February 8, 2016

Five Cybersecurity Tech Tips: Worries to Give You the Willies

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Attorney at Work on January 29, 2016. Reprinted with permission. See below for information about ordering Colorado CLE’s homestudy for our program, “Data Privacy & Information Security: Meeting the Challenges of this Complex and Evolving Area of the Law.”

By Sharon Nelson and John Simek

A keyboard with a red button - Privacy

A keyboard with a red button – Privacy

There are lots of cybersecurity worries to give you the willies in the wee hours of the morning, but we were asked to pick five. So here are some of the most common threats for lawyers to keep in mind.

1. Ransomware. We continue to see law firms struck by ransomware, which is a type of malware that encrypts your data (restricting your access to it) and then demands a ransom payment — usually in bitcoins — to get your data back. Training your employees not to click on suspicious attachments or links in email will help. They should stay away from suspicious sites as well since ransomware can be installed by just “driving by” an infected website.

Overwhelmingly, from a technological standpoint, you can defeat ransomware by having a backup that is immune to it. This can mean, particularly for solo lawyers, that you back up and then disconnect the backup from the network. For others, it means running an agent-based backup system rather than one that uses drive letters. Make sure your IT consultant has your backup engineered so that backups are protected — that way, even if you are attacked with ransomware, you can thumb your nose at the thief’s demands for money because you can restore your system from your backup. Of course, this means backups need to be made frequently to avoid any significant data loss.

2. Employees. Employees are by nature rogues. Every study made shows employees will ignore policies (assuming they exist) to do what they want to do. This often means people bring their own devices (BYOD) which may be infected when they connect to your network. They may also bring their own network (BYON) or bring their own cloud (BYOC). Certainly, your policies should disallow these practices (in our judgment) or, at least, manage the risks by controlling what it is done by implementing a combination of policies and technology.

Oh, and employees steal your data or leave it on flash drives or their home devices, too. This means you have “dark data” — data you don’t know about and over which you have no control. This means you may miss data required in discovery because you don’t know it exists. Your data may not be protected in compliance with federal or state laws and regulations. And you have no way to manage the data because you don’t know it is there. Once again, a combination of policies and technology should be in place to prevent these issues.

3. Targeted phishing. This is perhaps the greatest and most successful threat to law firm data. Someone has you in their sights — often they have done research on your law firm. They may know the cases you are involved in — and who your opponents are. They may know the managing partner’s nickname. Everything they know about you, they may use to get you to click on something (say, an email from an opponent referencing a specific case and saying “The next hearing in ___ case has been rescheduled as per the attachment). Many a lawyer has clicked on such attachments — or a link within an email.

The best solution to protect yourself from targeted phishing is training and more training — endlessly. One California firm was targeted by multiple phishing attacks but survived them because the lawyers and staff who received such emails questioned their authenticity.

Forget the loss of billable time. The loss of money, time and even clients due to a data breach can be far worse.

4. Interception of confidential information. Start with the proposition that everyone wants your data, including cybercriminals, hackers and nation states (including our own). Frankly, if they want your data and they have sophisticated tools, they will get it. So shame on you if you are not employing encryption (which is now cheap and easy) to protect confidential data transmitted and received via voice, text, and email. Encryption today is a law firm’s best friend. You may choose to use it always or in cases where it is warranted — but you surely should have the capability of encrypting.

5. Failure to use technology to enforce passwords policies. First, let us say that you should use multi-factor authentication where available and use it to protect sensitive data. But failing that, we recognize that passwords are still king in solo practices and small to midsize firms. Therefore, have your IT consultant assist you in setting up policies that can be enforced by technology, requiring that network passwords be changed every 30 days, not reused for an extended period of time — and mandating strong passwords (14 or more characters in length, utilizing upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols). Passphrases are best. Iloveattorneyatwork2016! would do nicely.

There are many other “willies” out there, but address them one digestible chunk at a time!

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) and John W. Simek (@SenseiEnt) are the President and Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and information security firm based in Fairfax, VA. Popular speakers and authors, they have written several books, including “The 2008-2015 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides” and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” Sharon blogs at Ride the Lightning and together they co-host of the Digital Detectives podcast.

 

CLE Homestudy: Data Privacy & Information Security — Meeting the Challenges of this Complex and Evolving Area of the Law

This CLE presentation took place Friday, January 22, 2016. Order the homestudy here: CDMP3 audioVideo OnDemand.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Contractual Option Between Actual and Liquidated Damages Not Inherently Void

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Ravenstar LLC v. One Ski Hill Place LLC on Thursday, January 28, 2016.

