AVVO, Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom Blocked by New Jersey Supreme Court Ethics Committees

Source: OTHERWISE: Avvo, Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom Blocked by New Jersey Supreme Court Ethics Committees

Opinion 732 – AVVO, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer
NJ Supreme Court Committees: Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Attorney Advertising, Unauthorized Practice of Law

Responding to an inquiry by the New Jersey State Bar Association, the New Jersey Law Journal reports today that a binding joint Opinion of three New Jersey Supreme Court Committees has found that AVVO Legal Services fee plan violates the Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct.  The business model runs afoul of  RPC 5.4 (a) bar on division of fees with non-lawyers and constitutes an impermissible referral fee in violation of RPC 7.2 (c).

New Jersey lawyers are barred from participating in AVVO Legal Services.
The Opinion is binding subject to discretionary review by the Supreme Court itself.

Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer were found to be permissible legal services plans, but lawyers may not participate until the plan is properly registered with the Supreme Court.

AVVO asserted a First Amendment defense but the Committees responded:

AVVO asserted that its marketing scheme is commercial speech that must be tested against the intermediate scrutiny standard applied to First Amendment commercial speech. The Committees are not restricting Avvo’s marketing; the focus of this Joint Opinion is on the for-profit lawyer referral program and sharing of a legal fee with a nonlawyer. The First Amendment does not protect lawyers who seek to participate in prohibited attorney referral programs or engage in impermissible fee sharing.

NOTICE TO THE BARLAWYER PARTICIPATION IN THE AVVO LEGAL SERVICE PROGRAM AND IN LEGAL ZOOM AND ROCKET LAWYER LEGAL SERVICE PLANS 
On June 21, 2017, the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Committee on Attorney Advertising, and Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law issued a Joint Opinion (ACPE Opinion 732, CAA Opinion 44, UPL Opinion 54) stating that the legal service program operated by Avvo through its website is an impermissible lawyer referral service, in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 7.2(c) and 7.3(d), and comprises improper fee sharing with a nonlawyer in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4(a). New Jersey lawyers may not participate in the Avvo legal service program. The Joint Opinion further states that LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer appear to be offering legal service plans that have not been registered pursuant to Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(e)(4)(vii). New Jersey lawyers may not participate in the LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer legal service plans because they are not registered with the New Jersey Supreme Court (Administrative Office of the Courts).
***
Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D.,
Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

 

Summer PR Course – Week 1 Questions

In my summer asynchronous PR course @WFULawSchool, I had my students include a PR question they have as part of their intro discussion post.  It’s always interesting to see what students are thinking about with respect to PR, before class starts.  I put them together in a video for the students and talked through each one – here they are!  (with edits and all identifying info deleted)

 

AALS Section on Professional Responsibility Call for Papers – The Ethics of Legal Education – 2018 AALS Annual Meeting

Call for Papers

AALS Section on Professional Responsibility

The Ethics of Legal Education

2018 AALS Annual Meeting

San Diego, CA

January 3-6, 2018

The Section on Professional Responsibility is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for the Section’s 2018 Program: The Ethics of Legal Education. In addition to featuring invited speakers (Professor Joan Howarth, Dean Andrew Perlman, and Dean Daniel Rodriguez), we will select up to two speakers from this call.

This panel will explore the ethical challenges U.S. law schools have faced during the past decade and will consider the path ahead. Speakers will address various subjects that may include: alternative and accelerated degree programs, for-profit law schools, accreditation decisions, admissions and scholarship practices, employment issues, and litigation filed by students and alumni against law schools. The panel will explore the factors that have influenced ethical and values-based decision-making, leadership challenges, and how law school leaders’ ethics and values in this area may influence the future of the legal education and the legal profession.

Participants need not write a paper, but will have the option to publish a paper if they choose to do so.

Any member of the full-time faculty of an AALS member school may submit a 500-1500 word proposal by August 15, 2017 to Renee Knake at rknake@central.uh.edu. The title of the email submission should read: Submission – 2018 AALS Section on Professional Responsibility.

The Planning Committee for the Annual Meeting of the Section on Professional Responsibility will review all submissions and select up to two papers by September 1, 2017. Please note that all faculty members presenting at the program are responsible for paying their own annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses.

Any questions should be directed to 2018 Program Co-chairs Renee Knake at rknake@central.uh.edu or Paula Schaefer at paula.schaefer@tennessee.edu.

 

 

Rule 1.11, Jeff Sessions, and the firing of Jim Comey

Did Jeff Sessions violate Rule 1.11 if he participated in the decision to fire Jim Comey? The Rule 1.11 issue depends on whether the firing implicated Comey’s investigation of the Russian connection to the Trump campaign.  If so, does Sessions’s participation in the campaign and/or personal contacts with the Russians require him to withdraw under Rule 1.11?  See, for example, this column on Sessions and the Comey firing.

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.”