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professional man lost 2Some time ago, I posted about and how important that was, particularly during an economic downturn. Well now that things have supposedly picked up and are coming up rose petals, client selection remains as important as ever. It’s always the threshold consideration.

About 7 years ago, I became acquainted with the precepts of litigator and writer Dan Hull. I hadn’t thought of Hull in a long time. Nor had I given much thought to his “12 Rules of Client Service” or his first rule until the other day after I’d met with a new client for the first time.

I spent more time than initially anticipated with this client. And it was a good thing. I truly enjoyed our preliminary meeting and getting to know the client first — well before getting into details and diagnosis.

You have to like your client.

On the way back to my office, I thought of Hull’s blog “What About Clients?” It’s been around a long time. Last time I checked, the blog was still among the most popular on the Web.

Granted, he has a corporate client orientation. But all the same I strongly believed then and now that his client service rules are essential reading for lawyers young and old. They’re as timely today as when he posted them in 2005.

The first rule.

But of all Hull’s rules, the one that’s always resonated is his first one: “Represent only clients you like.” Probably it’s because long before I ever heard of Hull, it was the goal I’d written in my business plan — the one I wanted guiding my practice.

Was it a pipe dream? Is such representation even doable? The answer is yes — but it’s not easy. Sure under attorney ethics rules, there’s a helpful albeit qualified comment that says under Rule 6.2. “A lawyer ordinarily is not obliged to accept a client whose character or cause the lawyer regards as repugnant.”  See also Scott Laufenberg’s excellent essay, “Representing Repugnant Clients Every Lawyer’s Choice?”

So when I came across Hull’s blog in 2007, I got what he was saying. Years before, matters had also crystallized further after I’d attended a bankruptcy for the non-bankruptcy lawyer continuing education program. That program was supposedly for non-bankruptcy practitioners but almost all the attendees in the room were bankruptcy lawyers. It seemed everybody knew everybody else — like old home week. But what struck me that day wasn’t the course content.

http://www.rottenecards.com/ecards/Rottenecards_84464871_k4nh9wybb9.pngIt was that some of the lawyers in that room didn’t like their clients. These lawyers spent their break time loudly commiserating about their clients.

Lest anyone think I was casting aspersions on my colleagues in the bankruptcy bar, the answer is no. Regardless of practice area, we face the same challenges. I could’ve just as easily heard the same gripes at an employment lawyers conference or a criminal defense or family law program.

And it wasn’t like I’d been trying to overhear any conversations. Quite the opposite. I felt like the schoolboy in the confessional who covers his ears to not overhear a fellow sinner’s too loud admissions of sin in the confessional booth.

It didn’t matter if I was standing out of normal earshot or sitting several rows away. These lawyers spoke loud enough about their unlikable clients to have been overheard by the occupants in the next room. Then and there, I resolved all the more to do my best to avoid representing clients I didn’t like.

Ethics.

What I especially liked about Hull’s client service rules was that he placed them in an ethical and quality service-oriented framework. Lawyers owe their clients “some of the highest personal, professional and business duties imaginable,” he wrote. If you don’t like your client — fire him or her “as soon as you ethically and practically can.” And then there was the money quote, “You will not do good work very long for a client or customer you do not like.”

He sets a high bar. But always, there’s the reality check. When I meet new lawyers, many forced into solo practice — not by choice but by circumstance, I repeatedly find a disconcerting urgency to take on all comers. Facing crushing school loan debts and personal needs, there’s a sense of no boundaries. If a client’s paying, no legal work can be turned down. No matter the ethical duty of competence.

And as for wanting to like your clients, are you kidding? So long as a client has funds to pay for representation — what’s there not to like? Surely in hard-pressed economic situations, Hull’s first rule has to be out-of-step? I like to think not.

 

Admittedly, turning down a paying client even one that comes across like an acre of garlic isn’t easy when ‘baby needs new shoes.’ The cold truth is that faced with life necessities or payroll or rent, the first rule is often the first to go.

In those circumstances, doing what’s right is not only not easy but becomes a question of discretionary aspiration. It’s more longing than loftiness; more hunger than high-mindedness.

But perhaps a work-in-progress goal is still better than the alternative. The harder truth about lawyering is that our choices always catch up with us anyway. In the end, as the late Maya Angelou said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

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Photo Credits: Dreamers by piotr at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;Day 26, by Luciano Belviso at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.

