Welcome to the Contemporary Approach to Professional Responsibility Blog

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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 (3d 2017), 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.

Canadian Regulator Adopts a Cap on Referral Fees

On April 27, 2017, the Law Society of Upper Canada, which is the body that regulates lawyers in Canada’s largest province of Ontario, approved a set of recommendations that cap lawyer referral fees.   The action limits referral fees to 15% of the first $50,000 in legal fees and 5% thereafter, with an absolute cap of $25,000.  It adopted a standardized form for referral agreements that would be signed by everyone involved in a referral, including the referring lawyer, the lawyer getting the file and the client.

This action was based on a report issued by the Professional Regulation Committee’s Advertising & Referral Fee Arrangements Issues Working Group.   That Report is described in this new story and is available here (at Tab 4-2).

The U.S. counterpart to this issue is ABA Model Rule 1.5(e). Under Rule 1.5(e), a fee division among lawyers from different firms is proper if “the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing.”  That rule also requires that the feed division be in proportion to the work done or all lawyers assume “joint responsibility for the representation.”  Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have omitted the proportionality/joint responsibility clause, and other have omitted the “confirmed in a writing” requirement.

OTHERWISE: SCOTUS Should Adopt a Code of Judicial Conduct// Lubet// Legal Ethics forum

Source: OTHERWISE: SCOTUS Should Adopt a Code of Judicial Conduct// Lubet// Legal Ethics forum

by Steve Lubet (Northwestern Law School)

I have an oped on CNN.com explaining why SCOTUS should adopt a Code of Judicial Conduct.  Here is the gist:
While Supreme Court justices obviously face the same quandaries and dilemmas as all other judges, they alone have no set rules for resolving, or even addressing, ethics issues.
 
Members of Congress have repeatedly called on the justices to adopt an ethics code. Most recently, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2017, which would give the court six months to “promulgate a code of ethics” based on the Code of Conduct for US Judges already in effect for the lower federal courts, along with any modifications that “the Supreme Court deems appropriate.”
 
[T]he objective of a code would be to set discernible standards for the justices’ conduct so that the public could know the norms to which the justices are holding themselves.
 
You can read the whole thing here.

OTHERWISE: Required to Report a Client’s Drug Addiction? Illinois Says Not Necessarily… | Legal Ethics in Motion

Source: OTHERWISE: Required to Report a Client’s Drug Addiction? Illinois Says Not Necessarily… | Legal Ethics in Motion

This fascinating Illinois State Bar Ethics Opinion 17-01 (click through for link) presents this question under the state’s RPC 1.6(c)which mandates disclosure “to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to prevent death or substantial bodily harm”. :

The inquiring attorney has a client who is addicted to heroin and opioids, and also takes cocaine, marijuana and methadone. The client is arrested for possession of a controlled substance, and appears severely impaired during court hearings, but remains silent before the Judge, allowing the attorney to do the speaking. The client is unable to stop consuming heroin and continues to be in violation of bond conditions.

In essence the bar committee finds insufficient immediacy of harm but suggests that in appropriate circumstances  RPC 1.14  Diminished Capacity may allow the lawyer the ability to take protective steps.

– GWC

AALS Section on Professional Responsibility Call for Papers – 2018 AALS Annual Meeting

The AALS Section on Professional Responsibility invites papers for its program “Professional Responsibility 2018 Works in Progress Workshop” at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego. Two papers will be selected from those submitted.

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION:

This workshop will be an opportunity to test ideas, work out issues in drafts and interrogate a paper prior to submission. It will pair each work in progress scholar with a more senior scholar in the field who will lead a discussion of the piece and provide feedback. Successful papers should engage with scholarly literature and make a meaningful original contribution to the field or professional responsibility or legal ethics.

ELIGIBILITY:

Full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools are eligible to submit papers. Preference will be given to junior scholars focusing their work in the area of professional responsibility and legal ethics. Pursuant to AALS rules, faculty at fee-paid law schools, foreign faculty, adjunct and visiting faculty (without a full-time position at an AALS member law school), graduate students, fellows, and non-law school faculty are not eligible to submit. Please note that all faculty members presenting at the program are responsible for paying their own annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses.

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE:

Two papers will be selected by the Section’s Executive Committee for presentation at the AALS annual meeting.

There is no formal requirement as to the form or length of proposals. However, the presenter is expected to have a draft for commentators one month prior to the beginning of the AALS conference.

The paper MUST be a work in progress and cannot be published at the time of presentation. It may, however have been accepted for publication and be forthcoming.

DEADLINE:

Please email submissions to Ben Edwards, Associate Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law, at ben.edwards.unlv@gmail.com on or before September 30, 2017. The title of the email submission should read: “Submission – 2018 AALS Section on Professional Responsibility.”

Thoughts on ABA Formal Opinion 476

When a lawyers tries to withdraw for a client’s failure to pay, the lawyer must take care to avoid breaching the Rule 1.6 duty of confidentiality, according to the December 2016 opinion. But what does this mean, practically speaking?  I see this as yet another tension between the law as a profession v. the law as a business.

If a buyer repudiates a contract, the seller can cancel without judicial approval. A lawyer cannot do so, necessarily, when a client repudiates a contract by failing to pay. This reality existed before this opinion; the opinion does not change things. But it is notable that the structure of the process found in this opinion increases uncertainty for the lawyer and therefore the costs of doing business. A lawyer can’t be a professional unless she can get paid.

More thoughts via the ABA Journal article Lawyers Should Tread Carefully Before Quitting a Troublesome Client.

Supreme Court hears argument today on a lawyer’s bad advice

From today’s New York Times:

The Supreme Court is taking up the case of a longtime U.S. resident who is facing deportation to South Korea after pleading guilty to a drug crime based on his lawyer’s bad advice.

The justices are hearing arguments Tuesday in an appeal by Jae Lee, who has lived in the United States for 35 years and has never been back to South Korea since coming to the United States when he was 13.

The case has taken on increased importance because President Donald Trump has promised to step up deportations, with a special focus on immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. The American Bar Association has estimated that one of every 10 criminal defendants is not an American citizen.

Lee agreed to plead guilty to possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute after his lawyer, Larry Fitzgerald, assured him that doing so would not make him subject to deportation. The lawyer was wrong.

The issue in Lee’s appeal is whether the lawyer’s recommendation to take the deal offered by prosecutors was so bad that it amounts to a violation of Lee’s constitutional right to a lawyer.

Both sides agree that Fitzgerald’s performance was deficient in representing Lee. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that immigrants have a constitutional right to be told by their lawyers whether pleading guilty to a crime could lead to their deportation.

But Lee almost must show that the bad lawyering mattered to the outcome of the criminal case.

Full article here.