November 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

  • It’s the Christmas season! Can a Louisiana lawyer send a polo shirt with the law firm logo to his client as a Christmas gift? Sure–you can send clients gifts such as apparel that identify the lawyer or the law firm. The rules do not require that the apparel include the name of the lawyer, the office location, or the LSBA filing number. Further, gifts such as apparel are exempt from the rules requiring filing and review by the LSBA. Lawyers cannot, however, send these gifts in exchange for recommending the lawyers services or for a referral.
  • May a Louisiana lawyer offer hourly or salaried employees a bonus based in some part on the fees paid by the client? For example, may a Louisiana lawyer offer a bonus plan to their non-lawyer staff which provides that if the staff meets a certain threshold, then the staff member will be awarded 1% of total fees paid on the files that staff member works? Definitely not. A lawyer cannot share legal fees with a non-lawyer in that way. However, lawyers can provide discretionary bonuses to staff members which considers certain defined criteria. There are several ways to structure a discretionary bonus system which do not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • A Louisiana lawyer’s dog escapes his backyard and attacks a neighbor’s dog. Law enforcement officers issue a written misdemeanor citation to the Louisiana lawyer for the dog’s escape and attack. Must the Louisiana lawyer report this citation to the ODC? It is unlikely that the ODC will have any interest in whatever happens in this “criminal” case. Moreover, a Louisiana lawyer has no duty to self-report their conduct to the ODC.
  • We get multiple questions every day regarding the application of the lawyer advertising rules to Louisiana lawyers. Here are the top ten most FAQ on lawyer advertising.
  • 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

  • An Ohio lawyer is accused of pooping into an empty Pringles can and throwing it into the parking lot of the victim’s advocacy center before an early morning court appearance. Yes, you did read that correctly…..and now Ohio is questioning the lawyers fitness to practice law.
  • These lawyers were the subject of Louisiana Supreme Court disciplinary orders or Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommendations published during the month of November 2022.

Best Practices

  • According to the ABA, “in the absence of special circumstances, lawyers who copy their clients on an electronic communication sent to counsel representing another person in the matter impliedly consent to receiving counsel’s “reply all” to the communication. Thus, unless that result is intended, lawyers should not copy their clients on electronic communications to such counsel; instead, lawyers should separately forward these communications to their clients.”
  • Double billing? Block Billing? Padding your hours? The proper process for billing clients can raise a lot of ethical and practical questions. It is recommended that  for hourly fee agreements, detailed records should be kept concerning the time spent on the matter. Further, the lawyer should invoice the client at regular intervals, preferably every month. The client has the right to know the exact amount of the hourly rate and, if possible, an estimate of the hours the lawyer expects are necessary to handle the matter. Finally, after the attorney-client relationship has commenced, the lawyer should inform the client preferably in writing of the status of the case on a periodic, preferably monthly, basis and the work the lawyer performs to earn the fee.
  • CNA, the leading malpractice insurer for Louisiana lawyers, recently distributed to its insureds helpful advice on how to avoid missing court deadlines. Here are the main take aways.

Worried? Wondering? Just Ask.

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