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Celia Cruz – “Reina De La Música Latina”

Early Saturday morning I was catching up on my reading while listening to “Queen of Latin Music” Celia Cruz, lawyer-turned-salsero Rubén Blades and soulful Sam Smith’s – “In The Lonely Hour.” I like mixing my music. Ditto my casual reading.

So my reading stack was pretty disconnected with magazines, news clippings, newspapers and digital items featuring book and movie reviews, history, sociopolitical commentaries, sports notes and an outrageous report about juvenile truants in court being jailed without assistance of counsel. (I’ll be blogging about that one later).

One item, though, also drew my interest. It concerned a just-released survey suggesting lawyers ought to be marketing with online review sites. More specifically, the report referred to “the online urban guide” Yelp as supposedly “the most commonly used site to search for attorney reviews online, with 58 percent of [the] respondents saying it is the first place they turn.” The study also claimed that for 83 percent of respondents, online reviews were the first step taken by would-be clients. Who knew?

Burritos not barristers.

What I do know is that I like Yelp for hunting burritos not barristers. Help me get a bagel, a beignet or some bouillabaisse. Or how about finding me a bowlful of cocido, pho or curry when I’m traveling. But lawyers?

I haven’t seen this study’s metrics, methodology or ‘motivation.’ So I’m skeptical.

And since anecdotally and experientially, I haven’t seen it happening, I’m having trouble — especially accepting the inference that all these consumer are allegedly posting reviews about lawyers, which in turn is helping other consumers find legal counsel.

While it’s true that consumers use the Internet to find legal services, consumers aren’t generating a whole lot of online reviews about lawyers. Maybe it’s because it’s not like going out for burgers and brews. Not many folks can afford to hire legal representation. In spite of the historic glut of lawyers, the high cost of legal services has nonetheless resulted in more and more litigants doing without.

So I don’t know who’s supposedly posting all those few and far-between reviews the study says the public’s relying on. Granted, as one marketing researcher at the University of Utah’s School of Business contends, perhaps you don’t need a lot of online buzz. It’s the quality of the online sentiment that’s more important than the quantity of the conversations when it comes to driving customers to your door. Dr. Shyam Gopinath and his research co-authors suggest “that, in our data, ‘what people say’ is more important than ‘how much people say.'”

Woman in orange sunglasses uid 1All the same, given the paucity of online word of mouth about lawyers, I doubt you’ll see a time where like those ‘Elite’ Yelp restaurant reviewers, people dissing or raving about their lawyers will be feted at parties and treated “like royalty.”

Online legal reviews.

According to “How Prospective Clients Use Online Legal Reviews,” the randomly sampled 385 adults in the U.S. generated “385 unique responses to each of nine questions” for a “total of 3,465 respondents.” Say what?

Map of USA with state names 2.svg

To the everyday Joe, 385 adults is an infinitesimal number when there are an estimated 243,419,206 adults in the U.S. The findings then, are a real leap when the sample represents .00015816336201507453% of 243,419,206. But since statisticians assert this is a sufficiently sizable sampling to make the survey valid, I’ll just have to choke down my incredulity.

Here were the key findings from Software Advice, a consulting firm which according to their website, “helps buyers choose the right software. As a trusted resource, our website offers detailed reviews, comparisons and research to assist organizations in finding products that best fit their current and future needs.”

“1. Yelp is the most popular and trusted website for legal reviews.

“2. The most important information to prospective clients is quality of service and years of legal experience.

“3. Seventy percent of prospective clients would travel further to see an attorney with better online reviews.”

I don’t have a handle on how many lawyers currently rely on web-based business referral and review sites like Avvo, Yelp or the stodgy old school, Martindale-Hubbell. Lord knows they’re out there trolling for lawyer business.

And to some extent, lawyers should pay attention to what’s said about them online. But it’s a touchy proposition, especially when a lawyer feels compelled to respond to a negative review posted by a former client. Unlike other business owners who sue reviewers, lawyers may find that option a no-win proposition.

woman giving thumbs up 3 L uidWhat reviews?

But as to my further thoughts about the survey, I’m hypothesizing not many lawyers are marketing through Yelp — not unless they’re also serving chowder with their counsel. Save for emerging social media savvy Millenials, lawyers as a class are rarely early adopters. If there’s gonna be a digital technology party, most will be late.

