If you missed our July 7 CLE webinar “Ethics in 3D,” here’s good news.
You can view a full-length video replay on the Alta Pro YouTube channel. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to the channel so you won’t miss any of our future video offerings.
“Ethics in 3d” covers three crucial areas of legal practice: (1) dealing with difficult clients; (2) the importance of documentation; and (3) recognizing the dangers of dabbling.
Not only that, but we threw in an extra “D” – the magic power of the phrase “Don’t Do It!”
Our guest presenter was James Bell, a practitioner in Indianapolis and 2018 President of the Indiana Bar Association. James is recognized in Best Lawyers of America and is an Indiana Super Lawyer. He is also famous as the Amateur Life Coach, whose videos cover everything from getting paid for your work to avoiding getting sued.
Below are some highlights from the webinar “Ethics in 3D.”
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1. The Dangers of Dabbling
All lawyers have their comfort zones. Dabbling in an unfamiliar area increases the odds of a mistake, which can lead to a malpractice claim or bar grievance. The ethics rules permit you to take on a novel matter as long as you take appropriate steps to become competent.
ETHICS ALERT: ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, Competence. A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
2. Documenting Your Work
A well-documented case file provides a clear picture of the work you’ve done for a client. This can be invaluable in defending a bar grievance or malpractice claim. But documentation does more than just protect you. It expedites the case, facilitates teamwork and saves time and money.
ETHICS ALERT: ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4, Communication. A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
3. Dealing with Difficult Clients
The best way to deal with a difficult client is by not taking their case in the first place. Although new business is the lifeblood of your practice, it’s important to know what clients to accept. Making the right choice will improve your bottom line and peace of mind. Making the wrong choice could lead to a malpractice claim or ethics complaint.
ETHICS ALERT: ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2, Scope of Authority and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer. A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation and … shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.
4. Don’t Do It!
Some clients and case matters are not right for your practice. Some actions a client (or someone else) might want you to take in a case are unwise, unethical or even illegal. Some words are better left unspoken, some deeds left undone.
The key point: “Don’t do it!”
ETHICS ALERT: ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, Misconduct
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