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Legal Ethics. Ethical Guidelines for Maintaining a Successful Practice Timothy J. Halloran, Esq. Jason E. Fellner, Esq. Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, P.C. Four Important Precepts. Properly Screening Clients Servicing Clients Keeping Sharp in Your Area of Expertise

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legal ethics

Legal Ethics

Ethical Guidelines for Maintaining a Successful Practice

Timothy J. Halloran, Esq.

Jason E. Fellner, Esq.

Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, P.C.

four important precepts
Four Important Precepts
  • Properly Screening Clients
  • Servicing Clients
  • Keeping Sharp in Your Area of Expertise
  • Maintaining Client Files
properly screening clients
Properly Screening Clients

“The saying is true, the empty vessel makes the greatest sound.”

- William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene 4, lines 58-59

Client Interviews

Background Investigation

(e.g. www.411.org)

3) Prior Lawsuits

4) Trust Instincts

5) Conflict Check

cal rule of prof conduct rule 3 300
Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 3-300
  • Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 3-300 - Avoiding Interests Adverse to a Client

A member shall not enter into a business transaction with a client; or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client, unless each of the following requirements has been satisfied:

(A) The transaction or acquisition and its terms are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner which should reasonably have been understood by the client; and

(B) The client is advised in writing that the client may seek the advice of an independent lawyer of the client's choice and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek that advice; and

(C) The client thereafter consents in writing to the terms of the transaction or the terms of the acquisition.

cal rule of prof conduct rule 3 310
Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 3-310
  • Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 3-310 - Avoiding the Representation of Adverse Interests

(B) A member shall not accept or continue representation of a client without providing written disclosure to the client where:

(1) The member has a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with a party or witness in the same matter; or

(2) The member knows or reasonably should know that:

(a) the member previously had a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with a party or witness in the same matter; and

(b) the previous relationship would substantially affect the member's representation; or

(3) The member has or had a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with another person or entity the member knows or reasonably should know would be affected substantially by resolution of the matter; or

(4) The member has or had a legal, business, financial, or professional interest in the subject matter of the representation.

(C) A member shall not, without the informed written consent of each client:

(1) Accept representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients potentially conflict; or

(2) Accept or continue representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients actually conflict; or

(3) Represent a client in a matter and at the same time in a separate matter accept as a client a person or entity whose interest in the first matter is adverse to the client in the first matter.

(E) A member shall not, without the informed written consent of the client or former client, accept employment adverse to the client or former client where, by reason of the representation of the client or former client, the member has obtained confidential information material to the employment.

servicing clients
Servicing Clients

“Make service your first priority, not success, and success will follow.”

Communication

Communication

Communication

communication
Communication
  • Rule 3-500 Communication

A member shall keep a client reasonably informed about significant developments relating to the employment or representation, including promptly complying with reasonable requests for information and copies of significant documents when necessary to keep the client so informed.

  • Rule 3-510 Communication of Settlement Offer

(A) A member shall promptly communicate to the member's client:

(1) All terms and conditions of any offer made to the client in a criminal matter; and

(2) All amounts, terms, and conditions of any written offer of settlement made to the client in all other matters.

(B) As used in this rule, "client" includes a person who possesses the authority to accept an offer of settlement or plea, or, in a class action, all the named representatives of the class.

keeping sharp in your practice area
Keeping Sharp in Your Practice Area

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax.” - Abraham Lincoln

Legal Specialization

Continuing Legal Education

Disclosure of Legal Experience to Client

If Appropriate, Refer Client to Experienced Attorney

california legal specialists
California Legal Specialists
  • Requirements for Legal Specialization Certification:

an attorney must :

1) have been engaged in the practice of law in the area in which certification is sought for a minimum of 25 percent of the time the attorney has spent in occupational endeavors during the previous five years

2) be an active member of the State Bar of California

Workers' Compensation Law applicants also must be in good standing before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board

Immigration and Nationality Law applicants also must meet the definition of "attorney" as set forth in 8 CFR 1.1(f) and shall not be under order of suspension or disbarment by the Board of Immigration Appeals

Bankruptcy Law applicants must also be admitted and in good standing before at least one United States District Court within the State of California

3) pass a written exam

4) demonstrate a high level of experience in the specialty field by meeting specific task and experience requirements

5) complete at least 45 hours of continuing education in the specialty field

6) be favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with the attorney's work

