December 16, 2017

The Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program

By Jonathan White, Esq., Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Do you need CLE credits? Check out Colorado’s new Lawyer Self-Assessment Program. The program allows you to self-assess your practice and identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement. Colorado lawyers who participate in the program may claim up to three general and ethics credits. In addition, on Monday, December 11, 2017, CBA-CLE will host a 90 minute live seminar on the new program, “Proactive Practices: Protecting Client Confidences and Prioritizing Wellness to Run a Successful Practice,” where lawyers can claim an additional 2.0 general and 1.8 ethics credits (register here).

Lawyers can view and complete the self-assessments through the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel’s website: https://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/AboutUs/LawyerSelfAssessmentProgram.asp. An affidavit is available on the same page for lawyers to use to apply for CLE credit once they complete the self-assessment program. The program’s goals include helping lawyers better serve clients, instituting efficient, consistent law office management procedures, and allowing lawyers to reflect on whether they have procedures in place that promote compliance with professional obligations.

As a complement to this new initiative, CBA-CLE has hosted a series of lunch-hour CLE seminars devoted to the self-assessment program. The last in the series takes place Monday, December 11, beginning at noon. This seminar will explore proactive procedures that help lawyers comply with their duty to protect client confidences. It will also discuss lawyer well-being and why well-being is essential to a lawyer’s duty of competence. Register here for the December 11 program.

The Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program arises out of a multi-year initiative of a subcommittee of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee. More than 50 practicing lawyers volunteered their time to identify ten areas of assessment and associated questions. The assessments draw from the collective professional experience of the subcommittee members. The ten areas of self-assessment include:

  1. Developing a competent practice;
  2. Communicating in an effective, timely, professional manner and maintaining professional client relations;
  3. Ensuring that confidentiality requirements are met;
  4. Avoiding conflicts of interest;
  5. Maintaining appropriate file and records management systems;
  6. Managing the law firm/legal entity and staff appropriately;
  7. Charging appropriate fees and making appropriate disbursements;
  8. Ensuring that reliable trust account practices are in use;
  9. Working to improve the administration of justice and access to legal services;
  10. Wellness and inclusivity.

The self-assessments are voluntary and confidential. The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel does not receive any personally-attributable answers. The assessments offer links to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and to a variety of educational resources ranging from template forms to advisory opinions to articles on current professionalism issues.

The Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jonathan White of the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. You can find out more about the lawyer self-assessment survey on the OARC website

By Jonathan P. White, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Colorado has launched its new lawyer self-assessment program designed to help lawyers better serve clients and simplify their professional lives. This program arises out of a multi-year initiative of a subcommittee of the Colorado Supreme Court’s Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee. Over 50 practicing lawyers have participated in the subcommittee. They have drawn from their professional experience to identify practices that promote client service, that lead to more efficient office management, and that allow lawyers to assess their practice’s ethical infrastructure. The subcommittee’s goal is to help lawyers assess their practice and identify points of excellence and areas for improvement.

There are ten individual areas of self-assessment:

  1. Developing a competent practice;
  2. Communicating in an effective, timely, professional manner and maintaining relations;
  3. Ensuring that confidentiality requirements are met;
  4. Avoiding conflicts of interest;
  5. Maintaining appropriate file and records management systems;
  6. Managing the law firm/legal entity and staff appropriately;
  7. Charging appropriate fees and making appropriate disbursements;
  8. Ensuring that reliable trust account practices are in use;
  9. Working to improve the administration of justice and access to legal services; and
  10. Wellness and inclusivity.

Ultimately, these self-assessments should help attorneys avoid grievances and alleviate some of the stress associated with practice, especially for solo and small firm practitioners and those new to practice. The self-assessments are voluntary and confidential. The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel does not receive any personally-attributable answers. The assessments offer links to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and to a variety of educational resources ranging from template forms to advisory opinions to articles on current professionalism issues.

Lawyers can now view and complete the self-assessments through the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel’s website: https://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/AboutUs/LawyerSelfAssessmentProgram.asp. Lawyers can choose to take all ten self-assessments through an online survey platform accessible at the top of the previously-referenced webpage. This online platform may be used on a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device. As an alternative, lawyers may also download the print/PDF survey through the same webpage. After completing either the online self-assessment or the print/PDF version, lawyers may claim up to three general credit hours and three ethics credit hours of continuing legal education. A CLE affidavit is available on the self-assessment program webpage, as well as through the online survey itself.

