May 23, 2018

Jessica Yates Appointed as New Regulation Counsel in Light of Jim Coyle’s Retirement

On Monday, April 30, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court announced its appointment of Jessica Yates as Regulation Counsel at the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Yates will replace current Regulation Counsel Jim Coyle, who is retiring on June 30, 2018. Jim has been with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel for 28 years, including five years as Regulation Counsel.

Yates is currently a partner at Snell & Wilmer, LLP, where she concentrates her practice in litigation and appeals in both federal and state courts, as well as business issues and negotiations. She has experience in commercial disputes, consumer lending litigation for institutional clients, condemnation/eminent domain, contract negotiations, government procurement and private contract disputes, environmental law, real estate and construction litigation, special districts/local government and insurance coverage disputes. She is also head of Snell & Wilmer’s Ethics Committee, in which capacity she is responsible for ethics compliance and providing guidance to attorneys on matters involving ethics and professional responsibility. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She also received an M.A. degree at the University of York in England.

For more information about the appointment, click here.

Prison for Breach of Duties of Candor?!

By Karen A. Hammer, Esq., LL.M.
Hammer-Law[1]

The legal world is complicated. Our law practices vary greatly, as do our personalities and political interests.

But many lawyers can agree on one goal — avoid prison.

Alex Van Der Zwaan Gets Thirty Days

Dutch solicitor Alex R. van der Zwaan (English Solicitors Regulation Authority I.D. 433369) is the first person sentenced in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, receiving thirty days of incarceration. To be clear, Mr. van der Zwaan has not, at least as far as has been publicly disclosed, been disciplined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that controls his license. See http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/person/7115/alex-rolf-van-der-zwaan.

The sentencing memorandum from the United States case brought against Mr. van der Zwaan (United States v. van der Zwaan, 1:18-cr-00031-ABJ (D. D.C. 2018)) is an interesting and quick read. If you’re curious, look here: https://bit.ly/2Hb5lQk. (Mr. van der Zwaan’s proposed Sentencing Memorandum can be found here: https://bit.ly/2q4recI.)

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

The prosecution uses language that is similar to that used in disciplinary sanction proceedings, referring to “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors. If you’re not yet familiar with the factors that are used to determine the proper levels of discipline for lawyers’ violations of rules of professional conduct, you may be interested in the ABA Standards for Imposing Sanctions (https://bit.ly/2jCsuTR). These Standards describe aggravating and mitigating factors.

One interesting “aggravating” factor in Mr. van der Zwaan’s sentence to a 30-day term was that the “professional bar rightly expected candor” from him. Sentencing Memo at 5. This is a reminder of a frequently overlooked part of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that allows these Rules to be used as standards that can be applied outside of the context of attorney discipline. See, e.g., Colo. RPC Scope [20] (“a lawyer’s violation of a Rule may be evidence of breach of the applicable standard of conduct”), available at http://www.cobar.org/For-Members/Opinions-Rules-Statutes/Rules-of-Professional-Conduct/Preamble-and-Scope.

But Still, Prison for the Duty of Candor?

Some might ask how Special Counsel Mueller could reasonably expect Mr. van der Zwaan to have a duty of candor during the investigation that was being conducted. The formal charge made against Mr. van der Zwaan was a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) — making a false statement in an investigation within the jurisdiction of the executive branch. Van der Zwaan Doc. 1 (Feb. 16, 2018) at 1.

Section 1001 explicitly excludes parties and their counsel from criminal prosecution thereunder. 18 U.S.C. § 1001(b). He was a solicitor in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP. So, how did Mr. van der Zwaan get charged with a violation of § 1001?

Mr. van der Zwaan was neither a party nor counsel to a party when he made his false statements to the Special Counsel’s Office. Mr. van der Zwaan’s false statements resulted in his becoming a party to a criminal case. See https://bit.ly/2JjYDrT. He admitted that he received warning that “intentional false statements” by him during the investigation could lead to criminal charges. Van der Zwaan Doc. 9, ¶ 3 at 2, https://bit.ly/2GCETxM.

