer. However, in most states, only lawyers are allowed to provide these services. State bars have used vaguely worded restrictions on the “unauthorized practice of law” to bring legal actions against everyone from major companies like LegalZoom to small mom-and-pop operations.

The worst offender in restricting competition is Florida, which received an F in the category of Barriers to Non-Lawyer Help. The Florida Bar has a $1.97 million annual budget dedicated to enforcement of unauthorized practice restrictions that it has used to pursue charges against people like Katie Vickers, a senior citizen who helped a fellow parishioner at her church with completing workers compensation forms.

James B. Donovan, Before the “Bridge of Spies” | John Q. Barrett Jackson List:

Source: OTHERWISE: James B. Donovan, Before the “Bridge of Spies” | John Q. Barrett Jackson List:

by John Q. Barrett (St. John’s University School of Law)

The new film “Bridge of Spies” reports, in on-screen text, that it is “[i]nspired by true events.” Tom Hanks plays a character named James Donovan. He is a 1950s New York City lawyer. He represents insurance companies in policy coverage controversies—in one, the issue is whether his client, the insurer, is liable for the damages that an automobile driver caused by hitting five motorcyclists.

Then Donovan is recruited by the bar and bench in Brooklyn to represent Rudolf Abel, whom the United States has arrested and charged with being a Soviet spy.

What qualifies “insurance lawyer” Donovan to take on this high profile criminal defense job at the depths of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War? Well, as a colleague mentions to Donovan, “You distinguished yourself at Nuremberg.”

Donovan’s response is both an acknowledgement and, implicitly, a disclaimer that he is the right attorney to handle Abel’s defense: “I was on the prosecution team.”

* * *
Seventy years ago, the real James Britt Donovan indeed was a young but senior and very significant member of Justice Robert H. Jackson’s U.S. prosecution team before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg. This post sets forth—including as background for your viewing of “Bridge of Spies,” which I recommend highly—some of Donovan’s life story, including his Nuremberg work.

Keep reading


Quid pro quo? MD testifying in Silver Corruption Trial //NY Times


Quid pro quo…or no?

Doctor at Sheldon Silver Trial Tells of Elaborate Arrangement, Years in Making 

by Benjamin Weiser and Susanne Craig

New York’s ornate Capitol building in Albany, a plan two years in the making was taking root. Everyone would benefit: Victims of mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, would be sent to a reputable law firm; the firm would pick up new clients; and a well-regarded cancer research clinic would receive funds.

And at the center of all this was Sheldon Silver, then the State Assembly speaker, prosecutors say.

Chapter 4, Confidentiality, and a New EU Case on Lawyer Surveillance

If you are looking for a way to introduce cutting-edge issues into Chapter 4 on lawyer confidentiality, you can refer to a CCBE press release about an October 27, 2015 decision from the Dutch Court of Appeals regarding lawyer surveillance.  The CCBE is the acronym for the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents the bars and law societies in the EU. The press release included the following summary of the background of the case:

“In May of this year the CCBE successfully intervened before The Hague District Court in a challenge brought against the Dutch State by the law firm Prakken d’Oliveira and the Dutch Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (NVSA). The Court was questioned on the legality of eavesdropping by domestic intelligence agencies on lawyers’ calls and communications. In its verdict delivered on July 1st, the court recognised that the ability to communicate confidentially with a lawyer is a fundamental right which is currently being breached under Dutch surveillance policy. The court therefore ordered the Dutch government to stop all interception of communications between clients and their lawyers under the current regime within six months. In response, the Dutch State fast-tracked an appeal against the judgement.  On 25 August, the CCBE challenged the grounds of the appeal.”

The CCBE press release reported that the Dutch Court of Appeal had upheld the trial court’s ruling, noting that:

“In its ruling, the Dutch Court of Appeal dismissed all the grounds of appeal alleged by the Dutch State. The Court indicates that according to case law of the European Court of Human Rights surveillance activities must be subject to review by an independent body with the power to prevent or terminate potential infringements of professional secrecy.”

The CCBE press release contains links to the court decisions (in Dutch) and news stories.  Additional information is found on this CCBE Surveillance Working Group webpageThis CCBE webpage also has confidentiality-related information.

$890 million in advertising for clients?

From Forbes today comes this, “Lawyers Bump Advertising Spending to $890 Million in Quest for Clients.”

A few highlights:

The phrase “San Antonio car wreck attorney” is the most expensive search string on the Web, at $670 per click, followed by “Accident attorney Riverside CA,” at $626. In fact, 23 of the 25 most expensive search terms involve lawyers and litigation, according to a new survey by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, which doesn’t think much of lawyer advertising.

Defying the trend toward declining television advertising spending, lawyers have increased their spending by 68% over the past eight years to an expected $892 million this year, the ILR reports, as law firms seek clients for lawsuits over prescription drugs, medical devices and asbestos.


The ILR study paints a portrait of an industry that knows where its customers are – often in front of a television set, watching afternoon programs, or searching the web for information about a medical condition – and knows how to get their attention.


Law firm spending on TV ads has been rising six times faster than overall spending since 2008, the study found.


Lawyers have also flooded the Internet and social media with their messages, buying search terms and linking up with “influencers” and “Super Tweeters” who write about litigious subjects on Facebook and Twitter.


The Institute for Legal Reform thinks all this advertising stimulates too much litigation, and the example of pelvic mesh implants may demonstrate their point. But plaintiff lawyers and some academics make exactly the opposite argument: Advertising helps drive more socially useful litigation by people who otherwise might not realize they have a valid claim.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held the First Amendment applies to lawyers, too, noted Anthony Sebok, a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York who writes frequently on the merits of greater involvement in civil litigation. “Big Pharma is doing the same thing as Big Tort,” he noted in an e-mail to me, by advertising directly to consumers in order to prompt them to ask their physicians for prescription drugs. The important distinction is between advertising for potential clients and invading their privacy by directly contacting them after an accident or medical mishap.

“Obviously the line between advertising and solicitation is a hard one to draw, but at no time have the courts worried about the interests of defendants when talking about where to draw the line,” Sebok told me.  “The concern is for the victims of accidents, who shouldn’t be harassed and pressured, and the state’s interest in maintaining the reputation of the legal profession.”