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Showing 10 posts from August 2014.

Federal and State Consumer Protection Agencies sue Law Firms

The feds, along with attorneys general from 15 states, have recently filed more than three dozen lawsuits against law firms for running illegal foreclosure relief scams. “Operation Mis-Modification,” as it has been dubbed, is being led by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). The suits allege that the defendant lawyers charged illegal advance fees for services and falsely promised to prevent foreclosures or renegotiate troubled mortgages. More ›

Look Before tou Friend: New York State Bar Association Issues Social Media Ethics Guidelines

Times, they are a changin’, particularly in the social media area, where privacy is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as people voluntarily divulge information about themselves in a variety of ways. In today’s day and age, hardly a day goes by without a new app, new website or new platform being introduced that allows people to share everything from photos of cats, videos of their children dancing to songs, and opinions on every topic imaginable.  Thanks to social media, lawyers now have unprecedented advertising capabilities as well as the ability to research potential clients, adversaries, witnesses and jurors. With great power, however, comes great responsibility, and in taking advantage of social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, lawyers must not only be cognizant of the various ways that social media sites function, but courts and bar associations across the country are imposing upon lawyers the obligation to be aware of the various ethical rules implicated through use of social media.  More ›

LFP Alert — Plaintiff's Failure to have Expert Define the Standard of Care was Fatal to Claim

In Jing Hong Song v. Collins, ___ A.3d ___, 2014 WL 3919754 (Conn. 2014), the appellate court affirmed a jury verdict in favor of the defendant in a legal malpractice action on the basis that the plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care, either directly or indirectly, through the testimony of the experts in the case. More ›

Voluntary Withdrawal Without a Specific fee Agreement can be Costly

In Winston v. Guelzow, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals considered how attorneys should share contingency fees after the termination of their joint law practice. Winston and Guelzow shared a personal injury practice for a few years. Guelzow decided to end the joint practice, and Winston agreed.

Winston sent to the 13 remaining clients a letter informing them of their options in representation, and recommending that the clients remain with Guelzow. The clients all followed the recommendation. Although there was a verbal agreement on fee sharing during the firm's operation, Winston and Guelzow had no contract for dividing the contingency fees after the separation. When the firm separated and the cases resolved, Guelzow reimbursed Winston for the costs he advanced. Winston sued, seeking a share of the contingency fees from the 13 clients. More ›

Five Law Firm Malpractice Cases Attys Need to Know

Ronald E. Mallen, a partner in Hinshaw's Lawyers for the Profession® group, was quoted in a Law360 article titled, "5 Law Firm Malpractice Cases Attys Need To Know." The article discusses five recent cases that attorneys should have on their radar to avoid finding themselves in similar situations. If you have a Law360 subscription, I recommend checking it out. Law360 offers free trials for those who are not yet subscribers. 

Avoiding Ethics Problems with Client's Money – IOLTA is your Friend not your Banker

For lawyers, money in the door isn't really money in your door. This is because the money clients send you is still the client's money until you earn it. Lawyers create trouble for themselves by mingling a client's money with the lawyer's money. For a moment, consider the issue from the client's perspective... how can I be confident that my lawyer is keeping my money safe? (See model rule 1.15 – Safekeeping of Client Property) Answer: put the client's money in an account that is separate from the account holding the lawyer's money. More ›

You've been beefed to the bar for no good reason — Now What?!

You receive word from The Bar that you've been accused of wrongdoing by your ungrateful, unreasonable client or some crazy member of the public, and The Bar wants your response to the accusations. If your first reaction is anger and outrage, you would not be the first lawyer to react that way. But here's the point: Don't respond to charges of unprofessional conduct with conduct that is unprofessional!  In other words, there are places to vent your anger and outrage, but your response to The Bar isn't one of them. Consider these two points. More ›

Wisconsin Supreme Court Denies Petition to Inform Public of Disciplinary Investigations

On June 24, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered a petition from the state's Office of Lawyer Regulation ("OLR") to create a rule that would have permitted the OLR to disclose the existence of a formal investigation into an attorney's possible misconduct or medical incapacity when such disclosure is required to protect the public. At present Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 22.40 requires the OLR to maintain the confidentiality of pending disciplinary investigations.

According to the OLR, a small number of grievances involve a situation where the subject lawyer's continued practice, in the OLR's opinion, presents a possibility of harm to unsuspecting individuals. Of course, the issue here is the delicate balance between the public's right to promptly be informed of attorney misconduct and the accused attorney's right to protection from disclosure of non-meritorious grievances.

After a full discussion of the issue, the Court ultimately denied the petition on a 4-3 vote. With two of seven members of the Court in favor of permitting amendments to the suggested rule, and one voting against denial of the current petition, this possible change is only mostly dead.

“If I report that, won’t my insurance premiums go up?”

Blum Collins, LLP v. NCG Professional Risks, Ltd. (unpublished)

Summary judgment was granted to an insurer in insurance bad faith litigation for an attorney’s failure to disclose in an application for a professional liability insurance policy a potential claim for which the attorney had signed a tolling agreement with a former client from a prior firm. More ›

LFP Alert — Insurer Ordered to Produce Communications With its Counsel Regarding Settlement of Bad Faith Claim, Which Led to Legal Malpractice Action Against Defense Counsel

Imperial Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Warman, U.S. Dist Ct., N.D.Okla., 2014 WL 3671327 (2014)

In a legal malpractice action filed by an insurer against defense counsel it retained to defend an underlying auto accident case, which then led to a bad faith claim against the insurer which was settled, the district court ordered the insurer to produce all communications with its attorneys regarding the bad faith case, finding that the insurer placed such communications at issue by suing defense counsel for malpractice.  More ›