From my own admittedly unscientific Yelp search of “lawyers,” for example, in the Phoenix, AZ market, very few had any client reviews. Indeed, the Phoenix lawyer with the most reviews had 8. And even in the bigger metropolis of Los Angeles, CA, the “most reviewed” lawyer in Downtown Los Angeles garnered a mere 93 reviews. The “most reviewed” lawyer in San Francisco’s Civic Center had 53 reviews and in Cleveland, OH, of the Yelp lawyers listed, all were tied with a whopping one review each. One San Diego, CA firm had over 200 reviews — but the next two highest were at 47 and 34 reviews.

And unfortunately, among all those scant reviews, some were negative. When it comes to lawyers, I disagree with Brendan Behan that “All publicity is good, except an obituary notice.”

The Rules.

People 1857To be fair, not all lawyers are Luddites. Some are just risk-adverse. They may be reluctant to run afoul of ethical rules governing how they advertise. After all, client recommendations are analogous to testimonials and so lawyers can’t have clients violate or attempt to violate Ethical Rule 8.4 (a) by knowingly assisting their clients to say things they aren’t allowed to say — like making false or misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

And then there’s that other burden that requires lawyers to monitor their social networks and blogs for reviews and recommendations that may need to be revised or deleted. In Virginia, for instance, “the lawyer cannot permit to remain on his LinkedIn page a client recommendation that says the lawyer is the “best personal injury lawyer in town” because it is a comparative statement that cannot be factually substantiated. Rule 7.1(a)(3).”

From my own sorry experiences, I’ve also developed my own ‘rules’ for finding restaurants not lawyers on Yelp. Unless I’m in the middle of Smallville, USA where you won’t find 100 residents let alone 100 reviewers, I don’t pick a restaurant with less than 100 reviews. This takes out the possibility the restaurateur may have tried gaming the system by having biased friends and family stack the deck with glowing reviews.

boy in coat and hat sticking tongue outReviews should also be recent. And hopefully, substantive — not just whining because the waiter didn’t make eye contact, smile enough or sympathize about your troubling hangnail. Last, I also don’t pick restaurants with less than 4 stars.

And yet despite my ‘rules,’ I’ve still been burned — more than once, especially in the bad dining town where I live.

Yet come to think about it, if my Yelp restaurant rules were ever applied to picking lawyers, consumers would find it near impossible to find one.

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Photo Credits: Celia Cruz, Reina De La Música Latina, by Tribes of the World at Flickr via Creative Commons-required attribution; I Heart Yelp by Ewen Roberts at Flickr via Creative Commons- required attribution; Map of USA with state names, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; 031207_16231.jpg 4 Jane, by

Luz at Flickr via Creative Commons-required attribution.

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File:Études prises dans le bas peuple ou les Cris de Paris - La Liste des gagnans de la Lotterie.jpgSpeaking of lotteries — anytime a stranger sends you email congratulations, “You’ve won!”  — hit the delete key.

Easy money come-ons have circulated online for years. All the same, a version of a well-known email scam recently ensnared an Iowa lawyer. And while he hit a trifecta of sorts, it wasn’t a parimutuel payout for picking the first, second, and third place finishing horses at Prairie Meadows.

No, Robert Allan Wright was handed a one-year suspension by the Iowa Supreme Court after falling for a variant of the advance fee fraud known as the Nigerian inheritance scam. Worse yet, he got some of his clients entangled in the same scam, too. For a particularly cruel appraisal of what befell Wright, also see “Lawyer Falls For Nigerian Inheritance Scam, Gets Suspended.”

419.

File:419 new poster.pngThe Internet frauds from Nigeria are also called “419” scams after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code, which makes it a felony for “any person who by any false pretence or by means of any other fraud” obtains funds illegally.

(named for the section of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with obtaining funds illegally) – See more at: http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=7599#sthash.D9wiGtQS.dpuf
(named for the section of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with obtaining funds illegally) – See more at: http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=7599#sthash.D9wiGtQS.dpuf

By odd coincidence, the same evening I read about Wright’s plight, I’d picked up a new novel by Will Ferguson called 419. Unfortunately for Wright, what happened to him, however, wasn’t fiction. See No. 13–0780, Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Wright.”

Old time flim-flam.