Dissemination of Confidential Client Information Discouraged in Formal Ethics Opinion 130

The Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee recently issued Formal Opinion 130, dated April 3, 2017. Formal Opinion 130 addresses the disclosure of confidential client information, including information that is publicly available, such as when the information has been on the news. The opinion concludes that dissemination of such information is prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct, and specifically states that there is no exception for information contained in the public record.

Formal Opinion 130 also addresses the use of information about former clients, concluding that such use may be allowed under the Rules when such information is “generally known.” The opinion advises attorneys to exercise caution when using information about former clients.

The opinion offers redaction and informed consent as reasonable measures to use for the dissemination of confidential client information, but cautions that merely redacting the client’s name is likely insufficient to comply with the Rules.

Finally, the opinion cautions against editing confidential client information in order to mislead or misrepresent positions. This would implicate Rule 8.4(c), which prohibits conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The opinion concludes, “In many situations, making information obtained in the course of representing a client public is helpful, either to other lawyers or to educate the public.  But client confidences must be respected.” Lawyers should use caution when disseminating confidential client information.

Formal Opinion 130 by cleincolorado on Scribd

ABA Formal Ethics Opinion Issued Regarding Secured Communications of Client Information

On Thursday, May 11, 2017, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released Formal Opinion 477, “Securing Communication of Protected Client Information.” The opinion discusses internet transmission of protected client information, concluding that:

A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access. However, a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions to protect against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information when required by an agreement with the client or by law, or when the nature of the information requires a higher degree of security.

Formal Opinion 477 is an update to the basic confidentiality requirements addressed in Formal Opinion 99-413. The opinion was issued in response to the 2012 amendments to the ABA Model Rules in which technological competency was enunciated. This opinion discusses cybersecurity and measures that lawyers should take to safeguard client information, electing to reject requirements for specific security measures in favor of a fact-specific approach to business security obligations.

The opinion offers guidance on what reasonable steps an attorney may undertake in response to a cybersecurity threat, including:

  1. Understand the nature of the threat;
  2. Understand how confidential client information is transmitted and where it is stored;
  3. Understand and use reasonable security measures;
  4. Determine how electronic communications about client matters should be protected;
  5. Label confidential client information;
  6. Train lawyers and nonlawyer assistants in technology and information security; and
  7. Conduct due diligence on vendors providing communication technology.

To read the entire opinion, click here.

Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline Amended in Rule Change 2017(03)

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, the Colorado State Judicial Branch released Rule Change 2017(03), amending the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline. The rules were amended on April 20, 2017, and will become effective on July 1, 2017.

The rule changes were quite extensive. A redline is available here.  Several definitions were added to Rule 2, “Definitions,” and many other rules in Part A were changed, including Rule 4, “Jurisdiction and Powers,” Rule 5, “Grounds for Discipline,” Rule 6.5, “Confidentiality and Privilege,” and more. Part B was amended to change the title of the Part from “Preliminary Proceedings” to “Informal Proceedings,” and the rule changes in Part B were significant. There were minor changes to Part C, “Disability Proceedings.”

For a redline of Rule Change 2017(03), click here. For all of the Colorado Supreme Court’s adopted and proposed rule changes, click here.

Top Ten Programs and Homestudies of 2016: Ethics

The year is drawing to a close, which means that the compliance period is ending for a third of Colorado’s attorneys. Still missing some credits? Don’t worry, CBA-CLE has got you covered.

Today’s Top Ten Programs and Homestudies are all about ethics. In addition to the programs featured below, CBA-CLE has several interesting and informative books about ethics and professional responsibility, and many great programs and homestudies not listed here. Find out more at cle.cobar.org/Practice-Area/Ethics-Professional-Responsibility. And now, your featured presentation.

10. Ethics and Professionalism in the Practice of Law 2016
It’s time for the always popular annual Ethics and Professionalism Program. The Program that brings you CLE through legal “theater” presented by a distinguished panel of experts in an interactive format. This program presents ethical and professional situations through a carefully crafted series of interactive vignettes to give you the tools to improve the professionalism in your law practice. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 4 general credits, including 4 ethics credits.

