5 Year Prison Term for a Lawyer Using his IOLTA Account to Launder Money

The ABA Journal and Law.com have reported the story of a San Diego lawyer who was sentenced to five years in prison for using his IOLTA account to facilitate money-laundering activities.  In his plea agreement, attorney Medina admitted  that he used his IOLTA account for the receipt, transport, and transmission of cash to international destinations and that he  “knew or had reason to know that the cash transactions described [therein] were proceeds of unlawful activity, or were intended to promote unlawful activity.”

This new story can be used in Chapter 2 when teaching Rule 1.2(d), which states that a lawyer “shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent….”   Although PR profs cannot possibly teach the substantive law of all crimes, I think it is important to make sure that our students are familiar with 18 U.S.C. § 1956.  Among other things, § 1956 makes it a felony “to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity.”   This means that activity that is perfectly legal in one context (such as forming one or more corporations) may be illegal if the purpose of that otherwise legal conduct is to hide the location or source of the proceeds of crime.  (The 60 Minutes/Global Witness videos and the Panama Papers leak can provide useful hypos for discussion).

The San Diego case shows students that lawyers who assist money laundering activity face criminal law sanctions, as well as disciplinary sanctions under Rule 1.2(d).   I found it noteworthy that the plea agreement with Attorney Medina recited that he knew or had reason to know that the money in his IOLTA account were proceeds of unlawful activity, or were intended to promote unlawful activity.

For additional information about the role of lawyers in preventing money-laundering, see this ABA Task Force webpage and the guidance provided by the ABA and jointly by the IBA, CCBE, and ABA about how to identify money-laundering red flags.  (I give my students a 2-page summary of the ABA’s red flags guidance.)

My other work about lawyers and money-laundering includes these slides about the potential impact on US lawyer regulation of FATF’s 4th Mutual Evaluation of the US; slides that focus on US efforts to educate lawyers about money-laundering; and slides and a 2 page handout that discuss how US lawyer regulation could be affected if US lawyers don’t recognize money laundering situations. My most recent article about this topic is available here.

Teaching PR Online This Summer or Fall?

Or thinking about it?
Below is a piece I originally did for the Huffington Post Tech Blog, Dispelling Myths About Online Learning.  As always, I’m happy to discuss my experiences teaching professional responsibility online at Wake Forest.  Feel free to contact me!  murphyme@wfu.edu

Despite the growing number of virtual students, many academics still believe outcomes for online education are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction, according to Babson Survey Research Group’s most recent annual report, Online Report Card – Tracking Online Education in the United States.

In my experience, the opposite is true.

Many who doubt the effectiveness of virtual classrooms have not been exposed to thoughtfully designed, rigorous courses that use technology purposefully to engage students and achieve better learning outcomes. Following are some of the most common misconceptions about online learning.

Myth 1:  Online learning denotes a single model.

There are many, often contradictory, definitions of online learning.  When you read, think or talk about online learning, it is important to be specific. While there are endless possibilities, with new ones developing each day, there are two fundamental categories of which you should be aware: asynchronous and synchronous. These terms distinguish when the interactions between and among students and teachers occur.

In a fully asynchronous classroom, students work independently, and to some extent on their own schedule, although rigorous programs have regularly scheduled due dates to allow for meaningful professor feedback on formative assessments. Fully synchronous classes are online interactions that occur simultaneously between and among students and professors.  These may include real time video, and often all students can see the teacher, and vice versa.

Online courses may have both asynchronous and synchronous components; in addition, traditional classrooms may include components of online learning. We call these blended or hybrid courses; the flipped classroom is one example.

Myth 2:  It is impossible to connect in an online classroom.

Connection is important to promote student engagement, and therefore deeper learning and outcome achievement. Many who have no experience with online learning, or who have experience with poor quality online classrooms, assume that the physical distance necessarily creates an inability to connect among professors and students. In my experience, the opposite is true. Not only are students and professors shocked at how connected they are in a virtual course, but in fully synchronous learning venues, some students say it is an even more intimate learning experience than the physical classroom.