Ravenstar and the other plaintiffs are Colorado companies who entered into separate contracts with One Ski Hill Place (OSHP) to purchase not yet built condominium units. Plaintiffs paid earnest money of 15% of the purchase price but were unable to obtain financing and failed to close on the units by the deadline. The contracts between OSHP and all plaintiffs contained an identical provision allowing OSHP to choose between actual or liquidated damages in the event of default. OSHP chose liquidated damages. Plaintiffs brought suit against OSHP, raising several claims, including breach of contract. Many claims were dismissed prior to the litigation at issue. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled against plaintiffs on all their remaining claims and imposed attorney fees on plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the contract clause that allowed OSHP to choose between actual and liquidated damages was unenforceable because there was no mutual intent to liquidate damages as required under Colorado law. The Colorado Court of Appeals declined to adopt reasoning from other jurisdictions that the mere presence of an option between actual and liquidated damages renders a contract unenforceable. The court noted that the option to choose liquidated damages did not operate as a penalty in every case, and since the parties stipulated that the amount of liquidated damages was reasonable, they could not show that they were being penalized by the imposition of liquidated damages.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court, also affirming the attorney fee award.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Entry of Guilty Plea Equates to “Found Guilty” for School Board Vacancy Statute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Esquibel v. Board of Education Centennial School District on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Augustine Esquibel was a director on the Centennial School Board. In 2011, while he was on the board, he pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and felony cocaine possession and received a deferred judgment. Approximately two weeks after he entered his plea, the Board declared his seat vacant based on a director vacancy statute that provides a seat shall be deemed vacant if a director is found guilty of a felony. Esquibel sought a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Board’s declaration, arguing that he would only be “found guilty of a felony” if he failed to comply with his plea agreement. The district court disagreed and ruled Esquibel was not likely to prevail on the merits. On appeal, the court of appeals analyzed the statutory language and determined that Esquibel was “found guilty” when he entered his guilty plea.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court. Judge Hawthorne dissented; he would have excluded a plea of guilty from the meaning of “found guilty of a felony” in the director vacancy statute.

 

Colorado Court of Appeals: Property Need Not be Used Exclusively for Religious Purposes for Tax Exemption

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Grand County Board of Commissioners v. Colorado Property Tax Administrator on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

This appeal after remand concerned a religious exemption from property taxes. The YMCA owns properties in Grand County and Larimer County for which it applied for property tax exemptions based on religious purposes and charitable use. The state property tax administrator determined the properties were being used for religious purposes and granted an exemption. The Grand and Larimer County Boards of County Commissioners appealed, contending the YMCA’s use was not sufficiently religious to justify an exemption. The Board of Assessment Appeals held a hearing and found the properties were not used exclusively for religious purposes, reversing the property tax administrator’s determination. The YMCA appealed to the court of appeals and a division reversed the Board’s findings, concluding the Board failed to apply the proper legal standard and setting forth the statutory and constitutional framework for religious exemptions.

On remand, the Board found the YMCA properties qualified for the exemption because the properties furthered the YMCA’s stated religious mission and purposes and the properties were not being used for private gain or corporate profit. The counties appealed, arguing that because the use of the properties was not inherently religious, they should not qualify for the exemption. The court of appeals disagreed, finding the Board applied the correct legal framework on remand.

The court of appeals affirmed the Board’s decision to grant the YMCA properties tax exemptions.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Objection to Special Master’s Attorney Fees Waived When Not Timely Asserted

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Laleh v. Johnson on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Mr. Johnson was appointed special master during the Lalehs’ complex forcible entry & detainer action. Ali and Kahlil Laleh, brothers, each signed engagement agreements with Mr. Johnson, outlining the scope of work and payment obligations. Mr. Johnson incurred attorney fees because the Lalehs’ former attorney refused to honor a subpoena, and billed the brothers for those fees as costs. Although the brothers settled their cases in February 2014, Mr. Johnson continued invoicing the brothers for costs, including his attorney fees, through May 2014. Kahlil Laleh sent a letter to Mr. Johnson in March 2014 expressing concern about his inclusion of attorney fees in his billings.

Although the trial court dismissed the case in February 2014 pursuant to stipulations by the parties, Mr. Johnson expressed concern to the court about his significant unpaid bills and the court issued an order to show cause as to why Mr. Johnson’s bills had not been paid. The court eventually accepted Mr. Johnson’s proposed order regarding the unpaid fees. The brothers appealed, arguing their due process rights were violated by the court’s entry of judgment against them.

The Colorado Court of Appeals found that the trial court’s order was procedurally deficient because it had issued only three days after Mr. Johnson proposed his order, defeating Rule 121’s requirement of a 7-day objection period. The court of appeals vacated the court’s judgment and remanded.

The brothers argued the trial court erred in ordering they pay Mr. Johnson’s attorney fees without express court approval, and in awarding Mr. Johnson’s fees incurred after the litigation settled. The majority disagreed with both contentions. The brothers challenged whether Mr. Johnson had authority to hire counsel, but because they did not object as soon as they learned of counsel’s role, the majority concluded they forfeited any objection, although the preferred option would have been for Mr. Johnson to request permission from the court before hiring counsel. Likewise, the brothers did not object to the first invoice containing a line item for Mr. Johnson’s attorney fees, and the court took this as further indication that they waived any contention. Even though Kahlil Laleh wrote to Mr. Johnson in March 2014 expressing concern about the attorney fees, this was not enough to constitute a sufficient objection.

The brothers also challenged the trial court’s award of post-settlement attorney fees, most of which post-dated Kahlil’s objection to the fees. The court of appeals determined the fees were proper pursuant to the court’s inherent authority. The majority affirmed the trial court’s order for the Lalehs to pay Mr. Johnson’s outstanding fees and costs. The dissent, written by Judge Webb, outlined how he would have disallowed any fees incurred after the parties settled.