To be clear, the Sentencing Memorandum did not refer to any of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which may not (or may) apply to Mr. van der Zwaan absent other facts not referred to here. Mr. van der Zwaan is licensed to practice in England, and the Sentencing Memorandum does not directly state whether the England’s Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct applies to false statements he made while being questioned in the District of Columbia by the Special Counsel’s Office.

But this statement that the “bar” may expect “candor” from lawyers is an example of an important part of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that impose certain standards on lawyers even when they are not practicing law. See, e.g., Colo. RPC 8.4 (imposing a variety of standards, including the prohibition of dishonest conduct and of conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice), available at http://www.cobar.org/For-Members/Opinions-Rules-Statutes/Rules-of-Professional-Conduct/Rule-84-Misconduct.

If you haven’t reviewed Rule 8.4 in a while, Mr. van der Zwaan’s recent sentence of incarceration may pique your curiosity enough to take a look.  Our memory of the Rules and the fairly specific standards of conduct they impose on us as lawyers fades over time, yet our obligations do not.

Learn from Others

I’m a big believer in learning from the mistakes of others. Unfortunately for Mr. van der Zwaan, his misconduct provided the current lesson that inspired me to renew my own understanding of the duties of candor and how they apply in situations that some lawyers might not anticipate.

Some lawyers incorrectly continue to believe that their only duties are to their clients.

Be proactive — familiarize yourself with the rules and standards Mr. van der Zwaan has teed up for us all.


[1] A version of this article was originally published in Law Week Colorado on April 9, 2018, primarily omitting citations and hyperlinks, available at http://lawweekcolorado.com/2018/04/prison-breach-duties-candor/.

 

Proactively Manage the Financial Risks of Ethics Violations

By Karen A. Hammer, Esq., LL.M.[1]

Many business people say, “if you can’t work harder, then work smarter.” They focus on increasing profitability by either increasing revenue (while holding down costs) or decreasing costs (even when revenues are level). Even if you cannot increase your gross revenue, you can most likely decrease costs by proactively managing foreseeable risks.

OARC’s Lawyer Self-Assessment Program provides tools to help lawyers work smarter by anticipating and managing risk.

Why I’m a Fan of Self-assessment

When fielding calls for the Colorado Bar Association’s Ethics Hotline, I talk to some lawyers who don’t know how to evaluate and manage ethics risks. Attendees at ethics CLE I teach sometimes incorrectly assume ethics rules are merely “aspirational.” Those lawyers who treat ethics rules as “aspirational” still face ethics risks, but are blind to opportunities to manage those risks.

These misunderstandings exist among all experience levels and across practice areas.

That’s why I enthusiastically answered Attorney Regulation Counsel Jim Coyle’s request to join a Supreme Court subcommittee on proactively managing ethics risks. In late October 2017, Colorado’s OARC rolled out the first-in-the-nation ethics self-assessment program for lawyers to voluntarily and confidentially evaluate risks.

Understanding Risk

Transactional lawyers often help clients manage risk – parties voluntarily apportion certain risks contractually. Litigators routinely help their clients influence who bears the cost when the risk of harm has “blossomed” into actual or perceived damage to private or public interests protected by law.

Lawyers traditionally consider themselves the ones who give advice, but maybe we could learn from the impact on our clients – and on our colleagues – of inadequate risk management.

What is Risk Management?

Some learned as youngsters to look both ways before crossing the street so that we don’t walk into oncoming traffic. That may have been our first risk management lesson.

OARC Self-Assessment Program

The self-assessment tool identifies ten select areas where lawyers can manage the risks of the substantive and practical aspects of the business of law:

  1. Developing competent practices
  2. Communicating in an effective, timely, professional manner
  3. Ensuring the confidentiality requirements are met
  4. Avoiding conflicts of interest
  5. File management, security, and retention
  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. Access to justice and client development
  10. Wellness and inclusivity

Each module includes thought-provoking questions and resources to help us work smarter. After completion of each online module, the lawyer can receive an analytical report.

Confidentiality

OARC actively designed the tool so that lawyers can honestly participate in self-assessments without revealing to others weak spots in their practice or ethics compliance. More information is available online.

Liability Insurance is Not the Only Risk Management Tool

Violations of the external standards imposed on us as lawyers and as civilians can be expensive and cause reputational damage. To manage that risk, many lawyers purchase liability insurance.

