Monday, August 24, 2009

A Wide Array Of Fee-Related Misconduct

The Indiana Supreme Court imposed a suspension of at least two years without automatic reinstatement in a matter "involving repeated violations of rules prohibiting improper fee arrangements, including the improper use of nonrefundable retainers, improper billing practices, failure to return unearned fees, charging unreasonable fees, charging a minimum of 1/4 hour for any work (including such tasks as review of a short email), charging lawyer rates for clerical work, charging for work that did not benefit his clients, charging for work done after being discharged, charging for work done to undo the results of earlier mistakes, charging former clients for costs involved in responding to grievances..." and other violations. (Mike Frisch)

August 24, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law Practice Technology

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

We don't endorse commercial products here (usually), and I'm sure I got this is a really a teaser so that the company, AbacusLaw, can sell law firm management software (they'd give the book away, I suspect, but one of the rules of marketing - ask our advanced legal studies people - is that if you give it away, people don't value it).

The book is called Dangerous Law Practice Myths, Lies, and Stupidity, and tells 35 little stories - with tltles like "The Two-Calendar Myth," "The Free Advice Myth" (again, no doubt why they are charging for the book), and "The Ivy-League Lawyer Myth" (I think Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton need to take some umbrage here) - of what the authors contend are myths about law firm management.  I leave it to you to decide if they are, but this isn't too bad, and certainly food for thought.

August 24, 2009 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Suspension For Incompetent Representation

An attorney who had failed to provide competent representation in a civil rights lawsuit was suspended for 60 days by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The section 1983 suit named the Nebraska Department of Corrections and 14 individual defendants. The attorney had never handled such a lawsuit in the past, failed to associate with more experienced counsel and "failed to adequately prepare either by research or by education and was unprepared during the pendency of the lawsuit." The attorney did not contest the charges in exchange for the 60 day suspension, which the court approved. (Mike Frisch)

August 24, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Double Or Nothing

A summary from the web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers:

On March 4, 2009, the respondent...was disbarred by the Supreme Court of California. The respondent had been admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1983 and the California bar in 1986. He practiced with the firm of Belli and McLean in California from 1986 until his disbarment. He was administratively suspended in Massachusetts for failure to register in 2005. The circumstances resulting in the respondent’s disbarment were as follows.

The respondent represented a client and her spouse in a personal injury case against a Nevada casino. The case settled for $250,000 in November of 2002. The respondent gave the clients $100,000 from the settlement proceeds and told them he would hold their remaining share, approximately $90,000, for payment of liens. From December of 2002 through December of 2004, the respondent misappropriated all but $375 of the clients’ funds.

In March of 2003, the respondent filed a malpractice case for the clients against prior counsel in the casino case. That case settled for $30,000 in May of 2005. The respondent then misappropriated the clients’ settlement proceeds by September of 2005.

In February of 2006, the respondent confessed to his clients that he had spent their money and began making restitution. The clients filed a bar grievance in August of 2006. The respondent made full restitution by January of 2008. In May of 2007, the respondent filed for bankruptcy and listed his clients as creditors. His listed their address, however, as his office address and did not give them notice of the bankruptcy filing or of any deadlines for filing a proof of claim. Finally, the respondent asked the clients to tell the state bar that they had given the respondent permission to use their funds, when they had not done so.

In mitigation, the respondent suffered emotional and financial difficulties at the time of his misconduct. His firm had won a large number of product liability cases in the 1990’s but the defendant had filed for bankruptcy. The respondent was involved in an acrimonious divorce proceeding with ongoing custody and visitation issues. In aggravation, the respondent committed multiple acts of misconduct involving misappropriations and misrepresentations.

The respondent did not report the California disbarment to Massachusetts bar counsel, as required by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16(6).

On May 14, 2009, bar counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County. The Court issued an Order Of Notice giving the respondent 30 days to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be ordered in Massachusetts. The respondent did not reply to the order of notice. On July 2, 2009, the Court (Spina, J.) entered an order disbarring the respondent, effective immediately, and striking the respondent’s name from the Roll of Attorneys.

The case is In re McLean, order entered on July 2, 2009. (Mike Frisch)

August 24, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ditching the Seating Chart

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

First class blues are the order of the day across the law prof blawgosphere; we start tomorrow.  I'm teaching the same class for the fourth semester in a row, and last spring I wrote the teachers' manual for the book (Ribstein & Lipshaw, Unincorporated Business Entities, 4th Edition - get it while it's hot), so getting prepped substantively isn't a big deal.  Instead, I've been mostly fiddling with the logistics of the class.  For example, I like to have my 250px-Horse_riding_in_coca_cola_arena_-_melbourne_show_2005 class outline written out in front of the class, and I'm willing to use PowerPoint for that limited purpose, but heretofore I've always been in classrooms in which the screen blocks the whiteboard, which is my preferred graphic medium.  This year, I have side whiteboards, so I can dispense with the laborious pre-class writing out of the outline on the board.

FWIW, here's the (slightly redacted) text on the TWEN home page for the course:

Feel free to stop by or call to set up an appointment at any time. I tend to be around a lot. My cell phone is ***-***-****, and I trust your good judgment as to where and when to call it.

I taught this course in the Spring, 2009 semester, and you can expect a lot of similarities. The main difference is that we used a course pack version of the casebook manuscript of Ribstein & Lipshaw, Unincorporated Business Entities, 4th, and now the book is available. We incorporate the statutes into the book itself, so you don't have to buy a separate supplement. As to my measly portion of the measly royalty on the price of the book (about $5 per book after taxes), I will make a contribution in that amount to some worthy cause, and let you know what it is during the semester.

This is often the first encounter many students have with the business world. Much of what the cases say can be difficult without an understanding of the context. We will spend part of the first day's class into a class exercise that deals with the business motivations that underlie using the doctrine we will spend the rest of the term exploring. During the case discussions themselves, we will spend a lot of time, therefore, unpeeling the facts, and understanding context. If you are ever struggling with that (or anything else), please do not be shy about letting me know.

I have decided this semester to experiment with the logistics of the class in two ways:

(a) I am having the IT department record and make ALL classes available via an MP3 posted on TWEN. I think there's still a significant value to you, me, and others in coming to class (particularly if you are on call), but I want to remove some of the note-taking (particularly the "transcription" kind) pressure. If you take notes, concentrate on engaging with what's important - you can always go back and pick up details later. (Note: I mentioned this to a former student the other day, and she posed the natural question - "will it mean people don't come to class?" That, of course, like all decisions in your life is yours to make. I asked if she would have come to class, to which her response was "I wouldn't want to miss the show.")

(b) I've decided to do away with one of the hallmarks of "teacher power," the seating chart, and instead go with tent cards (I think Professor Glannon does this in his Civ Pro classes) so we all know each other's names. I recognize that in a typical day you have more on your minds than bringing the tent cards to class, so I will collect them and keep them in a box that I bring with me. Also, one of my quirks is that I have, in the past, had everybody fill out an index card with some basic information. I'm going to ask you to do it instead on the inside of the tent card. I'm also thinking that I would like to take ten minutes to go around the room and have people introduce themselves (likely on the third day of class, once drop/add is over).

Finally, I'm not sure what it is about law students, or students in general, that often causes them not to avail themselves of all the resources that might enhance the odds of great success, but keeping track of what I put here on TWEN is one of those resources. Near the beginning of class on Monday, August 24, I'm going to ask the question, "What is the secret word?" If you immediately shout out "equestrian," (that's random, but I took up horse riding this summer), you will know that you already have a leg up on your less assiduous classmates who didn't read down to the very bottom of this message.

August 23, 2009 in Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)