  • Specializations:

Admiralty and Maritime Law

Appellate Law

Bankruptcy Law

Criminal Law

Estate Planning Trust and Probate Law

Family Law

Franchise and Distribution Law

Immigration and Nationality Law

Legal Malpractice Law

Taxation Law

Worker’s Compensation Law

continuing legal education
Continuing Legal Education
  • Total hours required every three years: 25 hours
  • Maximum "self-study" hours: 12.5 hours
  • Members must fulfill at least one-half of their MCLE requirement with activities approved for "participatory" MCLE credit.
  • Special Requirements within the total hours required (may be taken as participatory or self-study):
    • Legal Ethics: 4 hours (required)
    • Detection/Prevention of Substance Abuse: 1 hour (required)
    • Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession: 1 hour (required)
disclosure of legal experience to client
Disclosure of Legal Experience to Client
  • Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 1-400 Advertising and Solicitation

(D) A communication or a solicitation (as defined herein) shall not:

(1) Contain any untrue statement; or

(2) Contain any matter, or present or arrange any matter in a manner or format which is false, deceptive, or which tends to confuse, deceive, or mislead the public; or

(3) Omit to state any fact necessary to make the statements made, in the light of circumstances under which they are made, not misleading to the public; or

(4) Fail to indicate clearly, expressly, or by context, that it is a communication or solicitation, as the case may be; or

(5) Be transmitted in any manner which involves intrusion, coercion, duress, compulsion, intimidation, threats, or vexatious or harassing conduct.

(6) State that a member is a "certified specialist" unless the member holds a current certificate as a specialist issued by the Board of Legal Specialization, or any other entity accredited by the State Bar to designate specialists pursuant to standards adopted by the Board of Governors, and states the complete name of the entity which granted certification.

if appropriate refer client to another attorney
If Appropriate, Refer Client to Another Attorney
  • Rule 3-110 Failing to Act Competently.

(A) A member shall not intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence.

(B) For purposes of this rule, "competence" in any legal service shall mean to apply the 1) diligence, 2) learning and skill, and 3) mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service.

(C) If a member does not have sufficient learning and skill when the legal service is undertaken, the member may nonetheless perform such services competently by 1) associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer reasonably believed to be competent, or 2) by acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required.

maintaining client files
Maintaining Client Files

Paper Files Electronically Stored Information

client papers and property
Client Papers and Property
  • Rule 3-700. Termination of Employment

A member whose employment has terminated shall:

(1) Subject to any protective order or non-disclosure agreement, promptly release to the client, at the request of the client, all the client papers and property. "Client papers and property" includes correspondence, pleadings, deposition transcripts, exhibits, physical evidence, expert's reports, and other items reasonably necessary to the client's representation, whether the client has paid for them or not; and

(2) Promptly refund any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned. This provision is not applicable to a true retainer fee which is paid solely for the purpose of ensuring the availability of the member for the matter.

electronically stored information
Electronically Stored Information

THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA

STANDING COMMITTEE ON

PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CONDUCT

FORMAL OPINION NO. 2007-174

An attorney is ethically obligated, upon termination of employment, promptly to release

to a client, at the client’s request: (1) an electronic version of e-mail correspondence,

because such items come within a category subject to release; (2) an electronic version of

the pleadings, because such items too come within a category subject to release; (3) an

electronic version of discovery requests and responses, because such items are subject to

release as reasonably necessary to the client’s representation; (4) an electronic deposition

and exhibit database, because such an item itself contains items that come within

categories subject to release; and (5) an electronic version of transactional documents,

because such items are subject to release as reasonably necessary to the client’s

representation. The attorney’s ethical obligation to release any electronic items, however,

does not require the attorney to create such items if they do not exist or to change the

application (e.g., from Word (.doc) to WordPerfect (.wpd)) if they do exist. Prior to

release, the attorney is ethically obligated to take reasonable steps to strip from each of

these electronic items any metadata reflecting confidential information belonging to any

other client.

(See Cal. Rule of Prof. Conduct Rule 3-700(D); Bus. & Prof. Code Section 6068(e)(1).)

resources for additional information
Resources for Additional Information
  • California State Bar Website – www.calbar.ca.gov
  • California Ethics Hotline –

1-800-238-427

  • California Rules of Professional Conduct
  • The Rutter Guide – Professional Responsibility