Colorado Supreme Court: Strict Privity Rule Bars Claims from Dissatisfied Beneficiaries Against Drafting Attorneys

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Baker v. Wood, Ris & Hames, P.C. on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

Floyd Baker, father of petitioners Baker and Kunda, retained Wood, Ris & Hames, Donald Cook, and Barbara Brundin (collectively, attorneys) to draft an estate plan. Floyd’s will specified that at his death, each of the four children (Baker and Kunda plus his stepchildren, Roosa and Brown) would receive $10,000, his condo would go to his wife, Betty, and the remainder of his estate would be divided between a marital trust and a family trust. On Betty’s death, the remaining estate assets would be divided equally between the four children. Floyd died in 2003 and his estate plan was carried out as specified in his will. Betty subsequently retained Cook to draft her estate plan, where she devised the condo to Roosa and specified that the remaining assets be divided equally between the three surviving children – Roosa, Baker, and Kunda. Betty died in February 2009.

Because of the bequest of the condo to Roosa, Baker and Kunda each received approximately 15% of the value of Betty’s estate while Roosa received approximately 70%. Baker and Kunda subsequently sued attorneys, asserting claims for breach of contract – third-party beneficiary; professional negligence; and fraudulent misrepresentation. Baker and Kunda alleged that the attorneys’ negligence allowed Betty to override Floyd’s estate plan after his death; the attorneys drafted an estate plan for Betty that controverted Floyd’s plan; and that Baker and Kunda, as intended beneficiaries of Floyd’s will, suffered damages as a result of the attorneys’ actions and inactions. The attorneys moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, asserting Baker and Kunda lacked standing to sue them and that even if they had standing, Floyd’s testamentary intent had to be gleaned from the will itself, and the will was unambiguous and did not evince the intent alleged by Baker and Kunda. Attorneys also argued the claims were time-barred.

The district court ultimately granted the attorneys’ motion, concluding Baker and Kunda had not shown that any of the allegedly concealed facts had actually been concealed, or that the attorneys had intended Baker and Kunda to rely on the allegedly misrepresented circumstances. As for the negligent misrepresentation claim, the court noted that under Allen v. Steele, such claim required a business transaction, which was not present. Finally, as to the legal malpractice claim, the court concluded Baker and Kunda failed to show the attorneys owed them a duty of care. Baker and Kunda appealed, requesting that the court of appeals find an exception to the strict privity rule for third-party beneficiaries of a will, but the court of appeals declined to do so and affirmed the district court. Baker and Kunda appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, contending the district court erred in dismissing their claims because as intended third-party beneficiaries of Floyd’s estate, they had standing to sue for breach of contract and legal malpractice, and also contending the court of appeals misconstrued their fraudulent concealment claims. Baker and Kunda urged the supreme court to abandon the strict privity rule in determining whether a non-client can sue an attorney. The supreme court declined to do so.

The supreme court found that because of the special trust and confidence arising from the attorney-client relationship, sound policy considerations supported the strict privity rule. Limiting an attorney’s liability to his or her clients protects the attorney’s duty of loyalty to and effective advocacy for the client, whereas expanding an attorney’s liability to non-clients could result in adversarial relationships between attorneys and clients and thus give rise to conflicting duties on the part of the attorney, and could require the attorney to reveal client confidences that the client did not want revealed. Further, extending the attorney’s duty of care to non-clients could result in the attorney being liable to an unforeseen and unlimited number of people. For these reasons, the supreme court declined to adopt an exception to the strict privity rule for dissatisfied beneficiaries. The court also recognized that the Colorado Probate Code allows dissatisfied beneficiaries to seek reformation of the will, thereby negating the need for an exception to the strict privity rule.

Addressing Baker and Kunda’s contentions that the supreme court should apply the “California rule” or “Florida-Iowa rule” to find exceptions to strict privity, the supreme court disagreed, finding that its stated policy considerations precluded adoption of either the California or Florida-Iowa rule and that even if it applied those rules, they would not support Baker and Kunda’s claims. The supreme court also rejected Baker and Kunda’s contentions that allowing only third-party beneficiaries to bring claims against attorneys would sufficiently limit the potential class of non-clients who could sue attorneys, noting that anyone could come forward and say they were intended beneficiaries. The supreme court also found no error in the district court’s rejection of Baker and Kunda’s fraudulent concealment claims, finding the district court appropriately applied C.R.C.P. 9(b)’s heightened pleading standard to those claims.

The supreme court affirmed the court of appeals.

Top Ten Law Practice Management Programs and Homestudies

The year is almost over, and with it the compliance period is ending for many Colorado attorneys. As we draw to a close with our review of the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies in several substantive practice areas, we wanted to include something important to practitioners across all fields of law—law practice management and legal writing. Colorado CLE offers law practice management and legal writing programs throughout the year, including classes on how to use Adobe Acrobat in a law practice, analyzing financial statements, conducting online research, and much more. Read on for the Top Ten Law Practice Management Programs and Homestudies.