With thoughtful implementation, technology can actually increase connection. There are more ways to connect in the virtual classroom than in many physical classrooms, which can be large, impersonal and lack adequate audio or visual technology. Some of the tools I use for connecting with students online include: class websites and blogs; pre-course surveys to get to know the class, collectively and individually; class hashtags for social media; group collaboration with professor guidance; and implementation of user-friendly communication tools, such as Remind.com’s texting service, Google Hangouts, or Skype video chats.

In addition, more frequent, personalized communication with students, either through email, text, audio or informal video, can dramatically increase the connectedness of a virtual course.

Myth 3:  Online courses are commoditized and lack rigor.

Many professors and students alike assume that online learning means students can take as little or as much time as they need to complete assignments. This is not true. Quality online programs demand a high level of engagement, interaction and participation.

For example, the fully asynchronous courses I teach combine flexibility with interactivity and collaborative learning. Courses include pre-recorded videos and podcasts that I have created and produced specifically for my class. Students progress through units each week, with regular assignment due dates, peer collaboration and a high level of professor interaction and feedback, unmatched in many traditional classrooms.

With thoughtful implementation of the proper tools to achieve the desired learning outcomes, the virtual venue not only allows, but in many ways encourages, customization and personalization, the opposite of commoditization.  Student-centered instruction that allows for active learning prevents the course from becoming a spectator sport, promoting rigor as well as relevance to the learner.

4. Online learning is all about the technology, not the learning.

The use of technology in the classroom is not a new idea; my ‘80s elementary school classes were filled with film-strips, overhead projectors, and media carts with a single television and VCR. These technologies were used to expose our classroom in rural North Carolina to a broader world and therefore, enhance our opportunities for learning. While the capabilities of today’s technologies are certainly greater, the goals of their use should be no different.

Learning, not the delivery media, venue or other tool, should always be the driver. Good instructional designers and educational technologists begin by listening to the teacher, determining what the learning outcomes are, and selecting a tool only if it helps achieve those outcomes. When done properly, a professor’s ways and means are not lost but in fact enhanced by technology.

New Study Out: The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys

As a former Lawyer Assistance Program Executive Director at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyer in Massachusetts, I was distressed by the new study that reveals: (1) young lawyers are at an increased risk of problem drinking and mental health issues; and (2) overall these issues in the legal profession may be higher than previously thought.  The study was conducted jointly by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

According to the study:
  • 21% of licensed, employed attorneys are problem drinkers;
  • 28% struggle with some level of depression; and
  • 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.
Each semester, I take a few minutes in PR to address the availability of LAPs for lawyers and law students.  And, I include coverage of Rule 8.3 at the same time. If you’re interested in talking points, feel free to email me – murphyme@wfu.edu.  I also have had LAP staff and members speak with my class, with great success.  Video conferencing makes this even easier today.  In addition, CoLAP has a range of resources, including links to LAPs in each state, speaker lists, and articles.

More on the study from the ABA here; from the ABA Journal here; and from the NYTimes here.  A copy of the study from the Journal of Addition Medicine is available here.

Semester Resources

Welcome to 2016 and a new year of PR.  For those of you teaching this semester, remember the materials available (syllabii, ppt templates, etc) under the Teaching Resources tab of our website.

We can also provide you with the questions and answers/explanations for the textbook multiple choice questions.  These can be delivered directly to your TWEN site or in other formats for incorporation in your school’s Learning Management System.

Finally, if you want to make electronic copy only purchases available to your students, you may do so using this link.

We welcome your feedback!  murphyme@wfu.edu

NC State Bar & LegalZoom Consent Decree re UPL Available

Last month, the North Carolina Business Court entered a Consent Judgment in litigation between the North Carolina State Bar and LegalZoom.com.  (LegalZoom filed that lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law (in violation of the NC General Statutes);  the State Bar filed a counterclaim alleging that LegalZoom’s activities constituted the unauthorized practice of law.)  You may find the State’s Bar summary here and the consent judgment here.