9. Ethical Duties of Attorneys Serving on Nonprofit Boards
Lawyers are invited to join the boards of nonprofit corporations for a variety of reasons, the best of which relate to the judgment and analytical and communication skills lawyers may bring to bear. Service on nonprofit boards, however, often presents lawyers with irresistible opportunities to exercise their legal training, with potential ethical implications. This seminar will review the most troublesome of those ethical considerations, including issues relating to whether simply serving as a director can create a lawyer-client relationship, present conflicts of interest, or raise concerns regarding competence. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit, including 1 ethics credit.

8. Lawyers’ Duty of Candor to the Tribunal and Remedial Measures in Civil Actions and Proceedings
This program will address the prohibition against offering false evidence, the duty to take remedial measures, and the duty to correct false statements by the lawyer set forth in Rule 3.3 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. The program will address the knowledge and materiality elements of the Rule, the duration of the lawyer’s duties under the Rule, and the steps that the lawyer must take when confronted with this problem of material false evidence. These steps include remonstration with the client, withdrawal from the representation, and if withdrawal from the representation does not undo the effect of the false evidence, then further remedial measures sufficient to undo the effect of the false evidence. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit, including 1 ethics credit.

7. Information Security & Ethics for Solo/Small Firm Practitioners
Cybersecurity and data breaches seem to always be in the news. Increasingly, law firms are becoming victims of data breaches and even targets of sophisticated cyberattacks. Attorneys and commentators alike worry that law firms’ IT systems and tools may be a weak point in the protection of their clients’ sensitive and confidential information. This talk will explore attorneys’ ethical obligations to protect confidential client information in the IT context, and discuss the tools and practices solo and small-firm practitioners can leverage to better fulfill those obligations. Specifically, Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.4, 1.6 and 5.1 will be discussed. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit, including 1 ethics credit.

6. Managing Risks: Preventing Legal Malpractice 2016
Managing risks is an important way to prevent legal malpractice claims. This program will discuss avoiding accidental attorney-client relationships, such as when making conversation at parties or talking to friends and family; tech traps for practitioners; trends in legal malpractice, including rules, cases, and statutes; and the Top Ten Ethics Complaints. Each Homestudy includes a copy of the CBA-CLE book, Lawyers’ Professional Liability in Colorado, 2016 Edition. Please note the book will be provided in PDF. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 4 general credits, including 4 ethics credits.

5. Inadvertent Disclosure: Professional Liability Series
The problem of the inadvertent disclosure of communications or information that is privileged or protected is not new. However, the risk of such disclosures has increased dramatically in recent years as a result of rapid communication such as e-mail, and in the litigation context, with the production of large volumes of documents and information, especially electronically stored information. Consequently, the rules governing inadvertent disclosure have been evolving rapidly to keep up or catch up with the problem. Order the Video OnDemand here and the MP3 here. Available for 1 general credit, including 1 ethics credit.

4. Ethically Inspired Marketing: The Boundaries of Chasing Success / Ethics Lessons From the Trenches
Ethically Inspired Marketing: Every lawyer wants to have a great career, but only a few can transcend modest success and become a “rock-star lawyer.” In this program, Stuart Teicher explains how you can rise to the top by following a new paradigm he calls, “Ethically Inspired Marketing,” a concept based firmly in the rules of professional conduct. Since every push toward greatness has its limitation, Stuart will also educate us about the boundaries of chasing success. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 3 general credits, including 3 ethics credits.

Ethics Lessons From the Trenches: The scariest stories are those tales where responsible lawyers who care about acting in an appropriate manner get into disciplinary trouble. In this program, we learn about the common missteps that are made by otherwise responsible attorneys. After hearing this program you’ll embark upon your career as a safer, stronger attorney. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 3 general credits, including 3 ethics credits.

3. Staying Above the Line: Preventing Legal Malpractice 2016
This half-day program provides practitioners with practical tips to avoid legal malpractice in the litigation practice. Topics covered include intra-firm privilege, trends in legal malpractice cases and statutes, preservation and spoliation of evidence, federal rules update, and more. Each attendee receives a PDF e-Book copy of the CBA-CLE book Lawyers’ Professional Liability in Colorado, 2016 Edition. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 4 general credits, including 4 ethics credits.

2. Ethics 7.0 2016
Practice at your very best. Attend this program and get the latest information on a wide variety of legal ethics issues. Your distinguished faculty will address current, common and challenging ethical issues you routinely encounter, or will encounter at some point in your practice years. At the end of the day, you will know both the conduct that will gain you respect, and the pitfalls that will jeopardize your practice. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits, including 7 ethics credits.

