April 2022: Worried or Wondering?

You’ve been busy focusing on what matters most.

We have been handling the rest.

Here is a summary of some of the more interesting or frequently asked questions we received from you this month.

Legal Ethics

  • My client filed a bar complaint against me. Do I need to withdraw from the representation? Probably not, but maybe.
  • My client paid me a large up-front fixed fee. Can I deposit it into my operating account? You may deposit the fixed fee into the lawyer’s operating account upon receipt. This does not mean, however, that the fixed fee is “nonrefundable.”
  • The Louisiana Supreme Court recently disciplined my lawyer friend. Can I hire him to help around my office? You cannot hire your lawyer friend who is disbarred from the practice. But a practicing lawyer can hire a lawyer friend who is suspended or on disability inactive status to work as a paraprofessional. The practicing lawyer must fill out and submit the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board Employment Registration Statement form to the ODC before hiring the non-practicing lawyer. The non-practicing lawyer must not practice law, must not hold himself out to be a lawyer, and must not leave anyone with the impression he is a lawyer. There is a lot of grey area here, but certain activity is clearly off limits for paralegals.
  • Can you take a look at my new billboard? Lawyers are permitted to publish lawyer advertisements. But the Louisiana Supreme Court has adopted (and recently amended) some of the most complex and indecipherable advertising rules in the country. And now the Louisiana Legislature is (again) attempting to get into the business of regulating lawyer advertising. Recently, we’ve witnessed the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the Louisiana Supreme Court adopt an unprecedented and aggressive stance on the investigation, prosecution and discipline of lawyers for substantive and technical advertising violations. Here are few simple tips to help you work towards compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct:

Most advertisements need to contain the full name of a lawyer, the city where the office if located, and the newly required LSBA filing number. Lawyers can get the number here if they pre-file their ads online. Even previously approved and published ads need to display a filing number if the advertisement is still in circulation.

Advertisements cannot promise results. You would be shocked to see what the LSBA believes promises results…

Advertisements referencing a past success or displaying a client testimonial must include a disclosure like “results may vary” or “past results are not a guarantee of future success.”

Don’t make the public utilize a magnifying class in order to read your required disclosures.

Lawyers routinely engage in creative advertising and marketing campaigns. Think cars wrapped in advertising banners, town halls, and informational booths at festivals. Generally, these are permissible activities but always make sure your advertising complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct and neither you nor your employees cross the line into soliciting new clients.

Advertising on social media? It is a little like the Wild, Wild West out there. I predict the Louisiana Supreme Court, the LSBA, and the ODC will eventually turn their attention to attempting to regulate lawyer’s content on Facebook and Instagram.

Lawyers Behaving Badly

Lawyers cannot coach their clients on how to answer questions during a deposition while there is a question on the table or while on the witness stand. These rules also apply to remote proceedings. Thinking of coaching your client via text during the remote deposition? I predict lawyer discipline may be in your future.

The activities of messaging and “friending” an opponent’s client on social media are prohibited under the rules of professional conduct unless the lawyer obtains the adversary lawyer’s consent. Absent such consent, the lawyer will be communicating with a represented person in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Such conduct may result in lawyer discipline.

Don’t send sexual emails and texts to your current clients. Surprise–this may result in lawyer discipline. Former and prospective clients? Just because conduct may not violate the Rules does not mean it is a good idea.

Practice Tips

Although it is only the Spring, it is never too early to start thinking about fulfilling your CLE requirements. Louisiana lawyers can still fulfill many (but not all) of their CLE requirements online for 2022.

Every lawyer’s worst nightmare: missing a deadline. Implementing these suggested risk management tools can help lawyers and law firms avoid the mistake of a missed deadline.

There is no requirement that a lawyer sign a lawyer client-agreement–UNLESS your agreement makes it effective only upon your signature. The agreements we use does require our signature so that we avoid inadvertent representations.

Worried? Wondering? Just Ask.

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