10. Essential Legal Research Methods and Resources for Colorado Lawyers. Legal research in a university setting often involves analyzing a long-standing legal issue with well-established outcomes. Research in practice, however, can focus on cutting edge and messy legal issues where the law is only starting to emerge, with conflicting and ethical issues. This program provides advanced techniques for finding and analyzing primary and secondary law sources, free legal research, and more. Three general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

9. Drafting Complex Legal Documents with Microsoft Word. This program, taught by nationally renowned speaker Barron Henley, features tips and tricks to create, share, automate, and manage electronic documents. Learn about Word’s style features, simple automation techniques, file organization, keeping documents secure while allowing comments, and more. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as DVD homestudy and Video OnDemand.

8. Legal Writing in the Smartphone Age. Gone are the long, flowing emails messages with pretty graphics and lots of attachments. Today’s communication — almost 100% electronic — is immediate, brief, clear, and powerful. Designed to boost your instant or near-instant message-drafting skills, this practical half-day program will teach you how to draft clearer and more effective emails, court documents, and memoranda. Three general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

7. Accounting and How to Understand and Analyze Financial Statements. There are financial issues involved with every type of law practice and it is your duty to possess the skills and knowledge necessary to handle those issues effectively.  This detailed program will provide you with the financial literacy required to protect yourself and your clients through your understanding of accounting concepts, terminology, and financial statements. Six general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

6. iPad for Legal Professionals — Basics and Advanced. These two half-day programs provide useful tips for using iPads in a law practice. The first half covers “must-have” apps that should be on every lawyer’s iPad and tackle important security settings and how-to’s on loading documents and printing. The second half answers more advanced questions, like “How can you do legal research on the iPad? How do you give a presentation on the iPad? Do you need to buy a keyboard or stylus?” Four general credits each; available as DVD homestudy (Basics/Advanced) or Video OnDemand (Basics/Advanced).

5. Better Motion Practice — How to Argue, Present, and Write Motions More Effectively. This program is designed for lawyers who want to sharpen their skills. It provides a practical overview of various kinds of motions likely encountered in pre-trial civil practice. Specific techniques, skills, and methods for persuading the court and decision-makers are covered. The program will generally reference state and federal rules of procedure and evidence. Seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

4. The Art of Communication. Being a lawyer means being an effective communicator. Yet, in an increasingly electronic age, what is effective communication and how do we measure our own effectiveness in keeping our clients informed as to complex issues, guiding them in making difficult decisions, and speaking on their behalf to others? This half-day interactive seminar is designed to explore in depth the art of strategic communication by introducing participants to theories and specific practice tips concerning improved written and electronic communications. Four general credits; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

3. How to Become Your Own Cybersleuth: Conducting Effective Internet Investigative and Background Research. In this fast-paced investigative research seminar, you will learn to create more effective Internet searches to locate information crucial to your matters, which you might otherwise miss. We will reveal hidden Google search features and shortcuts to speed up your research. You will also learn to use free public record sites and sites with free “publicly available” information (including social media sites), for discovery, trial preparation, background checks, and for locating missing persons. Discover the advantages (and limitations) of data broker databases. Each homestudy comes with a copy of the book, The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the InternetSeven general credits; available as live Video Replay in Denver on January 5, 2016, or as CD homestudy.

2. Hanging Your Shingle 2015: Hardware. Software. Anywhere You Go. In this intensive two and a half day course, you will get the tools, information and building blocks you need to confidently open the doors to your new firm. If you believe you can’t afford to venture out on your own, is it time to ask yourself if you can afford not to? Eighteen general credits, including 7.9 ethics credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.

1. Preventing Legal Malpractice. Each year, CLE presents two Preventing Legal Malpractice programs: one directed at transactional attorneys, one directed at litigation attorneys. In addition to the printed materials, each attendee receives a copy of CLE’s book, Lawyers’ Professional Liability in Colorado. For 2016, there will be Preventing Legal Malpractice programs in Denver on March 11 and in Colorado Springs on March 17. Registration is not yet open, but save the dateFour general credits, including four ethics credits. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2015 programs (transactional/litigation) and click here for the 2014 programs (transactional/litigation).

Top Programs and Homestudies — Intellectual Property, Elder Law, Immigration, and More

Over the past few weeks, we have been featuring the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies in various practice areas. Previous posts include:

Although we addressed several substantive practice areas, we offer many more great programs not featured on the previous Top Ten lists. These are discussed today.

Intellectual Property The Annual Rocky Mountain Intellectual Property & Technology Institute is the region’s premier event for IP lawyers. The 2015 Institute featured four simultaneous tracks of sessions for attorneys, covering patents and patent litigation, trademarks/copyrights, licensing, and transactional/e-commerce. As a bonus, Odyssey Beerwerks in Arvada donated custom brews for the 2015 Institute. The 2016 IP Institute is scheduled for June 2 and 3, 2016, at the Westin Westminster. Click here for more information about the IP Institute and the 2016 conference agenda.

