July 15, 2018

Rule Changes Adopt Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program, Amend Public Access and Water Court Rules

The Colorado Supreme Court has issued three new rule changes that have recently been released by the Colorado State Judicial Branch.

Rule Change 2018(08) amends Rules 11, 12, and 13 of the Uniform Local Rules for All State Water Court Divisions. Rule 11 was amended by the addition of a comment to specify that January 1, 2018, changes to the rule require expert witness disclosures to be made earlier than were previously required. Rule 12, “Procedure Regarding Decennial Abandonment Lists,” is new and sets forth specifications for publication and protest of decennial abandonment lists. Rule 13 was unchanged except to be renumbered; formerly, it was Rule 12.

Rule Change 2018(09) amends Rule 2 of Chapter 38 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, “Public Access to Information and Records.” Rule 2, “Public Access to Administrative Records of the Judicial Branch,” had minor amendments in sections 1 and 2. Section 3 of the rule dealing with exceptions and limitations on access to records had several amendments. The changes to Section 4 were relatively minor, and Section 5 was unchanged.

Rule Change 2018(10) adds Rule 256, “The Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program,” to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 256 establishes the Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program and sets forth guidelines and definitions for compliance with the program. The rule specifies that lawyers who utilize the program will be subject to confidentiality and immunity.

For a complete list of the Colorado Supreme Court’s adopted and proposed rule changes, click here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Attorney Violated Colo. RPC 1.8(a)(3) by Not Obtaining Informed Consent for Business Transaction

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In the Matter of James C. Wollrab on Monday, June 25, 2018.

Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct—Attorney Discipline—Colo. RPC 1.8—Colo. RPC 4.2.

In this attorney discipline proceeding, the supreme court was confronted with questions as to what Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8 and 4.2 require of an attorney who enters into a business relationship with his client. The court concluded that the attorney in this case violated Rule 1.8(a)(1) when he signed a lease with his client’s company without complying with any of Rule 1.8(a)’s prophylactic requirements. The attorney also violated Rule 1.8(a)(3) when he entered into an option agreement with his client without obtaining his client’s informed, written consent to his role in the deal. However, because the attorney had the implied consent of his client’s independent counsel for the purposes of the option agreement, he did not violate Rule 1.8(a)(1) or (2) or Rule 4.2 in that transaction. The court remanded the case to the hearing board for determination of the appropriate sanction in light of its conclusions.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Mandatory Continuing Legal and Judicial Education Age Requirements Changing July 1, 2018

On March 15, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted changes to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure affecting mandatory continuing legal and judicial education. One of the changes that will have the broadest application is a change to the age requirements for mandatory continuing legal and  judicial education.

The current rules specify that attorneys who attain the age of 65 years are no longer required to obtain or track CLE credits. The rule change extends that age to 72 years, and attorneys who are currently exempt from tracking CLE credits due to their age will once again be required to comply with CLE reporting requirements until they attain 72 years of age.

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel released a helpful guide on how to proceed if you are between the ages of 65 and 72 years:

How will this work?

If you are currently exempt from mandatory CLE based on your age and are not yet 72 years old, you will again become subject to the requirements and your compliance period begins this year and ends December 31, 2021. For those of you who will be turning 65 this year or in 2019 and have not yet become exempt, your compliance period will automatically be extended to December 31, 2021. Once you turn age 72, you will again become exempt from the CLE requirements.

What happens if you turn age 72 before December 31, 2021?

You will become exempt during your first re-entry compliance period, and therefore it is up to you to what extent you wish to enter your CLE activities on your official transcript. Additionally, pursuant to the new rule, even once you become exempt, you will continue to be able to enter your CLE activities on your official transcript. This will allow you to continue to track your CLE, even though not required, for your own use. The Office of Continuing Legal and Judicial Education will be making changes to your CLE record over the next few months and will be ready for the July 1, 2018 effective date, so that you may begin entering your CLE credits online at that time.

CBA-CLE Classic Pass

CBA-CLE has developed a “Classic Pass” geared exclusively toward attorneys who were previously exempt from CLE reporting requirements. The Classic Pass is a subscription service that will allow attorneys to fulfill their CLE requirements for a reasonable price. For more information about the Classic Pass or to order your subscription, please contact Mary Dilworth at mdilworth@cobar.org.

