Revision to ABA Model Rule 1.8(e) on Gifts

From Law360:

ABA Broadens What Gifts Attorneys May Give Clients

The world of legal ethics generally frowns upon attorneys providing financial assistance to their clients for nonlegal matters to avoid the possibility that the clients could become indebted to their lawyers and possibly end up pursuing lawsuits they might otherwise not file.

The ban on financial assistance by lawyers to their clients for living expenses is covered by the American Bar Association‘s Model Rule 1.8(e), which some legal advocates in recent years asserted was too narrow for real-world situations involving poor clients.

The ABA moved to amend the rule in August, allowing attorneys working for pro bono programs, law school clinics or nonprofit legal services or public interest organizations to provide “modest gifts” to their clients.

Lawyers may now provide financial assistance for living expenses such as food, medicine, rent and transportation, particularly if failing to do so might pressure the client to otherwise settle their matter or not even file it to begin with, according to the amendment.
Read more here.

Lawyers Working Remotely – ABA issues Formal Opinion 495

 

Source: OTHERWISE: Lawyers Working Remotely – ABA issues Formal Opinion 495

American Bar Association
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Formal Opinion 495 December 16, 2020

 

Lawyers Working Remotely Lawyers may remotely practice the law of the jurisdictions in which they are licensed while physically present in a jurisdiction in which they are not admitted if the local jurisdiction has not determined that the conduct is the unlicensed or unauthorized practice of law and if they do not hold themselves out as being licensed to practice in the local jurisdiction, do not advertise or otherwise hold out as having an office in the local jurisdiction, and do not provide or offer to provide legal services in the local jurisdiction. This practice may include the law of their licensing jurisdiction or other law as permitted by ABA Model Rule 5.5(c) or (d), including, for instance, temporary practice involving other states’ or federal laws. Having local contact information on websites, letterhead, business cards, advertising, or the like would improperly establish a local office or local presence under the ABA Model Rules

NJ Supreme Court: Attorney-Client arb agreements OK – BUT advantages and disadvantages must be explained

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Source: OTHERWISE: NJ Supreme Court: Attorney-Client arb agreements OK – BUT advantages and disadvantages must be explained

The New Jersey Supreme Court in Delaney v. Sills (A30-019) has OK’d retainer agreements that provide that all disputes between attorney and client shall be subject to arbitration.  But the court emphasizes that the fiduciary nature of the attorney-client tie requires candid explanation to the client of the advantages and disadvantages of the arbitral forum.

See discussion at link to my blog above.

As a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics I look forward to fulfilling the court’s request to us for advice on how to implement these principles.

  • GWC

U.S. District Court Judge enjoins Pennsylvania from enforcing Bar rule with broad lawyer anti-discrimination prohibitions | Lawyer Ethics Alert Blogs

By Joseph Corsmeier

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent U.S. District Judge for the District of Eastern Pennsylvania’s opinion and preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of a disciplinary rule broadly prohibiting discrimination by lawyers as violative of the free speech component of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The case is Greenburg v. Haggerty, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 20-3822.  The opinion and injunction is here:  https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.paed.574138/gov.uscourts.paed.574138.29.0.pdf  from www.courtlistener.com).

Source: U.S. District Court Judge enjoins Pennsylvania from enforcing Bar rule with broad lawyer anti-discrimination prohibitions | Lawyer Ethics Alert Blogs

The opinion and injunction states:

There is no doubt that the government is acting with beneficent intentions.  However, in doing so, the government has created a rule that promotes a government-favored, viewpoint monologue and creates a pathway for its handpicked arbiters to determine, without any concrete standards, who and what offends. This leaves the door wide open for them to determine what is bias and prejudice based on whether the viewpoint expressed is socially and politically acceptable and within the bounds of permissible cultural parlance. Yet the government cannot set its standard by legislating diplomatic speech because although it embarks upon a friendly, favorable tide, this tide sweeps us all along with the admonished, minority viewpoint into the massive currents of suppression and repression. Our limited constitutional Government was designed to protect the individual’s right to speak freely, including those individuals expressing words or ideas we abhor.

The irony cannot be missed that attorneys, those who are most educated and encouraged to engage in dialogues about our freedoms, are the very ones here who are forced to limit their words to those that do not “manifest bias or prejudice.” Pa.R.P.C. 8.4(g). This Rule represents the government restricting speech outside of the courtroom, outside of the context of a pending case, and even outside the much broader playing field of “administration of justice.” Even if Plaintiff makes a good faith attempt to restrict and self-censor, the Rule leaves Plaintiff with no guidance as to what is in bounds, and what is out, other than to advise Plaintiff to scour every nook and cranny of each ordinance, rule, and law in the Nation.

“Trashed in an Online Review? Responding Is OK, But Don’t Say Too Much,” NJ Supreme Court Advisory Committee 

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics has said – in a binding opinion – that lawyers slandered in an online review are limited to a denial.  Only if a definite controversy arises – e.g. in a malpractice suit or disciplinary action.  While the Committee’s opinions are subject to discretionary review by the Supreme Court itself the Committee’s published opinions bind all members of the bar.  An unusual aspect of New Jersey law is that any member of the bar and any bar association has standing to petition the state’s high court for review.

Thus a lawyer who believes the First Amendment them to file a defamation action disclosing facts about the representation would have standing to petition the Supreme Court which, in its discretion, may overturn or modify the ACPE opinion.  – GWC

Source: ACPE – FW: “Trashed in an Online Review? Responding Is OK, But Don’t Say Too Much,” NJLJ, 12-10-20 

Lawyers who receive negative online reviews from clients are free to post a response, but must avoid disclosing confidential client information, according to an opinion by New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics.

Lawyers responding to online reviews posted by clients cannot reveal “information relating to representation,” except where that information is “generally known” or the client consents to the release of such information, the committee said in ACPE Opinion 738 

While lawyers have some latitude in discussing clients’ cases publicly in the context of defending a malpractice suit or disciplinary complaint against the lawyer, the same freedom does not apply to an “informal controversy” over the posting of a negative online review, the committee said in its Opinion 738, made public Wednesday.

The committee offered a suggested response for such situations, which it said complies with New Jersey lawyers’ ethical obligations: “A lawyer’s duty to keep client confidences has few exceptions and in an abundance of caution I do not feel at liberty to respond in a point by point fashion in this forum. Suffice it to say that I do not believe that the post presents a fair and accurate picture of the events.” The statement was suggested by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

New Jersey’s committee took up the issue of responding to negative online reviews in response to several requests to the committee and its ethics assistance hotline for guidance. Lawyers said former clients and former prospective clients have posted false, misleading and inaccurate statements about them.