August 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

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  • May a Louisiana lawyer pay others for generating client leads? It can probably be done, but there is no definitive Louisiana authority on the issue. The comments to the ABA model rules permit a lawyer to pay others for generating client leads. But Louisiana has not adopted the comments to the Model Rules. Further, some may argue that Louisiana is more protective of consumers and less pro-business than the ABA. This calls into question whether Louisiana would go as far as the ABA in permitting lawyers to pay others for generating leads. At a minimum, a Louisiana lawyer should ensure that the payments to lead generators and the lead generators conduct are consistent with the comments to the ABA Model Rules. In sum, Louisiana lawyers interested in paying others for generating leads should proceed with caution. Indeed, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel appears to be very interested in investigating lawyers or law firms who pay others for generating client leads.
  • How much information may a Louisiana lawyer reveal about their client in a motion to withdraw? Some but not too much. Importantly, the lawyer must make sure that he does not disclose confidential information in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Here are some tips.
  • May a Louisiana lawyer split fees with another lawyer on some cases? Yes, this plan is certainly workable. Remember that pure referrals are not allowed. Rather, a division of fees between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made if the client agrees in writing and is advised in writing as to the share of the fee that each lawyer will receive, the total fee is reasonable, and each lawyer renders meaningful legal services. Moreover, a referring lawyer cannot share a legal fee if the lawyer has a conflict of interest that prohibits the lawyer from performing legal services in connection with the matter. 
  • May a Louisiana lawyer enter into a joint venture with another firm? What if the other firm is a law firm from outside of Louisiana? Of course, a Louisiana lawyer or law firm can certainly work with non-Louisiana licensed lawyers and staff to assist him in this jurisdiction so long as they are voluntarily associated together, and the Louisiana lawyer actively participates in the matters. There are numerous ways to structure this voluntary association based on the priorities and needs of the various law firms. Lawyers just want to make sure the agreements comply with the rules on fee splitting.
  • All blog posts on the Louisiana Legal Ethics website are now organized into a Post Index to help you quickly locate posts on topics you are interested in.

Lawyers Behaving Badly

  • Lawyers boast about their success rates. You see it everywhere. From billboards to courthouse conversations, lawyers like to talk about their wins. But can touting one’s trials triumphs ever go too far? Absolutely.
  • It is not out of the ordinary for someone to take their frustrations out via email. We have all been victims of the urge to type out a passive-aggressive message and hit send. But what happens when a lawyer sends such an email to a member of a judge’s staff? Spoiler alert: nothing good comes from sending that email to the judge’s clerk!
  • These lawyers were the subject of Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary orders or Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommendations published during the month of August 2022.

Best Practices

  • Do not CC the client on emails to opposing counsel. Instead, BCC the client so that opposing counsel does not inadvertently contact the client without first obtaining your express consent.
  • When opposing counsel’s client sets their Facebook account to private, lawyers must not “friend” that party unless they obtain the consent of opposing counsel. Absent such consent, the lawyer in representing his own client will be communicating with a represented person in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  
  • Many lawyers share office space with other lawyers. Sharing office space has many benefits. These benefits include lower costs, networking opportunities, and unique educational opportunities. Sharing office space, however, can be an occupational hazard. Lawyers sharing office space run the risk that clients, the public, or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel might perceive the lawyers to be associated in a law firm. Here are some tips to avoid discipline and vicarious liability when sharing office space with other lawyers.
  • The former client’s files are taking up a lot of space in my office. Can a Louisiana lawyer get rid of the files? Maybe, but it depends on how old the files are. A good rule of thumb is to keep client files for five (5) years following termination of the matter, unless there is a good reason for maintaining the file for a longer period of time.

Worried? Wondering? Just Ask.

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