File:Conjurer Bosch.jpgGet rich schemes are as old as time. This particular hustle dates back centuries some even say it has roots well before the ‘Spanish Prisoner’ swindle of the late 19th century. Coincidentally, the court’s factual summary actually has a Spanish component. The purported Nigerian inheritance consisted of U.S. currency shipped in “two trunks to Spain where the trunks supposedly came into the possession of a “diplomat” in Madrid.”

One of my first posts on this blog was published at the depths of the cratering U.S. and lawyer economy,   That was more than four years ago but no matter since I still get at least one B.S. email solicitation every week. Nowadays though, most appear to come from Asia. But no matter, the advance-fee fraud remains essentially the same and hard-up lawyers are still falling for it.

The trifecta of trouble.

Back in July 2009, I highlighted what happens to lawyers who get caught up in the advance-fee scams. They get hammered and more than once — three times, actually.

“When the bank inevitably bounces the check, it refuses payment. The lawyer has then been had. He is liable for the funds. The client somewhere in another country has disappeared. And since the ethical rules required that client settlement payments be deposited into the lawyer’s trust account, not only has the lawyer been stung by the phony client and by the bank who rarely suffers such losses but here’s the final block of salt in the gaping wound. The ever-helpful bar association will come looking for the lawyer for disciplinary sanctions prompted by the overdrawn client trust account!”

So for all lawyers — but especially newer ones going solo because they can’t find jobs — remember that the trouble with temptation is that you always get more than one chance at temptation.

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Photo Credits:”The reading of lottery winners” by Anne Claude de Caylus at Wikimedia Commons, public domain;”419: the Nigerian Scam” 419 new poster.png by Sorin Mihailovici via Wikimedia Commons, released to public domain by author;”The Conjurer,” by Hieronymus Bosch at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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photo“Once more unto the breach” — even at the risk of boring non-lawyer readers. An updated post of free online continuing legal education follows.

businesspeople,men,metaphors,monies,persons,profits,raining money,riches,wealth

And for the uninitiated, I will keep posting free online CLE resources so long as it remains my sardonic opinion that the real reason some if not all bar associations continue mandating continuing legal education is to ensure cash cow money-making revenue. And oh yes, there is that pretextual public relations reason to protect consumers from incompetent lawyers. (Kudos Kentucky Bar Association for offering every member the opportunity to meet their annual CLE requirement, including ethics, close to home and with no registration fee through their “Kentucky Law Update” program).

The ‘value’ proposition.

If consumer protection is supposedly so valued — why does CLE continue to be so damn expensive, especially when the quality, utility and content often sucks?

Any wonder that so many lawyers, especially those young legions of the heavily-indebted and the out-of-work keep hunting for free CLE? “Free” always trumps $150 for a webcast hour.

But beware of that other CLE: the “Career Limiting Event.”

bad news,business,businessmen,communications,dejected,desks,disappointed,disappointments,emotions,George,males,men,office furniture,people,people at work,persons,sadness,telephones,unhappiness,unhappy

But before getting to that updated online freebie list, it’s worthwhile mentioning that the acronym, “CLE,” every now and then means something else, as in “Career Limiting Event.”

As an ethical refresher for every lawyer at a live continuing legal education class who zones out in the midst of pompous prattle or who checks fantasy football scores on their smartphone during sleep-inducing Powerpoint, Ethical Rule 8.4: Misconduct says it’s “professional misconduct for a lawyer to: “(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” and “(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Said another way, if you’re going to certify you took a course, it may be “misrepresentation” to claim you took part — if you didn’t pay attention.

photoTo illustrate, take the real-life instance of an Illinois lawyer who last year after being charged with “Dishonesty and Submission of False Information to the MCLE Board,” was eventually suspended for 3 months for violating ER 8.4 — because the Court found he had “directed a secretary in his office to watch the courses on a laptop computer and respond to the prompts as if he were watching the course.”

More specifically, according to the Illinois State Bar Association, the longtime lawyer “falsely reported to the Minimum Continuing Legal Education Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois that he had completed 20 hours of continuing legal education activity during the 2007 to 2009 reporting period. In fact, he had enrolled to take only 19.25 hours of CLE work and his secretary . . . completed some of the online CLE classes [the lawyer] claimed to have completed.”

Forewarned.

