The best risk management advice for lawyers sometimes comes down to a four letter word: don’t.
Some clients and case matters aren’t right for your practice. Some actions a client (or someone else) want you to take in a case may be unwise, unethical or even illegal. Some words are better left unspoken, some deeds left undone.
The key point: “Don’t do it!”
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ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 Misconduct
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another; (b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; (c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; (d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; (e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; (f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law; or (g) engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules.
Here are a some other important “Don’ts:”
- Don’t be a jerk or bully.
- Don’t do something that doesn’t feel right inside.
- Don’t click on suspicious email messages and links.
- Don’t talk about legal matters outside the office.
- Don’t compromise client data.
- Don’t practice in a silo.
- Don’t neglect wellness and self-care.
- Don’t go without professional liability coverage.
- Don’t take a case out of desperation.
- Don’t procrastinate – delegate or ask for help.
The Bottom Line: Saying yes may be gratifying, but sometimes saying no is more important.
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