Colorado Supreme Court: Formerly Secretary of State Properly Subject to Jurisdiction of Independent Ethics Commission

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gessler v. Smith on Monday, June 4, 2018.

Amendment 41—Independent Ethics Commission—Jurisdiction.

The supreme court considered whether Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission (the IEC) had jurisdiction pursuant to article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution to hear a complaint based on allegations that then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler (the Secretary) breached the public trust by using money from his statutorily provided discretionary fund for partisan and personal purposes. The IEC investigated the complaint, held an evidentiary hearing, and determined that the Secretary’s conduct breached the public trust. The Secretary sought judicial review of the IEC’s ruling, arguing that the IEC lacked jurisdiction over the case, the relevant jurisdictional language must be narrowly construed to avoid unconstitutional vagueness, and the IEC violated his procedural due process rights. Both the district court and the court of appeals affirmed the IEC’s ruling.

The court held that relevant jurisdictional language in Colo. Const. art. XXIX, § 5 authorizes the IEC to hear complaints involving ethical standards of conduct relating to activities that could allow covered individuals, including elected officials, to improperly benefit financially from their public employment. The court further held that C.R.S. § 24-18-103 is one such ethical standard of conduct. This provision establishes that the holding of public office or employment is a public trust, and that a public official “shall carry out his duties for the benefit of the people of the state.” Because the allegations against the Secretary clearly implicated this standard, the court concluded that the complaint fell within the IEC’s jurisdiction and rejected the Secretary’s jurisdictional and vagueness challenges. Additionally, the court rejected the Secretary’s procedural due process claim because he failed to demonstrate that he suffered any prejudice as a result of the alleged violation.

The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Special Prosecutor Unnecessary for Post-Trial Proceeding

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Ehrnstein on Monday, May 21, 2018.

Special Prosecutors—Colo. RPC 3.7—Post-Trial Proceedings.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court reviewed the trial court’s order appointing a special prosecutor for the purpose of litigating defendant’s post-trial motion for a new trial. In his motion, defendant alleged that the prosecution had improperly instructed a witness to evade a defense subpoena. The trial court concluded that the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct compelled it to appoint a special prosecutor for the purposes of the hearing on this motion because, subject to exceptions not pertinent here, Colo. RPC 3.7 prohibits an attorney from acting as both an advocate and a witness during the same proceeding.

The court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in appointing a special prosecutor because that court misapplied the law when it found that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor in the circumstances present here. Specifically, the rule serves to prevent prejudice that arises from jury confusion in cases in which an attorney serves as both counsel and witness. Because this proceeding arose in the context of a post-trial motion, that concern is not implicated.

The court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded this case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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.

 

Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board Opinion Issued Regarding Memorial Fundraiser for Judge’s Late Son

The Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board issued C.J.E.A.B. Opinion 2018-01 on January 29, 2018. The opinion addresses whether a judge can help plan, play in, and invite others to play in a golf tournament designed to raise funds for an endowed scholarship honoring the judge’s late son if the judge’s name and title are not used to promote the tournament. The C.J.E.A.B. determined that the tournament may bear the name of the judge’s late son, and may invite family friends, lawyers, non-lawyers, and others to play in the tournament. The judge may also help plan the tournament, personally solicit family members and judges not under the judge’s supervision or appellate authority to participate in the tournament, and attend and play in the tournament.

For the complete text of C.J.E.A.B. Opinion 2018-01, click here. For all of the Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board’s opinions, click here.

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.

Colorado Supreme Court: Failure to Pay Funds to Third Party Constituted Knowing Conversion by Attorney

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In the Matter of Kleinsmith on Monday, October 30, 2017.

Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct—Attorney Discipline—Conversion—Due Process—Equal Protection.

This attorney disciplinary proceeding required the supreme court to determine whether an attorney commits knowing conversion, in violation of Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) 1.15A and 8.4(c), when he bills a client for services performed by a third party and then uses for his own purposes the client funds he received that were intended to pay for the third party’s services. This proceeding further required the court to determine whether the Presiding Disciplinary Judge’s reading of the Rules violated the attorney’s rights to due process and equal protection. The court concluded that in the circumstances presented here, the attorney’s actions constituted knowing conversion in violation of the Rules and that the Presiding Disciplinary Judge’s construction of the Rules to reach the same result did not violate any of the attorney’s constitutional rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the orders of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and the hearing board, including the order disbarring the attorney from the practice of law.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.