Sure that’s a noteworthy cautionary tale but I doubt any of the perspicacious lawyers reading this blog and accessing free online CLE would ever deign to leave laptops unattended and walk away in the middle of a still playing online program.

photoNor is it easy to believe these astute lawyers would dare relinquish ethical responsibilities to anyone else. Still, better forewarned and forearmed.

The updated online free continuing legal education list follows along with the usual disclaimers concerning continued accessibility, content or whether your jurisdiction accepts any of these programs for credit.

animals,cartoons,computers,computing,creatures,laptop computers,office workers,rhinoceroses,science,technology,working

I also mean no reproaches on the philanthropic providers of these freebie programs. However, I will again cast a disparaging word upon a certain ungrateful lawyer with the stones to complain about something for nothing.

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The Network for Public Health Law – Webinar Series

http://www.networkforphl.org/network_resources/webinar_series/

Future of Primary Care: The Changing Role of the Primary Care Provider -20111117 1800-1

Listen to and watch this webinar held November 17, 2011 for an introduction of “evidence on the role of nurse practitioners as primary care providers . . . issues of quality, cost and access . . . the current differences of related state laws. You may qualify for CLE credit.”

~ The Supreme Court’s Decision on the Constitutionality of the ACA-20120719 1650-1

Listen to and watch the webinar held July 19, 2012 concerning the Supreme Court’s decision and its implications for the Affordable Care Act’s reforms to the individual insurance market, the Medicaid expansion, and the future of the ACA’s public health-related provisions and accompanying federal funding. Depending on jurisdiction, may qualify for CLE credit.

big brothers,computers,Internet,internet privacy,montages,persons,privacy,technology,World Wide Web

~ Data Surveillance and Data Exchange: A Tool for Comparative Effectiveness-20120517 1659-1

Listen to and watch the webinar held May 17, 2012 providing an overview of “recent developments regarding data exchange and surveillance, explore the inherent privacy issues associated with data exchange and data surveillance and discuss using data exchange and data surveillance as a tool for comparative effectiveness.”

You may qualify for CLE credit via the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics (ASLME).”

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blurry,broken,broken legs,crutches,healthcare,injuries,medical equipment,medicine,persons,Photographs

Free CLE Course: Disability Insurance Claims

From Attorneys Dell & Schaefer, Chartered, “We invite you to sign up for our free online CLE course. This CLE course was created by Disability Attorneys Dell & Schaefer and is titled ‘Introduction to Disability Insurance Claims and ERISA Law.’ The course is comprised of multiple videos totaling 255 minutes (between 4.25 to 5 CLE credits depending on your state).”

http://www.diattorney.com/cle/

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bundles,firewood,kindling,nature,plants,sticks,twigs,strings,dry

Expanding Your Practice Using Limited Scope Representation 2012

Item# 39211
Format: On-Demand Web Programs

Full Seminar
Free
Launch Now

http://www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Expanding_Your_Practice_Using_Limited_Scope/_/N-4nZ1z12uzg?fromsearch=false&ID=153434

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~ A “Charging Lien” as an Adverse Interest Under Rule 3-300 of the Rules of Professional Conduct
State Bar Office of Professional Competence

1.0 hour of ethics, self-study credit

Get Now

~ The Proposed New and Amended Rules of Professional Conduct
State Bar Office of Professional Competence

1.0 hour ethics, self-study credit

Get Now

http://www.legalspan.com/calbar/e-pubs.asp?CategoryID=20011116147985140428&UGUID=&offset=1

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Oregon State Bar’s “Making a Difference: Mentoring New Lawyers

businessmen,businesspeople,gestures,guidance,guiding,human resources,leaders,leadership,leading,males,men,mentoring,mentors,people,persons,pointing

Complimentary program approved for 1.25 General CLE, 1.25 Ethics, and .75 Access to Justice credits. Click here for video.

http://law.lclark.edu/continuing_education/

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From the University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences. View Video Online. “Continuing Legal Education credit (CLE) has been approved (1.5 hours).

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Along with several other jurisdictions, the Florida Bar has accredited up to 8.5 hours of CLE for “Treating the Invisible Wounds of War” (IWW) online training course.  Go to “New Users” tab at www.aheconnect.com/citizensoldier to access the course and the registration form on the site.

https://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNNews01.nsf/Articles/871936AE4A8538648525791700499C2A

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~ The Americans with Disabilities Act: How to protect your deaf, hard of hearing or deaf/blind client.

Course No. 81151 at the Florida Bar’s 24/7 On-Demand CLE.