Elder Law Colorado CLE presents an annual mountain program for elder law practitioners, the Annual Elder Law Retreat. The 2015 Retreat, held in beautiful Snowmass, discussed social security issues, including maximizing benefits; trends in VA, including special programs and applications for long-term care; atypical beneficiary requests; financial exploitation of the elderly; long-term care planning; and much more. The dates for the 2016 Retreat have not yet been announced; stay tuned to cle.cobar.org/elder for details.

Immigration — In addition to the comprehensive reference book, Immigration Law for the Colorado Practitioner, Colorado CLE offers several great immigration programs each year. Most recently, the CBA Immigration Law Section co-sponsored the program, “Immigration Law — Asylum and Other Humanitarian Relief,” which covered U visas, T visas, VAWA, special immigrant juvenile status, asylum law, and more. Find this and other important immigration law programs here.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Colorado CLE offers many great ADR programs, but the flagstone event is the 40-hour Mediation Training. This five day live program, taught by renowned mediator Judy Mares-Dixon, presents an in-depth guide to mediation as well as several breakout sessions to practice mediation skills. The 40-hour Mediation Training will occur on January 18, 19, 20, 25, and 26, 2016. Space is limited so register today.

Workers’ Compensation — Each year, the CBA Workers’ Compensation Section co-sponsors two annual events: the Workers’ Compensation Fall Update and the Workers’ Compensation Spring Update. Topics vary from year to year but each program features case law updates and news from the Division. In addition, many times medical professionals will provide education on particular types of injuries, including psychological injuries. More information about CLE’s workers’ compensation offerings can be found here.

Health Law — Two years ago, Colorado CLE began offering an annual Health Law Symposium, co-sponsored by the CBA Health Law Section and the American Health Lawyers Association. This program offers an exceptional speaker lineup of nationally recognized health law experts focused on current issues in health law of interest and concern to practicing attorneys in the rocky mountain. Topics discussed at the 2015 Health Law Symposium include discussion of the Affordable Care Act, franchising in the health care industry, HIPAA and meaningful use, antitrust rules in the provider context, and more.

Juvenile Law Although many family law programs cover topics of interest to juvenile law practitioners, this important practice area also has its own programming. Each year, Colorado CLE presents a juvenile law update, co-sponsored by the CBA Juvenile Law Section. The 2016 Juvenile Law Program, “Ethics! Ethics! Ethics!,” is scheduled for April 1, 2016, with a focus on—you guessed it—ethics. Topics covered include implicit bias, social media, ethical challenges in juvenile defense, and more. Click here to register.

Solo/Small Firm — This technically is not a practice area, but there are myriad issues that solo practitioners face while running a law business that their biglaw counterparts do not. The Solo and Small Firm Section of the CBA puts on great programming throughout the year, including topical lunches, and hosts monthly networking meetings, the Solo in Colo blog, and much more. For information on joining the Solo and Small Firm Section, click here.

If you don’t see your practice area listed here or on the previous Top Ten posts, please let us know. If you are interested at speaking at an event in your practice area, we would love to hear from you. Contact us today!

Top Ten Marijuana Law Programs and Homestudies

Colorado is in the forefront of the marijuana industry, and as such the need for legal guidance regarding medical and recreational marijuana has exponentially increased. In fact, the CBA has a new Cannabis Law Committee to further the legal profession’s understanding of marijuana law. Today’s Top Ten Programs and Homestudies feature marijuana law. (In case you missed it, we previously featured ethics, family law, trust and estate law, real estate law, litigation,business law, employment law, criminal law, and construction/environmental/oil and gas/water law.) Grab a snack and read on for the Top Ten Marijuana Law Programs and Homestudies:

10. Ethics 7.0 2014. Although not strictly a marijuana law program, the 2014 Ethics 7.0 program featured a discussion by Chief Deputy Regulation Counsel James Sudler on hot topics in attorney regulation, including marijuana. As a bonus, this program fulfills an entire compliance period’s ethics credits requirements. Seven general credits, including seven ethics credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

9. Marijuana in Estate Planning and Administration. Even trust and estate attorneys encounter marijuana-related issues. The recent addition of recreational marijuana rights to the already-existing medical marijuana industry means that estate and probate attorneys are almost certain to encounter marijuana-related issues in both estate planning and probate. This is a must-attend session dealing with everything from a joint found with a decedent’s personal property to an estate-planning client who owns a thriving, licensed marijuana business. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

8. Criminal Law Fall Update 2013. Amendment 64 provides for the regulation of marijuana like alcohol, and allows for the lawful operation of marijuana-related facilities. Amendment 64 presented issues of first impression in Colorado and in the United States, as no other state except Washington State at that time had legalized marijuana for non-medical, adult use in the face of federal legal restrictions. What are the implications for the criminal law landscape on the state and federal levels? What does it mean from a behavioral health perspective? Get answers to these questions and more. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

7. Lending Compliance Update: Appraisals, Marijuana, and More. As the Colorado marijuana industry flourishes, banking issues related to marijuana become more and more important. This program discusses banking compliance and provides a CPA’s perspective on the marijuana business and compliance issues. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