1. Annual Ethics Revue at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret
Much anticipated and annual, “The Ethics Revue”, is unlike any other CBA-CLE continuing legal education ethics program. It is produced and performed by members of the famous (or infamous!) Law Club and the Ethics Committee of the Colorado Bar Association. Each year, it is an all new CLE musical extravaganza. Attend a performance and learn ethical conduct in an engaging and memorable way. With a unique combination of wit, song, and commentary, the cast of multi-talented attorneys will heighten your awareness of a variety of ethics issues, which arise in the practice of law. This live-only program occurs each year in November, and is the can’t-miss ethics event of the year. Look for this great event in November 2017.

Ethical Issues for Lawyers Serving on Nonprofit Boards

nonprofitLawyers are invited to join the boards of nonprofit corporations for a variety of reasons, the best of which relate to the judgment and analytical and communication skills lawyers may bring to bear. Service on nonprofit boards, however, often presents lawyers with irresistible opportunities to their exercise their legal training, with potential ethical implications.

One of the primary ethical concerns for attorneys serving on nonprofit boards is whether the attorney is perceived as representing the organization or actually represents the organization. Lawyers serving on nonprofit boards must take care to avoid establishing an accidental attorney-client relationship. If a lawyer does not want to enter into an accidental attorney-client relationship, he or she would be wise to make it clear from the beginning of his or her service, perhaps in writing, that there is no attorney-client relationship. Similarly, attorneys serving on nonprofit boards should emphasize their roles to the other board members.

Conflicts of interest are another ethical pitfall for attorneys serving on nonprofit boards. The lawyer’s independent professional judgment may be compromised by his or her obligation to respect the conduct of the organization regardless of whether that conduct complies with the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. There is also the potential for conflict between the organization and the attorney’s law firm.

Although serving on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations presents unique ethical concerns, attorneys provide valuable contributions to boards. Good practices, such as clarifying the lawyer’s role before beginning board service or refraining from voting on issues involving the lawyer’s firm, can help avoid ethical dilemmas.

Ericka Houck Englert, Of Counsel at Davis Graham & Stubbs, will present a one-hour lunch program on December 20, 2016, to discuss ethics for attorneys sitting on nonprofit boards. Register by calling (303) 860-0608, or click the links below.

 

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CLE Program: Ethical Issues for Attorneys Serving on Nonprofit Boards

This CLE presentation will occur on December 20, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: MP3Video OnDemand.

Inadvertent Disclosure — Damage Control, Recipient Requirements, and More

EthicsInadvertent disclosure of privileged or confidential information is not a new problem for attorneys. However, email and the electronic age have widened the scope of inadvertent disclosure. What happens when you use your email’s auto-fill feature and accidentally fill opposing counsel’s name instead of your client’s? How about when you hit “Reply All” instead of only replying to one party, or when you reply instead of forwarding? These problems are the stuff of nightmares.

To address the problems created by inadvertent disclosure of privileged or confidential information, the Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee created Formal Opinion 108, adopted on May 20, 2000. Formal Opinion 108 contemplates that a lawyer who receives documents (“receiving lawyer”) from an adverse party or an adverse party’s lawyer (“sending lawyer”) has an ethical duty to disclose the receipt of the privileged or confidential documents to the sending lawyer. If the receiving lawyer realizes the inadvertence of the disclosure before examining the documents, the receiving lawyer has a duty to not examine the documents and follow the sending lawyer’s directions regarding disposal or return of the documents.

In 2008, the Colorado Supreme Court repealed and reenacted the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 4.4(b) provides that “A lawyer who receives a document relating to the representation of the lawyer’s client and knows or reasonably should know that the document was inadvertently sent shall promptly notify the sender.” Rule 4.4(b) applies to situations in which the sending lawyer accidentally provides privileged or confidential information to the receiving lawyer, such as when someone hits “Reply All” instead of forwarding to the client.

Rule 4.4(c) addresses a far less common scenario, when the sending lawyer realizes the disclosure prior to receipt by the receiving lawyer and contacts the receiving lawyer before the privileged or confidential information is viewed. Rule 4.4(c) requires the receiving lawyer to “abide by the sender’s instructions as to its disposition.” Comments [2] and [3] to Rule 4.4 expand on the receiving lawyer’s duties, including providing that as a matter of professional courtesy the receiving lawyer may inform the sending lawyer of the inadvertent disclosure.

Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5)(B) also addresses inadvertent disclosure. C.R.C.P. 26(b)(5)(B) imposes on the receiving lawyer a mandatory prohibition on review, use, or disclosure of the information until the privilege claim is resolved, if the sending lawyer informs the receiving lawyer of the inadvertent disclosure. C.R.C.P. 26(b)(5)(B) differs slightly from Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(B); lawyers who practice in both federal and state courts should familiarize themselves with the different rules.

On Monday, November 28, 2016, attorney Cecil E. Morris, Jr., will deliver a lunchtime presentation on inadvertent disclosure, which is available for one general CLE credit and one ethics credit. This program is a great way to learn about what to do in case you inadvertently disclose confidential or privileged information, and also what to do if you receive information inadvertently disclosed. Cecil will discuss the differences between the federal and state rules, and will also address the substantive areas of law most affected by inadvertent disclosure. Register here or by clicking the links below.

 

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CLE Program: Inadvertent Disclosure – Professional Liability Series

This CLE presentation will occur on November 28, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: MP3Video OnDemand.

Attorney at Work—Mixing Cocktails with Legal Advice: Don’t

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Attorney at Work on April 19, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Mark3By Mark Bassingthwaighte

I can appreciate a well-crafted cocktail. But when I am in a situation where such beverages are being served, I never get involved in a conversation about someone’s legal problems. And I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Here’s a short story that explains why.

An associate at a law firm — not a litigator in any way — attended a social function and had a few more than she should have. She got involved in a conversation with another guest about a personal injury matter. In addition to sharing some generic advice, the associate also let the guest know there was still plenty of time to deal with the matter, saying the statute of limitations in that jurisdiction was two years. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to our heroine, there was an exception to the statute in play and the actual time to file suit was six months. The guest, relying on the advice, did not obtain legal counsel until after the filing deadline had passed.

The young lawyer and her firm were eventually sued for malpractice.

The Accidental Client

We all know drinking and driving can have serious consequences — when your judgment and reflexes are impaired, accidents can happen. Mixing cocktails and legal advice is similarly problematic. It’s too easy for a casual setting, coupled with a few adult beverages, to cloud your thinking. You may then find yourself dealing with an accidental client.

Malpractice claims can easily arise out of these situations, but the risk isn’t limited to cocktail parties. Casual conversations online with extended family members or friends and gatherings with members of your church congregation or other community organizations are all situations where you should proceed with caution.

You can’t overlook the office setting, either.

Should you be concerned about passing along a little casual advice in a conversation with a corporate constituent while representing the entity itself? How about discussing issues with beneficiaries while representing the estate, trying to help a prospective client out during that first meeting when you know you are going to decline the representation? Or what about being a good Samaritan by making a few suggestions on the phone to someone who clearly has a problem but really can’t afford an attorney? How about answering a few questions from an unrepresented third party?

The answer is, of course, yes — these are all situations that can easily lead to an accidental client.

“No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

Old sayings became old sayings because they have a ring of truth to them.

I am always surprised by what attorneys say when they have to deal with a claim brought by an accidental client. Comments like “I never intended to create an attorney-client relationship,” “There was no signed fee agreement,” and “No money was exchanged so how could this be?” are common.

Guess what: It’s not about you! Typically, it is more about how the individual you interacted with responded to the exchange. If they happened to respond as if they were receiving a little legal advice from an attorney, and that response was reasonable under the circumstances, it can start to get muddy. Worse yet, if it was reasonably foreseeable that this individual would rely or act on your casual advice — and then, in fact, did so to their detriment — you may have a serious problem on your hands.

I share this not with a desire to convince you to keep quiet and never try to help someone. By all means, be helpful. The world could use a few more good Samaritans, and a desire to help others is a good thing as long as you stay the course. I share this because I want you to be cognizant of the risk involved whenever you decide to step into those waters.

Here’s the Bottom Line

Accidental clients are for real and there is no such thing as “legal lite.” So if you are enjoying a wonderful evening at a party, cocktail in hand, and find yourself conversing with another guest who has just learned you are an attorney and wants to “pick your brain,” don’t talk about legal issues you are not well-versed in. If you feel compelled to pass along a little advice, then remember to ask questions so you understand the entire situation. Just know that you may be held to the accuracy of that advice later on, so you might want to jot down a few notes as soon as you can.

Finally, know that it’s okay to say you’re not the right person to be asking, particularly after you’ve had a few.

That said, salute!

Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier, since 1998. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1150 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented numerous continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management and technology.  Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the ABA and currently sits on the ABA’s Law Practice Division’s Professional Development Board, the Division’s Ethics and Professionalism Committee, and he serves as the Division’s Liaison to the ABA’s Standing Committee on Lawyers Professional Liability. Mr. Bassingthwaighte received his J.D. from Drake University Law School and his undergraduate degree from Gettysburg College.

Contact Information:
Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq.
ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company
Risk Manager
PO Box 9169 | Missoula, Montana 59807
(T) 406.728.3113 | (Toll Free) 800.367.2577 | (F) 406.728.7416
mbass@alpsnet.com | www.alpsnet.com

ALPS offers up to a 10% premium credit for each attorney in a firm who receives 3 CLE credits annually in the areas of ethics, risk management, loss prevention, or office management. ALPS is a lawyers’ malpractice carrier endorsed by the CBA. Learn more at try.alpsnet.com/Colorado

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

The breakneck speed at which technology is advancing presents both extraordinary opportunity and unprecedented risk to you and your clients. As data breaches and cyber attacks increase, so do the costs associated with preventing and dealing with them when — not if — they happen.

This practical seminar provides guidance on the state of the law on data security and privacy, as well as sound practices on how to minimize risk of a breach. Learn about data security and privacy issues with the European Union and Changes to the Safe Harbor Act, as well as the status of negotiations over the General Data Protection Regulations. Learn the reasonable measures to take in case of a breach, as well as best practices for advising your board and executives. Discover the latest challenges in employment law, as well as ethical dilemmas.

 

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

This CLE presentation will take place Friday, January 22, 2016, in the CLE Large Classroom. Click here to register for the live program and click here to register for the webcast, or call (303) 860-0608.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: CDMP3 audioVideo OnDemand.

Comment Period Open for Proposed Amendments to ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4

The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has developed proposed amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The Standing Committee has proposed the addition of a subsection (g) to Model Rule 8.4 to address discrimination in the practice of law, and a revision to the comments to explain the purpose of new subsection (g):

Rule 8.4: Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

***

(g) in conduct related to the practice of law, harass or knowingly discriminate against persons on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status.

 

Comment [3] Paragraph (g) applies to conduct related to a lawyer’s practice of law, including the operation and management of a law firm or law practice. It does not apply to conduct unrelated to the practice of law or conduct protected by the First Amendment. Harassment or discrimination that violates paragraph (g) undermines confidence in the legal profession and our legal system. Paragraph (g) does not prohibit lawyers from referring to any particular status or group when such references are material and relevant to factual or legal issues or arguments in a representation. Although lawyers should be mindful of their professional obligations under Rule 6.1 to provide legal services to those unable to pay, as well as the obligations attendant to accepting a court appointment under Rule 6.2, a lawyer is usually not required to represent any specific person or entity. Paragraph (g) does not alter the circumstances stated in Rule 1.16 under which a lawyer is required or permitted to withdraw from or decline to accept a representation. A lawyer who, in the course of representing a client, knowingly manifests by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, violates paragraph (d) when such actions are prejudicial to the administration of justice. Legitimate advocacy respecting the foregoing factors does not violate paragraph (d). A trial judge’s finding that peremptory challenges were exercised on a discriminatory basis does not alone establish a violation of this rule.

The Standing Committee also issued a memorandum explaining the origin of the amendments, available here. The memorandum explains that although the comments to the Model Rules have addressed discrimination in the practice of law for many years, the Committee thought it important to add the prohibition to the black letter portion of the Model Rules in order to authoritatively prohibit discrimination. As the ABA Young Lawyers Division eloquently explained, “There is a need for a cultural shift in understanding the inherent integrity of people regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability, to be captured in the rules of professional conduct. This is true because the Model Rules are supposed to ensure the integrity of the legal profession.”

The Standing Committee invites comments on the draft proposal, both in writing and at its public hearing from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 7, 2016, at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, 3rd Floor, South Tower, Balboa & Mission Hills Meeting Rooms, San Diego, CA. Persons wishing to speak should register by sending an email to abamodelruleamend@americanbar.org by January 29, 2016. Speakers should be prepared to speak for four to five minutes and then take questions from the Committee, and there may not be time to accommodate all interested speakers. Comments may be submitted in writing as well to the above email address by March 11, 2016. Comments will be made publicly available.

For more information about the proposed Model Rule change, click here.

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.