.05 hour of ethics credit

“This course provides attorneys with a basic and pragmatic understanding of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it relates to working with deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind clients.”

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Photo Credits: “Bored,” by scragz, Jason Scragz, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution;”Blogger at breakfast after Eglon van der Neer,” by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “punctelia at work,” by owlmonkey at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution.

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Business 459Last December, in blogging about how toget your money’s worth when talking to a lawyer,” I opined that “Consumers make appointments to see lawyers because they want advice about a legal issue or problem .. . not . . . because they want the lawyer to explain how the representation is going to proceed.”

In particular, I took issue with a young lawyer who viewed initial client consultations as get-acquainted sessions. And notwithstanding that clients paid $200 for this ‘greet & meet’ — the lawyer made no bones about not dispensing any legal advice at that initial meeting. One wonders how happy the still uninformed clients are after their billfolds are $200 lighter post-preliminary consultation.

Having heard this kind of thinking before, I suspected that there was more than one lawyer taking this approach. As it turns out, there is — but admittedly, with a distinctly different wrinkle. Emory Booker, a Milwaukee lawyer who calls himself the ‘Light Hero,’ has generated his own unwelcome light from the bankruptcy court for conducting what he calls ‘situation suitability analyses — and not full blown legal representations for clients.

Booker’s prior claim to fame had been helping delinquent utility customers avoid power disconnection by filing voluntary debt amortization plans called Chapter 128 petitions. The tactic had been successful up until last year when Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Pocan said the utility wasn’t actually required under Chapter 128 to abstain from pulling the collective plugs on petitioners’ power. Disconnection was not an “execution, attachment or garnishment” specifically prohibited by the 50-year old Wisconsin statute. » Read Full Article

business,data,file cabinets,drawers,folders,hands,offices,supplies,sorting,systematic,recording,data

What’s instead making headlines now isn’t the matter of those petitions. It’s whether or not Booker’s so-called pre-bankruptcy ‘situation suitability analysis’ didn’t confuse some clients into thinking they had lawyered up with a full-blown representation in bankruptcy court.

In his defense, Booker says he told his ‘situation suitability analysis’ clients that his legal services were  à la carte, i.e., limited. Nevertheless, the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bankruptcy Court has taken notice of the purported client confusion and has ordered hearings to further its inquiries. The Court is looking at Booker’s client representations since it appears that some of his clients have now claimed they thought they’d hired themselves a lawyer to handle the whole bankruptcy enchilada and not just a needs assessment. Client refunds may be ordered.

Booker’s predicament points out one of the biggest pitfalls attendant to limited representation of clients, i.e. making sure that clients understand that the scope of services is limited to a specific and discrete task.

In Arizona, Ethical Rule 1.2 (c) says that “A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.”

Businesswoman with arms crossed uidAn excellent set of cautionary signposts was offered by Patrick Burns of Minnesota’s Office of the Director of Lawyers Professional Responsibility as quoted by Scott Russell in “Opportunity for All or Pandora’s Box.” Burns advised making sure the client understands: “What the attorney is going to do for the client; What the attorney is not going to do for the client; and What is going to remain to be done once the attorney is finished.”

Otherwise, if a lawyer isn’t careful, some clients will misunderstand or become confused about the nature and extent of the representation. And before you know it, presto, change-oh, you’re doing the “full Monty.”

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Credits: “The Flasher, with trenchcoat open,” by sylvar at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution.

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File:Halasana.jpgNews that Yoga Can Wreck Your Body has devotees astir. I would’ve said it’s also got them hot and bothered. But those doing so-called “hot yoga” were already hot and bent from the last time critics warned of “torn cartilage or painful wobbly joints” from Bikram Yoga poses in 105 degree and 40 percent humidity rooms.

In May 2004, the New York Times asked,When Does Flexible Become Harmful? ‘Hot’ Yoga Draws Fire.” Physicians warned then that “exercising in heat 2 to 7 degrees above the body’s core temperature of 98.6 can be dangerous.” And if you smoked, had high blood pressure or couldn’t reach your back pocket, dehydration wasn’t the only thing to worry about.