6. New Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2: Marijuana Law Update. On March 24, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted a comment to Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2. According to the comment, a lawyer may counsel a client regarding the validity, scope and meaning of Colorado’s marijuana laws and may assist a client in conduct the lawyer believes is permitted under state law. It’s important to know not only what the comment said, but what it didn’t say—and possible consequences for Colorado attorneys. Two general credits, including two ethics credits; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

5. Banking for Marijuana Businesses — An Update. Get up to speed on banking for marijuana businesses! Learn about the Justice Department’s efforts to craft guidance for banks that work with marijuana businesses and how banking views those efforts. Learn what bank regulators, who aren’t bound by Justice Department actions, are doing. Are banks still at risk of racketeering charges if they knowingly handle money made from the sale of marijuana? Hear obstacles, potential solutions and potential best practices. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

4. The Business of Marijuana. In November 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which makes the personal, non-medical use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older. Amendment 64 presented issues of first impression in Colorado and in the United States, as no other state except Washington State had legalized marijuana for non-medical, adult use in the face of federal legal restrictions at that time. This 2013 program discussed tax, accounting and legal implications for people involved in marijuana-related businesses in light of Amendment 64. Six general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

3. Marijuana — The Colorado Model. Colorado pulled in $2 million in taxes related to the sale of recreational marijuana… in January 2014 alone. Combined with taxes on sales from medicinal marijuana, Colorado pulled in nearly $3.5 million in pot-related tax revenue. This growing industry and resulting revenue has created a myriad of legal, financial and regulatory issues for the State of Colorado. Hear from some of the State’s top regulatory and legal experts on what’s going on in the ever-changing marijuana industry. Seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

2. Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana in Criminal Law, Civil Regulations, and Forensic Science. The legalization of both medical and later recreational possession of marijuana in Colorado has brought an abundance of new legal issues in criminal, civil and regulatory law. With a focus on the new book Medicolegal Aspects of Marijuana (Lawyers and Judges Publishing, 2015), the faculty explores both the forensic and legal issues of running a dispensary, drug testing for confirmation in narcotics cases and THC levels for DUI-D cases. Topics covered include land use and HOA laws, federal controlled substance laws, licensing and regulation, business regulation, and more. Eight general credits; available as live Video Replay in Denver on January 6, 2016, and also available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

1. The Colorado Marijuana Industry — Legal and Accounting Advice and Compliance. Colorado marijuana stores sold a record amount of marijuana in June 2015, a huge leap over the previous record set in March 2015. Recreational marijuana sales topped $50 million for the first time. Medical marijuana also had its biggest month in more than a year. Some owners reported seeing more than 300 customers a day. At the halfway mark of 2015, Colorado stores had sold nearly half a billion dollars in marijuana and paid about $60 million in taxes to the state. Clearly, the marijuana business is thriving in Colorado. But we as attorneys, accountants, business valuators, regulators, bankers and citizens still have a lot to learn about this fledgling industry. Find out what you need to know about marijuana law in Colorado at this important program. Seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

Tenth Circuit: Sanctions Against Attorney Affirmed Where He Negligently Disregarded Discovery Obligations

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sun River Energy, Inc. v. Nelson on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Attorneys James E. Pennington and Stephen E. Csajaghy were sanctioned for their refusal to disclose insurance coverage during securities litigation involving Sun River. Pennington was in-house counsel for Sun River and Csajaghy was retained to represent the company in the underlying litigation. During the underlying litigation, a magistrate judge set a discovery deadline of April 6, 2011, by which time Sun River was obligated to disclose any insurance coverage. However, no disclosure was made until nearly 18 months later, after repeated requests from opposing counsel, and by the time the policy was disclosed the coverage period had expired. Opposing counsel moved for sanctions against Sun River under Rule 37(b)(2)(A), requesting that Sun River’s claims against defendants be dismissed and entering default judgment for defendants on their counterclaims.

The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing, and ultimately recommended that default judgment be entered against Sun River but not approving dismissal. The magistrate judge noted that there was not intentional misrepresentation by Sun River’s attorneys, but neither attorney actually looked at the policy to see if it provided coverage, instead relying on their mistaken beliefs that the policy would not be relevant. Sun River objected to the magistrate judge’s recommendations, and a district judge addressed the contentions at a pretrial hearing. By that time, Csajaghy had withdrawn from the representation and Pennington appeared as counsel of record. The district court decided counsel were culpable for the misrepresentation and should be held personally responsible. The district court ultimately imposed the sanction of opposing counsel’s attorney fees against Pennington and Csajaghy in the amount of $20,435.

Pennington and Csajaghy moved for reconsideration, arguing Rule 37(c) does not allow imposition of sanctions on counsel, counsel acted with substantial justification, any sanction should have been imposed on Sun River, and due process precluded imposition of a sanction against Csajaghy, who had withdrawn before the sanctions were imposed. In response, defendants argued the sanction was not only justified under Rule 37 but under Rule 26(g)(3) and the district court’s inherent power as well, also noting that counsel’s deliberate indifference demonstrated a lack of substantial justification, sanctioning counsel was appropriate, and that both attorneys had been afforded substantial due process in the matter. The district court issued a thorough written decision, granting in part and denying in part the motion for reconsideration. The district court noted that Rule 37(b)(2)(C) authorizes a monetary sanction for failure to obey a discovery order and expressly allowed the attorney advising the party to be sanctioned, finding that since Csajaghy was Sun River’s attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation the sanction against him was appropriate. As to Pennington, since he was not the attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation, the district court held he was not subject to Rule 37(b)(2)(C) sanctions, but became responsible for timely updating discovery responses under Rule 26 when he became attorney of record, and therefore the sanction was justified under Rule 37(c)(1)(A). The attorneys appealed.

