Legal Ethics

My work life revolves around email. Because of the size of our company, and the geographical locations of my clients, I spend a majority of my day on email. Like many of you, I have a disclaimer below my signature stating that the correspondence is attorney-client privileged, and so on. But is it really? Many times, the answer is no. I know enough to use the disclaimer in an abundance of caution, but my clients often have no idea whether what they send across email is indeed privileged.

Like Susan Moon, I am often referred to as “council.” That’s fine, it doesn’t really bother me, and is rather innocuous. Sometimes however, a client will take it upon themselves to write in bold, ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED, within the subject line. And that does bother me. Folks with just enough legal knowledge to be dangerous, are often just that — dangerous. Now, the email may indeed be seeking my advice, or concern a legal matter within that client’s region, but the client should not assume that to be the case. The misunderstanding of the privilege could lead to problems in the future, say, in a discovery period….

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Over the last couple of months, we have written a few stories about Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck. Judge Peck generated headlines as the first federal judge to approve a litigation protocol for e-discovery that included predictive coding technology.

For a while, the story was pretty happy-clappy. It was a start of a new era. E-discovery — through predictive coding that had now arrived — would be cheaper, more efficient, and faster. Yay!

But, alas, all is not well in this legal technology paradise. One of the parties in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Group, the case that started this whole saga, has requested that Judge Peck recuse himself.

They say his enthusiasm for predictive coding crosses the line into partiality…

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* Since you’re so funny, crack some jokes about this one, Obama. Senate Republicans will be filing an amicus brief in support of a challenge to the constitutionality of the President’s recess appointments. [New York Times]

* Thanks to this Third Circuit ruling, you can rest easy knowing that you can rely on the First Amendment to protect your homemade sex tapes from all of those strict porn record-keeping and labeling requirements… for now. [Reuters]

* Due to Kelley Drye’s EEOC settlement, the New York State Bar Association is asking firms to end mandatory retirement policies. Because old folks need to make bank till they croak. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20 has decided to ditch its proposal to allow limited nonlawyer ownership of law firms. Cue tears and temper tantrums from the likes of Jacoby & Meyers. [Am Law Daily]

* “If I believe that Chris Armstrong is a radical homosexual activist, I have a constitutional right to express that opinion.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell that to the judge who dismissed your suit, Shirvell. [Detroit Free Press]

* Presenting “her royal hotness”: apparently Pippa Middleton has been seen cavorting around France with gun-toting lawyer Romain Rabillard, of Shearman & Sterling. [Daily Mail]

Judge Bruce Markell

Were there ever a time to use “fail,” as the contemporary vernacular permits, it is now, and in reference to this deplorable display of legal representation: it was an epic fail.

– Judge Bruce Markell, in a recent opinion in a Las Vegas Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, which concluded that the debtors’ attorneys, Barry Levinson and Jeremy Mondejar, should be sanctioned for their ineffective representation.

(What did these Cooley Law graduates allegedly do to irk Judge Markell in this way? Take a look, after the jump.)

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Following the federal government’s raid in January 2012 on Megaupload, the company that owned and operated the notorious file-sharing site megaupload.com, the criminal case has already started making its way through the court system. The government froze the company’s assets, and the CEO is under house arrest, but Megaupload still managed to hire some high-powered, Biglaw representation. Good for them, right?

Well, maybe not. The government has objected to Quinn Emanuel entering the case to represent Megaupload. The government cites conflicts of interest.

What are the alleged conflicts? And what does Quinn have to say about the situation?

The firm just filed a saucy brief responding to the objection. Let’s just say that Quinn isn’t taking it lying down…

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Tom Wallerstein

If you’re trying to grow a solo or small firm practice, you generally shouldn’t work for free unless you have a deliberate business development objective in mind. Conversely, if you have a client willing to pay, you generally should prefer to scale up your headcount instead of turning down work due to lack of bandwidth.

Does this mean you should never turn down a client who is willing and able to pay your fees?

No. There are lots of reasons it might make sense to turn down a paying client….

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Above the Law readers are a surprising bunch. After three weeks of voting, the University of Michigan Law School has emerged as the most honest law school in all the land.

Michigan. Can you believe it? I guess all the “Wolverine Scholars” shadiness didn’t stick.

Let’s check out the bracket and the final vote total for Michigan’s victory…

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Someone in the company is going rogue: The person proposes to do something brazenly illegal, or slightly illegal, or perfectly legal but sufficiently immoral that the conduct would turn any reasonable person’s stomach. The rogue is not listening to logic. The person is ignoring everything that your local in-house lawyer is saying.

When the local lawyer calls the headquarters law department for help, these are the words that headquarters must be able to speak: “Local lawyer, you win. This is not a close call; we should not be doing this. In this situation, I guarantee you that you hold the trump card. Who do you need to make a call to solve your problem? The general counsel? The chief financial officer? The CEO? Someone else? We will cause that call to be made in a heartbeat. What do you need?”

Is that what people mean when they talk about “tone at the top”?

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We are at the final showdown for our March Madness bracket, and all the private school sissy-boys have been kicked to the curb. Apparently, you can’t buy your way into a moral or ethical principle. Only the state can inculcate you into virtue.

For the first time, I think ever or at least as long as I’ve been here, in an ATL contest of law schools, the final battle is between two state schools. And it happens in our contest about honesty and ethics. I guess there’s a lot of truth that comes out after a long round of flip-cup….

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We’re at the final four.

In real life, I am in a pitched battle for second place in my NCAA tournament poll with these guys. I can’t win because the guy in first has the exact same bracket as I do from here on out. But I can still finish second, so long as one of my “friends” who is actually a floppy-headed Kansas fan doesn’t get his JayHicks into the finals.

In more law related news, our Most Honest Law School bracket is chugging along.

But there were some upsets in round 2….

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