If you have professional liability coverage, check your policy to determine the size of your deductible for your defense. Now make a list of the things you could spend your deductible amount on that would be more rewarding, interesting, or satisfying than defending against risks that could have been proactively managed and/or mitigated.

Read your policy thoroughly to determine other essential terms. For example, your policy may not cover illegal acts.

Lawyers should know better than anyone how much time goes into defense against claims – that time could be used for more productive or enjoyable purposes. Ultimately, wouldn’t you rather make proactive decisions about where you spend your time and money?

One Example

Here’s a specific self-assessment example from the Competent Practice Working Group (Cori Peterson (Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge), David Wollins (David H. Wollins, P.C.) and me).

Many competence questions help lawyers identify weaknesses and strengths in our own substantive areas of practice. But the self-assessment also prompts lawyers to identify circumstances we might not otherwise anticipate that could undermine competence.

Competence Objective 1 is “Ensure you have the legal knowledge and education to handle all new matters.” That seems straightforward at first blush.

Then the tool provides a series of best practices for you to consider, including Best Practice 1.3: “Assess whether you are familiar with the factual context and subject matter of cases you take” (emphasis added).

After each objective, the online tool refers to some relevant Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. For competence Objective 1, the tool also cites to “In re Shipley, 135 S. Ct. 1589-90 (2015) (a lawyer cannot delegate the duty of competence to a client).”

Going deeper, Objective 3 assesses whether you have the necessary resources to competently handle matters. Best Practice 3.5 prompts you to “Ensure your fees are adequate to support developing both the factual bases and the legal aspects of the matters you undertake.” You are then referred to “C.R.C.P. 11 (‘the signature of an attorney constitutes a certificate that he has read the pleading; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry, is well-grounded in fact . . . .’).”

Rule 11 violations create financial risks; but, even without Rule 11 sanctions, ethics rules make false Rule 11 certifications potential discipline risks. Similarly, transactional lawyers also face external standards of care, such as securities laws governing legal opinions lawyers provide to investors and financial rating agencies to evaluate a potential investment. Insufficient due diligence creates direct financial risk under securities laws, and indirect financial risks from the professional disciplinary process.

OARC investigations can be triggered by request. Investigations can be uncomfortable, time-consuming, and potentially expensive, regardless of whether discipline follows.

Unlikely? Remember Boulder’s 1,000-year rain? In retrospect, well-maintained sump pumps weren’t “aspirational.”

Your Annual Check-up

OARC’s self-assessment is like your annual physical to gauge your medical condition or the financial snapshot your annual taxes provide. Why not click on the self-assessment link while renewing your annual attorney registration? http://coloradosupremecourt.com/AboutUs/LawyerSelfAssessmentProgram.asp

Upcoming CLE

On March 8, 2018, the Boulder County Bar Association will host its first CLE on OARC’s Lawyer Self-Assessment Program, “Sharpen Up: The Lawyer Self-Assessment.” For more information, click here.[2]

CBA-CLE hosted a program on the OARC’s Proactive Management-Based Program in December, “Proactive Practices: Maintaining Competence and Wellness in the Practice of Law.” To order the homestudy, click here: Video OnDemandMP3 Audio Download.


[1] Thanks to fellow Proactive Management-Based Program subcommittee member, Barbara K. Brown, Ph.D., for her insightful comments on this article.

[2] This article was updated on February 21, 2018 from the version initially published in the Boulder County Bar Association February e-newsletter to reflect more detailed information on the March 8, 2018 CLE.

 

Karen Hammer is the principal of Hammer-Law. Hammer is a member of the Boulder County Bar Association. She can be reached at hammer@hammer-law.comHammer has handled over two billion dollars of complex financial transactions involving businesses, government agencies, and quasi-governmental entities. She also does related types of litigation. A member of the CBA’s Professionalism Coordinating Council, Hammer is also co-Secretary of the CBA’s Ethics Committee. Hammer is a Hearing Panel board member for attorney discipline cases. She was Chair of the D.C. Bar’s Real Estate, Housing, and Land Use Section and an appointee to the White House and Congressional Commission on Character Building in Education.

 

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.

 

CLELogo

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