The Tenth Circuit began its analysis by examining the sanction against attorney Pennington. The Tenth Circuit noted that the only case law on the subject held that the sanctions were enforceable against parties only, not attorneys. The district court rejected the holding as unpersuasive, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s analysis as overbroad. The Tenth Circuit noted that there was no express textual reference extending the sanction against attorneys, and found that consideration of the relevant text cut against the district court’s analysis. Under the circumstances of this case, the Tenth Circuit found the sanctions against Pennington unwarranted by Rule 37. Turning to defendants’ argument that the sanctions were allowed by the district court’s inherent power, the Tenth Circuit again disagreed, finding that although his failure to disclose was not substantially justified, it was not vexatious, wanton, oppressive, or done in bad faith. The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against Pennington.

Turning to attorney Csajaghy, the Tenth Circuit found there was no question that the district court had authority to impose a personal sanction. Csajaghy objected to the sanction, arguing the sanction was not warranted on the facts, sanctioning counsel was inconsistent with the decision not to sanction Sun River, and the procedure through which he was sanctioned violated due process. The Tenth Circuit found no merit to any of his arguments. The Tenth Circuit admonished that, as counsel of record in the litigation, it was irresponsible for Csajaghy to assume that the in-house counsel, Pennington, had reviewed the policy. Even if had known Pennington reviewed the policy, Csajaghy should have conducted an independent review to satisfy his professional obligations. The Tenth Circuit further chastised Csajaghy for assuming the policy would not provide coverage in lieu of exercising critical judgment. The Tenth Circuit also approved of the district court’s decision to sanction Csajaghy while not sanctioning Sun River, because the company reasonably relied on its counsel to provide relevant disclosures and counsel failed to do so. Finally, the Tenth Circuit addressed Csajaghy’s due process arguments, and although it agreed with the district court that the initial order imposing the sanction was procedurally defective, any defect was cured by the subsequent proceedings on the motion for reconsideration.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against attorney Pennington and affirmed the sanction against attorney Csajaghy.

Top Ten Employment Law Programs and Homestudies

As the end of the year draws nigh, we are reviewing the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies in several substantive areas of law. Previously, we covered ethics, family law, trust & estate law, real estate law, litigation, and business law. We continue our review with employment law. And now, without further ado, here are the Top Ten Employment Law Programs and Homestudies:

10. Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Law Institute — Dignity to All Persons. Although not strictly an employment law program, the LGBT Law Institute included topics of interest to employment law attorneys, including a session called “GLBTQ Employment Law Issues, FMLA, Sensitivity Training and Discrimination.” Eleven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

9. Employment Law Fall Update 2013 — New Cases, New Legislation, and Tools Every Employment Lawyer Needs. Highly experienced employment lawyers discuss what’s new in the field in this informative program. Topics covered include stock options with mergers & acquisitions, arbitration, workplace violence, FLSA, retaliation, and more. Seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

8. Independent Contractor or Employee? Softrock‘s and Western Logistics‘ Effect. In 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court issued two important employment law decisions, ICAO v. Softrock and Western Logistics v. ICAO, reversing decades of case law regarding the test for whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. This program discusses the two decisions and their impact on employment law in Colorado. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

7. Discipline, Documentation, and Discharge of Problem Employees. Performance reviews strike dread into the hearts of employers and employees alike, but the consequences of poor disciplinary practices can be disastrous. This program provides practical tools for navigating the disciplinary process, including coaching, warnings, performance improvement plans, and last chance agreements. Eight general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

6. Non-Compete Agreements, Confidentiality Agreements, and Other Restrictions on Employee Competition. Many employers of entry level workers force their employees to sign non-compete agreements as a condition of employment. Is this legal? In this program, learn about the proper use of non-compete agreements and the law of restrictive employment covenants, as well as the necessity of and limitations on confidentiality agreements, statutory protection of trade secrets, common law rights of employers and employees, and litigation risks and realities. Four general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

5. Workplace Discrimination. Many employment law cases have an element of discrimination, and the important topic is the center of this program. Learn about the intersection of religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws, what really happens during mediations, bias and discrimination within the legal profession, Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, employment testing and the ADA, and much more. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

4. Employment Law 2014. Whether you are interested in state or federal issues, the plaintiff or defense perspective, or whether you are new to employment law or a seasoned professional – the 2014 Employment Law Conference is a must-have. This two-day program offers a litigation track and a counseling track, with sessions on associational discrimination, workplace privacy, premises liability, corporate compliance, and more. Nineteen general credits, including 1.2 ethics credits; available as CD homestudy and MP3 audio download.

