Ethics

The story going around the legal internet today is about the creative advertisements from lawyer Svitlana Sangary. Nobody really knows what kind of “lawyer” she is, but it doesn’t matter. Sangary was nailed with an ethics violation and license suspension by the State Bar of California. The Recorder reports that Sangary photoshopped herself into pictures with famous celebrities.

Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (curious that I named them in that order), George Clooney, Magic Johnson — the list goes on. Protip, Svitlana: People with the kind of “access” you suggest you have don’t like to get their pictures taken.

That this amounts to deceptive lawyer advertising efforts is obvious. You can see the pics below. But if you read the ethics ruling against her, Sangary’s statements do not look to me like a charlatan attorney looking to pull a fast one on unsuspecting clients. Instead, Sangary presents to me as a sympathetic immigrant who bought a bill of goods we call the “American Dream” without bothering to read the fine print. She’s like a person who learned about business from The Apprentice and learned law from Legally Blonde.

Actually, I don’t know how she graduated from law school. I’d ask her, but she’d assert her “first amendment right to remain silent.”…

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University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong continues her quest to make the internet safe for female law professors who engage in questionable scholarship. When last we heard from Leong, she was getting called out by Paul Campos for “research” that involved putting up white versus Asian profiles on Ashley Madison.

But Leong is better known for her ongoing dispute with online commenter “dybbuk.” Dybbuk made a number of nasty, racist, and sexist comments about Leong. Leong says that the comments have made her fear for her safety. She’s figured out who Dybbuk really is and is now asking his state bar to launch an ethics inquiry into his online behavior.

If you don’t like people trying to make your life awful, you shouldn’t talk on the internet. I think that rule applies equally to Leong and Dybbuk…

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Usually, law school finals do not produce great moral dilemmas. Most of them are open book, so you are allowed to use any information you can get your hands on. And since the whole thing is graded on a curve, “cheating” in the sense of copying from somebody else doesn’t really get you anywhere. You can use any means, fair or unfair, to get ahead.

But today we have an interesting question coming out of final exams at a top law school. A student observed another student breaking the rules of the exam. The other student was clearly breaking the letter of the law of the exam administration. But was the other student really cheating?

Our tipster didn’t report the offense, and I think that was the right call. But what would you have done?

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Anytime an email ends with the lines: “Don’t submit this to ATL. It is boring and petty and nobody cares. Plus it’ll just make us sound like Columbia,” I’m intrigued. Boring, petty stories that make law students look like donkeys who take themselves too seriously (no offense, Columbia) is my specialty.

But here, we have a story that isn’t just about grade-obsessed law students taking it to a new level, we also have something that touches on issues of redistribution, unfair advantages, merit, and vigilantism. And we can talk about all of that without losing sight of the fundamental boring pettiness of the student involved.

A law student essentially stole the law review outline bank and posted it to everybody. Like Robin Hood wearing a Guy Fawkes, this kid thought “the people” should have access to the intellectual richness of notes taken by law review types over the years. Welcome to the law student version of Wikileaks…

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Judy Sheindlin once told me, “don’t go to law school, the world has enough lawyers.” My response was, “that may be true, but are there enough ‘good’ lawyers.” I posit that the answer is no, there are not enough ‘good’ lawyers. We practice in a field where there is certainly of glut of licensed professionals. And unlike doctors, there is not a constant worldwide need for our services, no matter how self-important we have deluded ourselves to be. I wrote last week about attending the ACC Annual Meeting, and having an enlightened moment of how very much in this field I don’t (can’t) know. Not for want of desire, but because of the evolution of technology, and good old case law.

It made me truly feel for those folks tasked with compliance for their companies….

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So, you’ve failed the MPRE. That’s horrible for you — you’ve failed a test that Saul Goodman arguably passed. It’s not your finest hour.

The only thing you can do is get right back on the horse and try again. But now you’re in for a nasty surprise, because the MPRE people have figured out how to make money off of your failure, or at the very least, they’re going to require you to jump through a needless array of hoops to be able to take the test again at a reasonable price.

Does LSAC (the organization that administers the MPRE) nickle and diming people sound “unethical”? If so, that might be why you failed the test in the first place. You see, in MPRE land, the most obviously unethical thing is the wrong answer. But the second most shady thing is usually the right answer…

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Ed. note: Above the Law will be signing off early to begin the ATL/Kaplan Bar Crawl Review. Follow along on social media (Twitter and Facebook) or on the liveblog post after NS, or better yet, come out and join us!

* A Facebook “Like” is protected by the First Amendment. ATL Likes this. [The Atlantic]

* You can’t get a Frappuccino to go with your Kalashnikov any more. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* The stand-up comic judge has been shut down by the New Jersey Supreme Court in a 7-0 decision. Everyone’s a critic. [ABA Journal]

* An interview with Alan Page of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and formerly a Defensive Tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. Page’s hometown has a bust of him on display. Not so impressive until you realize he’s from Canton, Ohio. [Coverage Opinions]

* If you’re looking for some more legal content related to International Talk Like a Pirate Day, check out Buried Treasure: Finders, Keepers, and the Law. [ABA]

* A list of everything you should be doing with your time instead of getting a law degree. [Yahoo!]

* A warm welcome to Chris Geidner as the new legal editor of BuzzFeed. In addition to some great content, like his amazing profile of Edie Windsor (first link), stay tuned for “25 Ways Justice Alito Is Like This Cat.” [New York Observer]

* If you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 7, you’re probably annoyed right now. Here are some tips to help preserve your battery life. We can do nothing about fixing how ungodly ugly it is. [Tuaw]

A deadly explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, California on September 9, 2010. The cause of the destruction was a natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric that ran underneath the homes.

The subsequent investigation turned up a litany of failings on PG&E’s part that contributed to the explosion. PG&E’s regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, issued a recommendation that PG&E pay no fine, noting that the money the company was spending to modernize its pipelines to prevent future accidents was punishment enough.

This is when a number of CPUC attorneys took a stand against their boss, and their boss clumsily aired the office turmoil in public. And, yes, this all eventually involves the Taliban and a gun-toting enforcer…

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Some time ago there was an attorney up for United States Attorney General, I believe, and she got stung for having hired illegal aliens as nanny and chauffeur for which she paid no taxes. She had to withdraw from consideration and was fairly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. So was the Clinton Administration. Then, a federal judicial nominee was hit with the same charges – though her employment of the nanny in question was legal at the time it occurred, the court of public opinion ruled the day. I bring up these two examples of ethical dilemmas that lawyers can find themselves in and how relatively easy they are to avoid…

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Before the series of arbitrary budget cuts known as the “sequester” dropped, I made a few predictions for how this fiscal debacle would affect the legal profession. Now, a few weeks into this policy, we have a couple of real life impacts to talk about.

First, if you’re a lawyer for a government agency, surprise! You may not be able to ethically defend your agency against furlough appeals.

Second, some administrative law judges have been grounded. In the context of the Labor Department claims, that means claimants are having their trials undermined if not outright halted by the sequester….

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