The debate over the risks vs. benefits of yoga has started anew. Several days ago, the New York Times Magazine ran a report quoting 40-year yoga teacher Glenn Black that yoga’s likelihood of harm is so great that “the vast majority of people” should give it up.

baked goods,dining,food,pretzels

On Wednesday night, devotees must’ve felt like untwisted pretzels when NBC‘s Nightly News ran a follow-up. “Can yoga wreck your body?” even featured a sports medicine and spine specialist, Dr. Jennifer Solomon, saying she’s “seen a ton of yoga injuries.”

“Om” not “Owie!

There’s a reason people risk “ouch” to seek “Om.” Despite the ‘owies,’ Yoga has remained popular because as the television report said, it’s an “antidote to stress.”

Coincidentally, a just released American Psychological Association survey says that stress is down and at its lowest point in 4 years. However, 2/3rds of survey respondents still consider “work” as“somewhat or very significant” – – – second only to “money” as one of the top 10 stress causes. No surprise. This is consistent with studies onWhy Americans hate their jobs.”

In 2007, Gallup found that 77% of Americans hated their jobs – – – up from over 60% of respondents who answered the same way 20 years earlier. See “Three signs of a miserable job.”

But as explained in Sharon Jayson’s USA Today article, “Americans are stressed, but we’re getting used to it,” the most likely reason stress has gone down is “because stress has become the new normal for life in the USA.”

Or as Steve Taylor nihilistically sang,“Life unwinds like a cheap sweater. But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better.”

Lawyers and stress.

There’s little doubt, though, that among the 70% saying that work causes them stress, a fair number are lawyers. See, for example,Stress Management for Lawyers” and “Stress Management – An Ethical Issue in the 21st Century” and “Stress and Impairment of Attorneys.”

But of those “Lawyers Who Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques,” I don’t know how many are into yoga. Since so many lawyers are hidebound traditionalists, yoga’s probably not as commonplace unless they’re all keeping it a secret.

beaches,exercises,meditations,men,oceans,outdoors,people,shores,yoga

I remember one lawyer a number of years ago who was into yoga. I found out inadvertently. He was opposing counsel in a Title VII case. The day he took my client’s deposition, he surprised me when he unexpectedly signaled an earlier-than-expected end of the deposition.

Nevada is one of the many state jurisdictions that doesn’t expressly limit the duration of a deposition, that is, short of obtaining a protective order. But since Title VII cases are brought in federal court, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply and specifically, Rule 30 (d) (1), which thankfully provides, “Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a deposition is limited to 1 day of 7 hours.”

So when defense counsel abruptly signaled he was wrapping up, it was, he told me, because he had yoga that afternoon. I realized then why, unlike other employer defense hard-asses, he was so affably mellow.

But this experience notwithstanding, given the ongoing prevalence of attorney incivility, I wonder how many others are doing ‘the Crane’ (Bakāsana) or ‘the Crow‘ (Kākāsana) after work. Probably not many, given the documented incidences of depression, stress and substance abuse in the profession, see e.g., Lawyer Assistance Programs Lawyers and the Practice of Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Lawyers Helping Lawyers.

No, the chances are more likely that instead of yoga and risked hyperflexion of the neck, stress relief may instead mean an Ichabod Crane or a shot of Old Crow.

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Photo credits: Yoga posture halasana by Joseph RENGER via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license;

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bow ties,emotions,gestures,men,people,shocks,surprisesConsulting a lawyer is not like going out for ice cream or cruising the Caribbean. Lawyers aren’t in a ‘fun’ business that consumers happily anticipate spending money on. It can’t compare to two scoops of rocky road or a cold mojito on the promenade. Indeed, for some people, seeing a lawyer can be on par with a proctoscopic exam or a root canal.

First, there’s the high cost of legal services. And then there’s the frequent gap between cost-to-benefit. Worse yet there’s the overweening arrogance of some practitioners.

Think self-absorbed, mordacious Mavis Gary, the unlikeable ex-prom queen turned “author” played by Charlize Theron in ‘Young Adult,” the cynically dark comedy I saw yesterday. I can see law school in Mavis’s future.

Or for another instance, there’s Brian Tannebaum’s “who gives a crap?” philosophy eschewing lawyers who hand out business cards, “if there’s a reason we should talk again, we’ll find each other. Trust me, if I need to remember you, I will.” See “The Practice: Enough with the Worthless Networking.”