3. Whistleblower Litigation, Discrimination, and the First Amendment — Employment Law Fall Update 2014. The hottest topics in employment law are featured in this program, including the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act, free speech, non-compete agreements, ADEA update, labor law for employment lawyers, and more. Eight general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

2. Intellectual Property in the Workplace — Employment Law Fall Update 2015. Regardless of a company’s business model, its IP assets are important in sustaining growth and fostering robust employment. But overly controlling a company’s ownership of the intellectual product of its employees can stifle the creativity of the workforce. This program discusses protection of employer and employee rights in intellectual property, workplace privacy concerns, defending employees against claims of trade secret theft, human capital as intellectual property, and much more. Six general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

1. 2015 Employment Law. This annual conference discusses everything employment law, regardless of whether you represent plaintiffs or the defense, are a solo or member of a large firm or in-house counsel, or are new to employment law or are a seasoned professional. Topics covered in the 2015 program include the cat’s paw theory, the Affordable Care Act, transgender issues in employment law, common investigation mistakes and how to avoid them, an update from the Division of Labor, and much more. Eighteen general credits, including 1.2 ethics credits; available as CD homestudy and MP3 audio download. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.

Top Ten Business Law Programs and Homestudies

The days keep marching forward, and the end of the compliance period looms large for many Colorado attorneys. If you still need some last-minute CLE credits, never fear—we are reviewing the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies in several areas of law. In case you missed it, we previously covered ethics, family law, trust & estate law, real estate law, and litigation. Today’s focus is on business law. Whether advising nonprofits, dealing with securities issues, or representing particular types of businesses, we have programs to fit your needs. Read on for the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies.

10. Banking for Marijuana Businesses. This short program discusses banking issues unique to marijuana businesses, including the Justice Department’s efforts to create guidance for banks that work with marijuana businesses. Learn about potential racketeering issues and potential solutions. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

9. Forming and Funding Early Stage Companies. Created for lawyers working with early stage companies, this program covers entity selection, vesting, key agreements, counseling clients on raising money, common securities law exemptions, and more. Two general credits; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

8. Commercial Loan Documents — Important Covenants and Potential Modifications. Loan covenants are an important part of every loan document. This program discusses loan modifications generally sought by lenders and those requested by borrowers. Default is also discussed in this program. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

7. Boilerplate and Drafting Business Documents — 2014 Business Document Drafting Series. The first in a series of six programs, this program offers practical advice on the perils of using boilerplate in document drafting, including specific examples of drafting issues, the importance of keeping provisions current with the law, the value of silence, and much more. Two general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: This program is Part 1 of a six-part series. Click here for Part 2, click here for Part 3, click here for Part 4, click here for Part 5, and click here for Part 6.

6. Limited Liability Companies in Colorado. Because of the combination of limited liability for all owners of the LLC, pass-through tax treatment, and ease and flexibility in customizing the relationships between the owners, the LLC has been a very popular choice of entity for many types of businesses since the IRS adopted the “check the box” regulations in 1996. This program details advantages and disadvantages of LLCs, litigation issues, estate and tax planning, real estate development, and more. Attendees receive a PDF copy of the CLE book, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships in ColoradoEight general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

5. Buying and Selling a Business. Need to know the ins and outs of buying and selling businesses? This program is for you! It provides practical advice on advising parties in M&A transactions, planning the exit, protecting your client in the sale, professional responsibility and ethics in business transactions, and more. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

4. Closely Held Businesses: Strategies for Tackling Key Issues. Advising closely held businesses requires attorneys to have a wide range of knowledge. This program addresses some of the issues that may arise in advising the closely held business, including family dynamics, the Affordable Care Act and its impact on small businesses, probate of business interests, charitable planning, small business financials and accounting, and securities issues. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

3. A Primer on Advising Nonprofit Organizations and 24th Annual Institute on Advising Nonprofit Organizations in Colorado. This annual program provides everything you need to know about advising nonprofits. Topics covered at the primer include formation and governance of nonprofit entities, obtaining and retaining tax-exempt status, operational issues for tax-exempt organizations, and taxation of unrelated business income. The Institute discusses fiduciary duties of for-profit boards, tax-exempt entity types, best practices for employee discipline and termination, volunteers, and more. Primer—four general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. Institute—seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: These programs are repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 programs (Primer/Institute) and click here for the 2013 programs (Primer/Institute).

2. Annual Rocky Mountain Securities Conference. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the CBA Business Law Section, this program is the Rocky Mountain’s premier securities law update presented by the country’s top practitioners. Topics covered in the 2015 Conference included an enforcement update, a view from the defense, a conversation with the Division of Corporate Finance, ethical considerations with the SEC’s whistleblower program, hot topics regarding regulated entities, and much more. Nine general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.

1. Annual Business Law Institute. This two-day Institute provides everything you need to know for your business law practice. Get updates on case law and legislation, social responsibility, real world ethical dilemmas, business lawyers’ worst nightmares, forming and funding early stage companies, employment law update, marijuana investments in commercial banking, commercial insurance, and much more. Twenty-seven general credits, including two ethics credits; available as CD homestudy and MP3 audio download. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.