Then again, there’s a certain pompous personal injury lawyer who vets prospective clients by reducing them to tears by rudely second-guessing their injuries during an initial interview. Here must be the thinking. Someone’s got to toughen up a would-be client for contumelious cross-examination, so it might as well be your own castigating advocate. Too bad ‘asshole’ isn’t part of the protocol for good bedside manner or this guy could be on to something.

But even with that, another reason consumers avoid lawyer services is the arcane, jargon-filled confusion. It’s time-consuming. And it can be more frustrating than a shell game and a lot less fun than hiding-the-salami.

And with law schools churning out a record excess supply of lawyers despite deeply-cratered demand, it’s no wonder one metaphor-mixing columnist likened lawyers to locusts who beaver away on society. See Jim Barlow’s “Lawyers respected till they took over” – Houston Chronicle.

AveryIndex puts out a state-by-state breakdown, Highest Per Capita Lawyers, that puts an already-high per capita number even higher depending on where you live. Also see “Documenting the Justice Gap in America.”

With such numbers, you’d think humility would be way up and prices would be way down.

Initial consultations.

attorneys,briefcases,briefs,business,careers,clients,employees,jobs,law,lawyers,legal systems,males,men,occupations,papers,people,people at work,persons,sheets,vocations,workers,working

So what’s a consumer to do? First, they have to get past the initial consultation ‘disconnect’ between what some lawyers believe they’re supposed to provide prospective clients versus what potential clients think they’re supposed to get from their lawyer.

One young lawyer I know tells newbie lawyers that the purpose of an initial consultation is not to give legal advice! Instead, it’s for the lawyer and prospective client to identify conflicts of interest; to see if the lawyer and client prospect want to work together; and for the lawyer to explain how the representation would proceed if the potential client hires counsel.

One might think there should be a bit more. At least a client might think so since more and more, there’s a cost associated with imparting such underwhelming wisdom. The above-mentioned young lawyer, who also disdains “free consultations,” charges $200 for a one-hour initial office consultation. And notwithstanding that $200 tariff, the lawyer incredibly asserts that lawyers aren’t supposed to give legal advice until they’ve been hired!

Memo to practitioners.

Consumers make appointments to see lawyers because they want advice about a legal issue or problem. It’s not to help the lawyer determine if there’s a conflict of interest or because they want the lawyer to explain how the representation is going to proceed. It isn’t even necessarily to see if they like the lawyer, although that’s important if the lawyer has the odoriferous personality of an acre of garlic.

To cut through the self-serving justifications, there’s a reason state bar consumer advisories frame their advice concerning first meetings with lawyers. The Virginia State Bar recommends consumers prepare for a first meeting by writing “a short summary of your case, including facts and dates and a list of questions you want answered.” See “Selecting and Working with a LawyerVirginia State Bar.”

The Georgia State Bar also has a consumer pamphlet covering the same subject, telling potential clients, “The first time that you meet with a lawyer, you should be prepared to discuss and ask questions in regards to the facts of the potential legal problem that brings you to the lawyer’s office.” 

The Georgia Bar even provides sample questions, such as “Based on my situation, do I have a legal problem? Make sure you fully explain your situation to your lawyer. Bring any papers or documents you think may help explain the story to the initial consultation. Make sure your lawyer covers both practical solutions to the problems as well as options available under the law.” See “How to Choose a Lawyer – State Bar of Georgia.

And indeed, to further buttress the belief that consultations involve more than a ‘meet and greet,’ the ABA Model Rule 1.18, “Duties to Prospective Clients” was amended in 2002. Arizona ethics expert David Dodge has a good analysis of that rule change at “The Prospective Client.” Also see “When is a client a client?

And what about the client who has paid the consultation fee, only to belatedly find that the lawyer can’t or won’t represent them? An ethics opinion from the District of Columbia Bar says “the attorney bears the responsibility for seeing that there is no likelihood of misunderstanding as to fee arrangements.” See “Ethics Opinion 4: Propriety of Charging Fee for Preliminary Investigation of Client’s Case in Absence of Agreement Between Attorney and Client.”

Final note to prospective clients.

So here’s the upshot for would-be clients whether paying $50 or several hundred dollars for an initial consultation, know upfront what you’re getting for that money. While it’s not a new best friend, it’s also not merely a kick-in-the-wallet. Also see “Tips on Hiring a Private Attorney” | The People’s Law Library and “Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer” – The Law Guide and “How Can I Find and Hire the Right Lawyer?” – The State Bar of California.

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